Full Disclosure: I Learned To Fall

Full Disclosure: I Learned To Fall

© Author Danielle A. Vann

If you want to learn something about yourself, you need to fall—and fall hard. Just like the quote says, “Before Alice got to Wonderland she had to fall.”

Life is about lessons. 2017 was one for the record books, at least for me. Those same lessons are currently hard at work in my life. Still, it was an interesting year. It was a year of waking up each day inside my dreams, my sacrifices, and my hard work. After all, the second book in the Whizbang series, “Tunney’s Curse” was released at the height of summer. I won a number of writing awards. My work shined at the Book Expo of America in New York City. If you haven’t read the Whizbang series, New York is the original setting. I was able to walk in the footsteps of my characters with my dear friend, Beth. While I write about magic, no spell could ever conjure up the kind of magic that experience held, and still holds, for me.

The “wins” kept coming. I saw Rome and Venice—the Whizbang Machine was met with great interest at the Bologna (Italy) Book Festival. I woke up in Paris and dined in some of the country’s finest bistros and saw the Louvre. I took the bullet train to the Netherlands and once again stepped foot to foot with my characters. I traveled through and to a number of states in the U.S., taught writing, helped other authors, met readers, had amazing book signings, and still I was falling flat. Something inside was completely empty and broken.

How is that even possible? I was living my dream. Or was I? The answer is yes and no. I remember the day I decided to traditionally publish the Whizbang series. It started with one book only, but I remember having a list of concerns about how it was going to happen. I fretted over the details and my fears, but, in the end, I ignored them. I moved forward regardless. Those same concerns, several years later, kept creeping up. It was a slow burn at first, and then it was like a wildfire raging out of control. Roadblocks kept showing up. I would turn right. They would force me left. Finally, I was staring down the fork in the road. Decide! my insides screamed.

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Excuse after excuse after…you get the picture. My what if radar was working overtime. Admittedly, I stopped sleeping. I kept all of this tucked inside because I questioned whether or not I was being ungrateful. So many would die to be where I was. I knew that and it kept me from fully committing to a choice.

I was exceptionally fortunate to team up with Allen Media Strategies after a second win with Readers’ Favorite. This team of individuals is not only brilliant, but their list of accomplishments is also stellar. At some point you have to know when to lean on people smarter than yourself, and as we began our work, I knew it was time to make a decision. Everything was in place, but I still wasn’t.

As the universe does, I was given a very public final ultimatum: let things continue how they were and accept that I had reached my peak OR fall. This fall would need to be so hard that I would be required to build these pieces up again one by one, brick by brick, until there was not a single doubt left in my mind that I had done the job to the utmost perfection.

One October night, at exactly 2:11 a.m., I woke up and realized it was time to be brave.

That’s the morning I fell. I walked away from my publishing contract, books in hand, head held high, and more scared than I had ever been when it came to living my dreams and my professional life. Nevertheless, I went all in; I fell. Even typing this now invokes a trembling in my stomach and a quick glance to see if my nails have grown back over their quicks. I can’t confirm nor deny if they have or not. (Shaking my head no.) Here’s the important part to remember: I knew right then, as I still know now, I made the right decision because I’ve not once questioned my choices. My fall offered a massive release.

Too, the minute I accepted this place and closed the door, the lessons started. So, what did I learn?

One: To never bargain when it comes to your dreams. If it doesn’t feel right, it won’t ever be no matter how much work you put into it. You cannot create perfection out of something that wasn’t exactly right from the start.

Two: Bravery isn’t an option, it’s a must.  Bravery comes with a warning label, however. It has its own set of emotions. It’s nearly every writers dream to have their work seen, read, and felt on a national/international scale. This is still my desire, trust me. We’re still working on that. 

As to that warning label, inside bravery there is fear, acceptance, upset, loneliness, blocks of their own, and the dread of waiting. I’m so used to making things happen when I set my mind to it, but this is different. I cannot make things magically appear. I can’t write them into existence on my timetable. Trust me, I’ve tried. I have to build my successes, one by one, brick by beautiful brick again. And while it feels horribly redundant, it also feels right to be using brick instead of straw. How about a “Three Little Pigs” reference to get you into my mindset? You can see it now, can’t you?  

Three: Dreams are only as good as the foundation you build them on. It’s the truth. I’ve worked hard, but my foundation was weak, shaky at best, and it’s okay to admit that to yourself. It builds character. Stack up the hay if you wish, but you best watch for hurricanes, too.

Four: Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to burn it all down to start anew.

Five: Believing in yourself is completely different than others believing in you. Without that factor in play, you can build a beautiful façade, but at some point, the big bad wolf is going to blow hard, and that façade is going to crumble. I’m certain I didn’t fully believe in myself before I fell. I questioned whether I was good enough, whether my talent was big enough, but I know now that it is. Deep down, I know. Before I let my endless line of critics mess with my confidence and chip away at my successes, but never again.

Six: Trust. Trust the question. Trust the nudge. Trust the push. Trust the wild fire. Trust. Trust. Trust yourself. It makes you better.

Seven: I need far less than I thought. As long as I’m showing up for myself and my family and I put my name on everything I do in a way that makes me proud and fulfilled, I am satisfied. That is the actual dream. That isn’t to say that I still don’t want those pie in the sky goals; it’s to say that anything above this basic level isn’t a need, it’s an incredible want. It’s a drive, a force, and something I’m still racing toward with exceptional gratitude.

So what now? What does this all mean? ‘We’re swinging for the fences,’ as Burke from Allen Media has said numerous times. Because perhaps this time the foundation will be just right. You may have a harder time finding a copy of “The Whizbang Machine” or “Tunney’s Curse right now, but maybe not. And I’m completely devoted to making sure that all of the books find their way to bookshelves (again) really soon. The same goes for the electronic books. I also have so many more ideas inside me that stopping now would be a tragedy.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I am living authentically. Why fall and learn and not share what I was gifted on the way down? This is my journey. These are my dreams, and no one, not even me, will direct them off course. Perhaps there is something in your own life that keeps showing up. Perhaps you’ve experienced your own call to action, but have put it on ignore. Be Alice. Fall. Fall hard. Feel the life lessons, even the ones that cause an awful aching in your soul. I do not doubt that very soon I’ll wake up in Wonderland again with my brick house fully constructed. My footsteps will be firm and plentiful. The experiences I will have will be placed on a golden path of goodness minus any internal or external questioning. And in the meantime, I’ll write. I’ll grow. I’ll stretch my abilities.

Falling isn’t such a bad thing after all. You’ll come out the other side a much better person than when you opened the door and stepped into the free fall. Perhaps, if you are being called, you’ll fall too.