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Tick, Tock…It's Later Than You Think
by Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe
If not now, when? If not me, who?
These and other well-known phrases repeated in my head, growing louder and more insistent, like demanding toddlers begging for attention. The pages of the rough draft of my manuscript, yellowed and curling at the edges, languished on the dusty desk I'd searched for months to find.
At the time, I'd been decorating my office with very specific, sought-after items, certain to entice me to write. It was part of the writing process, I told myself. Instead, it distracted me and kept me from putting pen to paper.
I've played that game with myself for a lifetime, ignoring my passion for writing and only allowing myself to dabble now and then, as if it were some exotic indulgence.
Until, that is, last winter found me thumbing through the pages of my manuscript. It was a cold, Vermont winter, blowing my 50th birthday ever closer. My sister, Christine, was on the phone, telling me about the editor she'd met.
"I told her about you and your book," she explained. "She says you should call her. She has time now to take on a new client."
My stomach twisted with knots of fear tangled in swirling excitement as I wrote down the editor's phone number.
It took several weeks to build the courage to place the call. Honestly, I think the fact that we live in separate states and therefore I wouldn't have to actually face her was the safety net I needed in order to dial her number.
If she hated the manuscript, thought it a complete waste of time, at least I wouldn't have to look her in the eye while a part of me died. So, I took a deep breath, called her, and we agreed to start working together in the spring.
I started saying phrases like "my manuscript", "my editor", "I'm writing a book" out loud and in conversation with actual people. No one laughed, and in time, the words that had first caused me to blush and avert my eyes now rolled off my tongue with ease.
My chest filled with conviction and even hints of confidence every time I told someone I was writing a book.
I started to believe that my passion for writing really was important and deserved to be tended to, much as a gardener tends to their seedlings. Without caring for the seeds I'd just planted, nothing could grow. With that, I marched into the campus director's office at the local college where I teach and announced that I was taking the summer term off to work on my book.
It was the first time in eight years that I would miss a term and I felt like I was floating as I left her office. The excitement of living my dream of writing, every day, caused a smile to spread from ear to ear.
By the time I'd reached my office that excitement had shattered into pieces, landing in my gut while shards of doubt, fear and uncertainty grew up like stalagmites in a cave. What am I thinking? How will I pay the bills? What have I done? A chorus of self-doubt sang in my head but I was determined to see this through.
Four months have passed since that day and many of the same questions and doubts check into my brain regularly. They're like houseguests that seem to always show up just when you don't want them.
I've learned to accept them and allow them a brief stay while I continue to honor and grow my writing passion. I am even lucky enough, when the doubt checks out, to have dreams, excitement and confidence check in for a time.
Every blog I post gives the world another glimpse of my writing and of me. It's another way to tend to the growing seeds of my passion on a daily basis.
Fall is fast approaching, and while I will go back to teaching, I can take comfort in knowing that now this journey has started, I am committed to seeing it through. I am committed to myself and to my passion for writing.
I will keep taking chances even though I'm afraid. I will continue to gather the fruits of my labor and share them with anyone willing to read them.
I urge everyone to discover your own passion, and to believe in its value. Believe in your value. Then just fake it till you make it, as the saying goes. Look at me, I've even written this article now.
The time is now, and the next batch of edits has just arrived in my InBox, calling for attention.
What an amazing journey so far. I can't wait to see what's next.
Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe, LMHC, CCTP is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice in northeastern Vermont.
Mary-Elizabeth lived and worked on Cape Cod for many years prior to her move north. She has a master's degree from Lesley University and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, working primarily with anxiety and trauma related disorders.
In addition to her private practice, she is the Lecturer for Springfield College School of Human Services St. Johnsbury, Vt. Campus.