Today I am sharing a letter I wrote to my future self, to read on the day that my first book releases. This is very personal, and the thing is... I don't know if I will ever read this again. I don't know if I will ever actually be published, but that doesn't matter. If I ever am, I want to go back and remember the exact moment when I sat down and wrote this, and shared my greatest fears. I was just going to save this to my computer and keep it there, like a time capsule, but there are quite a few things in this letter that I know many of you can relate to, wherever you are in your journey, so I thought I would share in the hopes it gives someone a little encouragement! I would also encourage you to write a letter to your future self! You never know where your journey will take you, but you can look back and remember how you felt in this moment. You don't have to share yours. It can be private. But opening a blank document and pouring out your heart, your fears, your doubts and discouraging thoughts, can be a wonderful way to come to terms with them. And, it can also be very motivating. Looking into the face of your fear and saying, "I'll feel the fear and do it anyways", can give you that extra drive to finish that manuscript, or start that new story, or do that rewrite.
Alright, without further ado, here is the letter to my future self:
Dear Future Caitlin,
Today is the day.
You made it.
I know you are on cloud nine right now, and even thinking about it makes me smile. Savor the moment. Happy dance. Laugh and smile and cry, because this is your dream.
But also know that you haven’t “made it” to the end. You’ve reached a peak --- a beautiful, incredible high place in your journey. One that, many, many times, your past-self doubted you would reach. In the depths of the query trenches, in the churning, seemingly endless cycle of revise-rewrite-submit-rejection, the fear and the doubt sometimes won, and you started believing this dream was too big.
I don’t know what book you have right now in your hands. It could be WHAT LIES ABOVE, the book of your heart. The book that, right now, I am almost finished rewriting for the third time. The book that you’ve cried over, smiled and squealed and sweated over. The book that has grown you as a writer in ways you never foresaw when you decided to rip the story open at the seams and sew it back completely new.
Or, the book in your hands could be our third manuscript, or fourth, fifth, or tenth. How old are you now? Will you read this letter just around the corner from today? Or has it been years? What have you walked through? What has your journey been like? I guess I will determine that, or at least, the parts I can determine. The things I can control. Once I send WHAT LIES ABOVE out into the world, I have to let go and pray and trust that the control passes to someone else --- an agent, editor, publisher, reader.
That’s scary, and it’s hard to trust. It’s hard to let go of the reigns. But I’ve realized that God is leading me, and He has better plans for me than I could ever dream. His dream is bigger than mine. Sometimes, I’m scared that dream won’t lead me to publication. But I also sometimes wonder why, God, would you give me this passion --- this love --- if not to use it for something. And, I guess if you are reading this letter, He has. Or maybe He’s using it for something bigger than my dream.
I want this so badly… you should know best of all. The fear is sinking in now, and I wonder, after all this work with WHAT LIES ABOVE --- after doing the rewrite I thought I couldn’t do, and after finding the missing piece to the story I thought I wouldn’t find --- I’m scared that it will go in the drawer and never see the light of day.
And I’m scared that, even if I do put it in the drawer and turn to my next manuscript instead, I won’t be able to craft a story like WHAT LIES ABOVE. The plot has taken shape over three years. The characters have become as real to me as flesh-and-blood friends. What if I turn to a new story and I fail?
If you are reading this letter the way it’s supposed to be read --- on the day your first book is published --- remember all of this. Remember what we’ve walked through to get here. Remember that, as I write this, I’m sitting at home, teetering at the brink of finishing this rewrite. I am so close, and in the next few days, I will be finished. And then I will start querying again, and I have to let go.
Remember all of the times you cried. All of the times you felt so discouraged. All the times you stacked rejection letters up and stared at them thinking, it will never happen.
But then remember all of the amazing things too. I know there will be many more moments in the future which will stick in my memory, and I wish that I could see into the future and know. I wish I could see you sitting there, reading this, with a real, paper and ink copy of your book next to you. That would make this journey much easier, knowing that eventually, I will get there.
But then I consider it more deeply, and I realize that I don’t want to know. I want to work hard, and fall and get back up, and fail, and persevere, and cry and laugh and smile, and feel the doubt, and not know where I’m headed, and fear failure. I want it all, because that will make the moment so much sweeter. The moment when I finally get that yes. That moment when I am able to hold my book and see the cover I’ve wondered about for so long, and trace my name and fan through pages swirled with words that I wrote. People I brought to life. Worlds I created from nothing.
Even though it’s sometimes hard to wait --- to not know --- I love watching how every step leads me somewhere, maybe somewhere I didn’t expect.
So, no matter what, I will keep going. Even when I get knocked down, I’ll dust myself off and try again. I’ll finish this rewrite and go back into the query trenches, and let go. And I’ll do it willingly. Because dreams don’t work unless you do. (Your dear friend Kim Chance always told you that.) I picture the feeling of holding my book --- my book --- in my hands. I close my eyes and I imagine it. I see the faces of people whose lives I will touch with my words, and that is all I can ever dream of. To touch people’s lives, wherever they are. To reach them with words when I can’t with my hands. And even though you have reached this incredible moment in your journey, remember that it isn’t over. You’re on a peak, but in order to see the world, you have to keep moving. You can’t stay there forever. And that means you’ll have to go back into the valley again, and trudge up a mountain. And even when you think you can’t go any farther, you can. You will.
You have done it before, and you can do it again. Our journey is far from over, but we have done one thing we once believed was impossible. We can hold our dream in our hands now. It’s been a hard journey, and it will continue to be a hard journey. But this is our passion. This is what we love.
No matter what, we’ll keep fighting.