Italian Proverbs and my writing career…

I was recently talking to a few writers and the question went around: What was the biggest challenge in order to self publish.

As we theorized and philosophized, I realized my biggest challenge, the thing that changed everything for me, was getting out of my own damn way.

You see, I had soooo many excuses. I wanted to publish my books but I had a ton of reasons why I couldn’t publish; and I would recite them as I (meta)physically pulled obstacles clearly labeled “Self Sabotage” into my path.

Exhaustion actually helped me out a bit. I got tired of those obstacles and decided I was too tired to get in my own way and that I wasn’t going to do that anymore.

Then I went to a conference and came away with a very strong idea that aided in my ‘getting out of my way’-ness. The idea that sometimes, to accomplish your dreams, you have to stop chasing perfection.

Let me tell you, when you get out of your way and stop trying to be perfect, you’ll find you have a lot of energy to turn elsewhere. When I did that, things began to fall into place. Not perfectly, but awkwardly and at jagged angles.

There is this invisible base level fear that drives us to put obstacles in our way in the first place. The survival brain that tells us to just stay in our lane and we’ll be safe.

Because I was stepping outside my lane, the fears got loud and demanded that people were going to look at me and judge me. They might think less of me, think I’m awful, think I’m … (insert a lifetime of insecurities here.)

But I put my head down, duct-taped the mouths of those damned voices best I could and got to work. And let me tell you, when I published my first book, Big Trouble in Little Italy, there were imperfections everywhere. A handful of misspelled words, a mixture of curly and straight quotation marks, a few strange formatting issues … it was anything from perfect. But I had embraced this idea of ‘good enough’. Un-perfect if you will. And that idea had grown into something larger and I was now willing to make mistakes in front of a lot of people. I was willing to fall, fail, and flail. Publically.

But there had to be something else that gave me the courage to do what I’ve never done before. To be a beginner. Because when I decided to self publish, I had a lot of gaps of knowledge in a LOT of different places.

But I had a tiny bit of faith that somehow, I’d gain the knowledge.

Okay, this is where I started to think about lessons that helped to keep me centered. And wouldn’t you know it, they are all ideas that come from Italy.

The first that comes to mind is from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun:

“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.”

I always wondered if this was true, and it is.

The line is called the Semmering and in very boring Wikipedia talk: “The Semmering railway… in Austria, which starts at Gloggnitz and leads over the Semmering to Mürzzuschlag, was the first mountain railway in Europe built with a standard gauge track. It is commonly referred to as the world’s first true mountain railway, given the very difficult terrain and the considerable altitude difference that was mastered during its construction. It is still fully functional as a part of the Southern Railway which is operated by the Austrian Federal Railways.”

But I love this lesson and idea. Sometimes you just have to take the leap. The train will appear.

When I decided to get out of my own way, when I decided to talk my editor into working with me, things started happening. I met a group of writers who were self published, and while I didn’t have a book, while I didn’t comment very much, and while I stayed quiet and insecure in my corner, I showed up for write-alongs and informational meetings and began to gain knowledge.

Another Italian idea that I like to bring up is regarding the Duomo in Florence.

Did you know when they began to build the Duomo in Florence, they didn’t know how to construct the dome that would finish it? They just accepted that at some point, someone would come along with the knowhow to finish it.

So I decided to build the train tracks and build the Duomo frantically, fearfully, uncertainly. In other words, I worked on editing my book, talking an editor into working with me, come up with an idea for a cover and researching. All the time trying to have faith that somehow, someway, things would fall into place.

Does that mean I was completely confident? I wish! I was scared and worried, but I think that comes with the territory when you begin to do things differently than you’ve always done them.

I gained more knowledge, and had the right people pointing me in the right direction finally and found out there were such things as ‘book coaches’ in the world.

My book coach gave me a blueprint of what was required of me in order to accomplish my goals. Her advice was to go one task at a time. I’d learn as I went and there was time.

I put blinders on and tried not to look at the edges of the large map, and continued to embrace that whatever happened, I was going to do it publically and that would have to be okay.

But I published my first book.

And people read it.

And I slowly, lesson by lesson, learned how to do more in the indie publishing world.

Then I edited my second book. Gave it to a handful of readers and was so scared from their suggestions and critiques, (all of which I fixed and rewrote in the days leading up to the actual publication,) that when the book came out, I didn’t do any announcements or real celebration.

In fact, the week I published Simply Protocol, I hid.

But even that was an amazing lesson. Because it was a reminder of WHY I was doing any of this in the first place.

There are things I know now, two years later, that I couldn’t begin to fully comprehend when I published my first book. And next year will be the same.

But I also am of the mind that Forward is the only direction we can truly go.

So my friend, wherever you find yourself, whatever it is you are attempting to accomplish, I say build your tracks.

Get ready to revel in looking foolish.

Embrace your mistakes.

Wear fear as a badge of honor.

Go forward. Boldly, wobbly, uncertainly.

But mostly, get out of your damn way.

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