My Dear Daughters:
Being your mother is sometimes terrifying. I try to be the reassuring calm in your life, but I’m learning as I go. I’ve watched you turn blue as you’ve spiked fevers over one hundred. I’ve watched your tiny feet falter and your beautiful eyes fill with tears. When you are old enough to read this, you will understand that beneath the calm exterior, I am always anxious to protect you from harm and to help you find happiness. And I am terrified that I will fail.
The fear of failing you is the greatest I’ve ever known. The weight of this fear minimizes any I had before to a handful of paper clips. The fear of failing as a writer remains, as small and compact now as a tiny nail, hidden deep within my pocket. I feel it press against me from time to time, but it is insignificant compared with the fear of failing you.
In many ways, I approach writing in my thirties the same way I did in high school. I was fearless then because I had yet to experience the inevitable pain of failure. Before I became a mother, each negative criticism and denial felt like a stab to the chest. I would waste days or weeks reeling from the curt text in a stock rejection letter.
You have made me fearless again.
I still face disappointment on a regular basis, but the real-life fear I’ve experienced as a mom has put the fear of failing as a writer in perspective. As a result, I take more risks, which has led to more publications and greater satisfaction with my work. When I do fail, the sinking feeling only lasts a moment or two. I don’t have time for self-pity. I have you to thank for that as well.
These days I squeeze my entire creative impulse into a few stolen minutes, usually in my car on my lunch break or after you’re in bed. Even with the time restraints of parenting two small children, my writing and dedication to the craft has improved since becoming your mother.
Being fearless has given me the freedom to JUST WRITE IT DOWN. I receive rejection emails while rushing to make us dinner after work. There simply isn’t time to feel defeated. There is only time to move forward: boil the peas and think of the next opportunity, plot, or character to explore in the next fifteen minutes of concentrated creation.
I regret allowing fear to keep me from writing the way I should and from living the life I’ve always known I’ve wanted. In some ways, it was easier to say that I never achieved my dreams because I never tried. Now, you are watching. I may have lied to myself, but I cannot lie to you.
So, I promise that you will see me fail. You will see me continue to try and fail again.
You are so different, both fearful and fearless in your own ways. As you grow, and the world shows you disappointment, I hope you will remember the gift you have given me.
More than anything, I hope you realize what is important to you and pursue it with all you have. I hope you seize every opportunity you are offered, and, more importantly, make your own.
As strange as it sounds, I want you to fail sometimes. If you don’t, you aren’t stretching far enough.
Be as fearless as you’ve taught me to be, my dear girls. Because of all the things that will stand between you and your dreams, fear is one variable you can control.