Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Killer "What If?"

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

About two years ago, I started wondering if maybe it was time for the hubby and me to have another child. I have never been a baby-hungry sort, and it was a challenge for me to accept the idea of bringing both of our other children into the world, so this idea was hard for me to accept. But since the hubby has always been more receptive to promptings than I, I brought it up tentatively with him. To make a long story short, for several very good reasons, he did not agree at that time. So I set it aside, somewhat relieved. Three months later, we were both ready to follow that prompting.
The very next month, I started having worse mittelschmerz* than I had ever had previously.

And I didn’t get pregnant.

And I didn’t get pregnant.

And still I didn’t get pregnant. Which, on the whole, was quite a shock. I had come to accept that I could get pregnant at the drop of the hat, so this had not been a worry.

And yet, as the months passed, I began to fear. What if that niggling feeling in May was the signal of my window of opportunity? And I had lost my chance because I wasn’t ready to seize it?

And what if I never had the chance again?

The feeling plagued me for quite a while, and I became just a little too uptight about all of this—not so much out of a desire for another child (although that came eventually too), but mostly out of guilt that I had not taken the chance when it lay before me.

I wonder, sometimes, if we are susceptible to that as writers as well, particularly as beginning writers trying to make our way into the publishing world. You hear about a fantastic contest—and wouldn’t it be great to enter? This is the perfect opportunity. And yet . . . you’re not ready. Or there’s a conference that sounds amazing, with several wonderful agents who might love your work. But . . . you can’t go. An agent expresses an interest in your manuscript . . . but you just have to change only about a gazillion critical things about it.**

What if this is your one and only chance?

Well, I’ve come to believe the world doesn’t work that way. And more importantly, the Lord doesn’t work that way. Just when I had decided that I would buck up and schedule some minor surgery to sort of clear the pipes, as they say, and maybe give me a chance to get pregnant again—that very next month, I was pregnant. And even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant that month, even if I never would again, that didn’t mean that God was punishing me for failing to be ready.

Just because a brilliant conference or contest or agent opportunity arises—just because you can’t or don’t take that chance, it doesn’t mean your writing career is over. Not every chance is the last one.

But I think sometimes we freak ourselves out (or is it just me?) with the “what if?” And we layer on the guilt or fear and determine that this is our one shot, and if we don’t get it—if the agent doesn’t love us, if we lose the contest—it’s over.

This is not true.

Sure, seize every opportunity you reasonably can. Put in the time and sweat and effort to go for what you really want. But don’t forget to keep it in perspective. Sometimes the timing is wrong. This year I went to two wonderful writing conferences out of state because they were important to me and because I really wanted to see some of the speakers there. Oh, and because for the next year or two I probably won’t be attending much of anything except my newborn’s diaper changes. And if one of the speakers at the conferences next year is the speaker I’ve always wanted to see, my whole entire writing life, I will take a deep breath and suck it up. Because it’s not going to be the end of the world. I may still get to see him/her again in the future.

The point is that the “what if?” does us no good. It keeps us from focusing on the future and new possibilities, keeping us dwelling in the losses and failures of the past. It kills potential. So seize the day, but if you can’t, keep plugging along. Another day will come.

* Mittelschmerz is cramping that occurs in the middle of your period, usually around ovulation. It can signal that there are blocks in your system, or it can just be one of those unfortunate occurrences. So there’s your educational bit for the day.

** Remember Katy’s post here?


  1. Yes!! Yes. This. Everything about this. :)

    1. Thanks, Katy. You are awesome encouragement.

  2. One of my favorite sayings is that the walls are there to keep out the other people- the people who don’t want it as bad as you do. Granted, some walls aren’t solved with our own determination (like getting pregnant) but other walls- like getting published and succeeding in writing- just require grit and perseverance. If at first you don’t succeed... ;-)

    1. Yes, but do the walls have to be so high? (I say in my whiniest voice). Just kidding. Walls are good, and thanks for the reminder to persevere!

  3. You're right that 'what if's' get us nowhere. We can never undo the past. We can only learn from it and move forward. Congrats on the baby!!!

    1. Thanks for the congrats! And I think learning and moving forward is both crucial and ridiculously difficult sometimes. Sigh. :)

  4. I am glad I am not the only one who suffers from these types of worries some times. Thanks for the perspective.



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