In which it’s Ali’s turn

For the month of December–with bonus posts on November 30 and January 1!–I am delighted to welcome a wonderful assortment of guest bloggers to take over the helm. Please enjoy their generous contributions to the blog this month. My own bloggery will resume January 2. I wish you and yours happiness and health this holiday season. Please note: comments are disabled until my return.

 

I know that we don’t know each other well, but I have a confession to make. Are you ready? I’ve tried to write this post about eight times. Once, I got halfway done writing a post that was hilarious, but like all fish that get away, it was probably only THAT funny in my mind. My computer randomly shut down, and Word ate it. *shakes fist at Microsoft*

            Why have I been having such a hard time with this piece? Because writing a post for Deanna felt a lot like opening for Elvis or Sinatra. Holy gods, the NERVES. Which is funny, because a) Deanna is a total darling and b) this blogging stage fright is totally in my head. Which, appropriately, brings me to my topic: fear.

            Like the sea witch from The Little Mermaid, fear will steal your voice. You may have legs, but using them feels like knives. This, I think, applies to any creative act, from baking to painting to sewing. It’s a scary thing to create something, because nothing is made in a vacuum. Eventually, someone will see it. People will judge it. There are always, always doubts, wailing like Bertha Rochester in the attic (or, if you prefer Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette).

            The fear that we’re not good enough is a powerful enemy. It’s why so many people with potential give up doing whatever it is they dream of doing. I know a lot of people who make art, from writers to photographers to painters. I write. It took me years to call myself a writer without feeling like a total fraud. The truth is that fear isn’t a choice. You have it or you don’t. But you do choose to give in to the fear or you choose to shove past it, like the puffed up bully that it is.

            I don’t know anyone who doesn’t make something. Often times, in secret. Like the time I was a kid and learned that my dad could draw. Not only that, but he could draw really well. And yet, it was something he didn’t do anymore. Probably because it wasn’t practical. But that’s the thing about making something where nothing was: it’s not about practicality. It’s about pulling the stars from the sky, capturing a moment or a feeling, or making someone think.

            But circling back: fear will set your hope on fire. It’ll keep you in the dark. And, honestly, I know far too many people who are afraid, who let that fear of what-if rule their lives. So they start things they do not finish. The begin things that will never have a real ending. They leave art hanging in the balance between passion and trepidation.

            Often, we get caught up in needing something to be perfect. But, really, there’s something gloriously magical about the mess of making something, whether you’re baking, sharing a kiss, or creating a character where there was once empty space. Sometimes, though, society tricks us into thinking that we must fit into neat little boxes, easily organized, and certain. But this is a lie told by people who are, perhaps, too scared to take a risk. So, with the upcoming year just around the corner, I have advice for you: give yourself permission to make a chaotic mess. Be sloppy and silly. Find out what makes you happy. Conjure something out of nothing. Make art, whatever that means to you. And live your life to the hilt. Don’t throw the potential out with the bathwater. Don’t throw the gin out with the ice cubes. And for heaven’s sake, don’t eat the lime without the tequila.

            December, for me, has never been about the year that precedes it. It’s always been a precursor to the coming year’s adventure, a prelude to tomorrow’s dream. It’s a time where I sit down, parse out my life, figure out what’s making me happy and what isn’t, and then figure out what I need to be braver about. Usually, it’s the thing I’m most terrified of.

            So, darlings, what are you most terrified of?

If you’re interested, you can check out my blog at http://alwayscoffee.wordpress.com, follow me on Twitter (@alwayscoffee), or even witness the occasional tumble at always-coffee.tumblr.com. And, yes, if you’re noticing a theme, without coffee, I am useless.