It's scary being offered something you've never been offered before.
Take my dog, Soleille (pronounced so-lay), for example. The other day I did something she's never seen me do. I stepped out of the kitchen (because I didn't want to encourage begging in the kitchen, for whatever difference stepping out of it might make), and held up a piece of fresh-fried bacon. I munched on some of the tasty fat while my white, brown-spotted pup looked up at me with those inquisitive, floppy ears of hers, bewilderment in her eyes.
What was about to happen? Both of us wondered.
I held the last bite of bacon up ... and dropped it for her to catch. I commonly drop dog treats for her to catch, and she usually succeeds at snatching them before they hit the ground, or learns quickly in the new situation. In this case, the bacon bounced between her eyes and fell to the floor. It took her a full second to realize what had just happened – her dream had just fallen from the sky and hit her between the eyes.
We tried a few more times, but instead of getting better at the new skill, like she usually does, Soleille became more timid than ever. She even laid down on her belly in a submissive, groveling pose. Sometimes I got her to sit in the position I wanted, and drop the bacon when I thought she was as ready as she would ever be. Each time, however, the drying, crispy bacon broke apart a little more and I picked the pieces up, so as not to teach Soleille that she could just do nothing and collect the goods.
It was heartbreaking for both of us, for I was leaving on a trip with my newly wed wife, and Soleille would have to stay in a kennel for the first time in her 5-year-old life, for three nights. I know she's going to be mildly traumatized, and I do worry a little. I was trying to send her off with a little love in that bacon she has always wanted so badly – too badly.
She wanted it so bad she was literally blowing it to the point where I had to give up. Both of us were disappointed. Of course I gave her the cold, crumpled prize in the end, delicately holding it out for her to claim. She accepted it timidly, as if aware that she let me down somehow.
But she gave me a gift. She showed me how wanting something too badly – such as not believing that your wildest fantasies can come true, and that such a thing could happen RIGHT NOW – can make them vanish like a wet bar of soap shooting from the hand that's gripping too tight.
I'm trying to remember that when it comes to things like my writing. My perfectionism often holds me back. I don't dare show the world anything I've created that's less than perfect, but that means I rarely share any of my work (and it's never perfect even then). And where will that get me? It certainly doesn't improve my skill.
Soleille didn't even try to catch the bacon falling into her face. If she had tried, maybe she would have caught it. In fact, she probably would have.
Believe it or not, in spite of all the years I've been publishing my work, I'm always a little scared when I put something new out there. I'm still trying to get over that.
I have to forgive and accept myself, with all my flaws and all the mistakes I might make, if I'm ever to improve. Otherwise I might be paralyzed with self-doubt when my dreams fall from the sky.
It never hurts to remember that.
Try! Just try, and let the rest fall into place.