I Don’t Want to Die Before I Do This

I dared to dream. You may have seen my posts on Facebook about my trip to Austin, Texas, for a writing retreat. I packed my bags, took a leap, and dug into my story with twenty other writers and four members of the Author Accelerator team.

On the last day of the retreat, Jennie, the chief creative officer of Author Accelerator, gathered all the attendees into the upstairs room of the old house with cool light fixtures and gave us some final advice. She described her advice as three arguments that writers signing on with Author Accelerator consistently provide for wanting to write a book.

The first argument is the desire to raise their voice. In many cases, these writers have felt silenced by society or various individuals in their lives. But they have something to say that matters and a book is their way to get their message out into the world.

The second argument is the desire to make an impact. They want to affect readers on a deep gut level. Whether it’s to educate, entertain, inspire hope or faith, or provide an escape, these writers want to make a connection with someone else in the world.

And the third argument Jennie Nash and her Author Accelerator team have heard from writers over the years is that they don’t want to die before they do this.

This third argument was the crescendo in Jennie’s speech. It stuck to the back of my throat in the form of a gripping, emotional knot. This argument was bold. It was courageous. It was a writer’s personal stake in the ground that said, I want to be who I want to be in the world while I still can.

This argument is the pinnacle to me. This is where a writer rises up and confronts the vulnerability—the resistance—she must continually fight in the writing process. She claims the unrest as part of her day-to-day walk in the conquest of her dream: it’s not going to be easy and it’s a long road full of no guarantees and very few accolades, but I am going to see it through to the end.

This argument is where the writer takes the leap and goes all in to stand up to the truth of who she really is wholeheartedly.

I felt challenged, inspired, and empowered all at the same time. Could I do that? Could I go all in? Could I shed the cloak of vulnerability and allow myself to fully proclaim my passion, living as if I only had a short while to do it and thereby forcing myself to share my voice?

Then Jennie took me from the top of the proverbial mountain to the depths of the valley that lies in the peak’s shadow: “And now I offer you the invitation to walk away.”

Walk away from the book.

Walk away from all of the work.

Walk away from the grim odds of being in the 1% of writers that get that amazing deal with one of The Big 5 Publishers.

The room fell silent, and Jennie allowed time for reality to settle in. I imagine the same internal battle rising up within me was swelling within my new friends: we could either go all in and audaciously and unapologetically proclaim our stories, or we could lay down our pens and walk away from the struggle and the work of excavating who we are.

The choice and the power was ours.

Jennie scanned the room and said, “Or choose to stay.”

But, if we chose to stay, we had to boldly proclaim that we were not walking away.

I can proudly say I took the challenge (even putting on the socks Jennie gifted all of us) and vowed to never walk away from only God knows how much more work, to write even when I don’t feel like it, to share my voice even in the face of doubt and possible mockery. I am here for the long haul, and the process of defining and redefining who I am.