I love a writer who makes me laugh at myself. That’s not (quite) as perverse as it sounds. With days full of homeschooling and story crafting, I spend long hours in my head. Sometimes, it’s scary up there. That’s when I rely on talented writers like Yuvi Zalkow to pull me out of my mental mayhem. A good dose of self-mockery, Yuvi-style, can be a clear, fast ticket out of Crazy Ville.
Yuvi is a short story writer, inventor of “I’m a Failed Writer” videos, Writer Unboxed contributor, and the author of a brilliant novel in the works, just released this week. He’s got a string of readings scheduled to promote his book, but there’s a hitch — he’s terrified of public speaking. So when he invited other bloggers to join him in “The (semi-) Great Fear & Failure Experiment of 2012”, how could I refuse?
Fear and failure? That’s where I live, Yuvi. Welcome to the broke-down neighborhood of my brain . . .
My mother had a strategy for dealing with my childhood worries. She used to say, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” If I could envision the worst, I could master it.
It turns out this is not the best coping mechanism for a child with an adroit imagination. My “worst” is always catastrophic. It often involves armed gunmen or tsunamis or freeing myself and the children from a car that has careened into a lake. For all the gifts my imagination brings me in the form of characters and storylines, it is a royal pain when it comes to actually living, here and now. I’m never quite exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I’m still recovering from my January concussion. I’d say, on average, I can do about 50% of what I did before. Sometimes my vision gets blurry, as it has for months. But, last week, I decided that I must be going blind. This is where my imagination brought me, when I played my latest round of “What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?”
My eyesight is really blurry . . .that’s a sign of retinal detachment. I looked it up on-line. I’m going blind. I won’t be able to write! Oh wait, I can learn to dictate to a computer. Okay. Ahhhhhhhhh. I won’t be able to read. I can’t homeschool the kids anymore!! I’ll have to send them to school. They’re not ready. They’ll be devasted. On the first day of school, they’ll be sobbing in the classroom doorway. My husband will be there alone, because I’ll be blind. Blind and alone and —
The ugliness progressed from there. Of course, when I confessed to my husband, he said, “You wouldn’t stay home when I drove them. You’d come with us.”
My very good and sensible friend Chelle offered an even better option. She said, “First of all, you’re not going blind. Second, even if you were, you’d still homeschool the girls. You’d learn to read braille. The girls would too. It would be their second language.”
And there it is, the reversal of fortune, the twist that drags possibility out of desolation. This is where I stumble. In a scenario that takes place entirely inside my head, you’d think I’d come up with better outcomes. I do it in my stories, all the time. Just not in my life.
I’ve got to learn to stop playing “What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?” After a week of blurry vision, I went to the eye doctor and had a thorough exam. My eyes are ridiculously healthy. A bit dry, maybe. The optomistrist gave me eyedrops. No blindness, then. Right.
Writing is my only healthy outlet for this whacked imagination. I’m sure it saves me from insanity — and divorce — and losing all my friends. I press my madness into fiction, and put my characters through the wringer. In stories, “the worst” makes for interesting reading. In life, it mostly means staying up past midnight wondering what disease could make the dog lose his hair like that. I’ll take fiction any day. So good luck on the book tour, Yuvi, and remember — what’s the worst thing that could happen?
How does your imagination serve — or fail — you? Got any good stories of fear and failure? Any encouraging words for Yuvi? Speak up!