12: Mobilized by Fear

12: Mobilized by Fear

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Mobilized by Fear

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.

~Mary Manin Morrissey

I remember sitting in the doctor’s office. I remember hearing the word malignant. I remember discussing treatment options — but all I could think was, Is this really it?

The ground beneath my feet had already been shaky before walking into the doctor’s office. Now the floor had been pulled out from under me. My mother had recently been diagnosed with cancer as well — hers was stage four and it was inoperable. Suddenly, we were both fighting for our lives.

To make matters worse, I’d been struggling with my direction after leaving a successful ten-year career as an Emmy-nominated television news writer and producer. Suddenly, my priorities had taken a sharp and sobering turn. The question was no longer a matter of what I’d do with the rest of my life — it was how long the rest of my life would actually be.

In the weeks that followed, I did what I’d always done when things got rough: I wrote. I kept writing, and I didn’t stop. I wrote from my hospital bed after they removed part of my kidney, and I wrote in the weeks that followed.

I just kept writing.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was writing my way through recovery. Those words would later become my first published work in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book, and I knew they were the most important I’d ever write — not only because they gave me hope, but because they might give others hope as well.

Then I got an idea.

I had always wanted to write a book, but it seemed that time and circumstances would never allow it. Uncertain where my future might lead me — or whether there would even be one — I had nothing left to lose. It was time to take the leap, to follow my passion.

In the months that followed my surgery, I continued working on my novel, titled While the Savage Sleeps, and page by page, I felt my love for the written word take hold of me with more power than ever. Inspired, I found a reason to fight. A reason to live.

I was fully aware that my first novel could very well be my last, but I didn’t let that stop me. In fact, now my resolve to become published was stronger than ever. If this awful disease got the best of me, I’d at least leave this world without any regrets over letting my dream slip away.

And I had plenty of encouragement. My mother was the one who had inspired me to become a writer, and there was nobody who wanted to see my novel get published more than she. As her disease advanced — through the chemo treatments, the discouraging test results, the nights she was too sick to sleep — never once did her enthusiasm and delight over my progress falter, and she’d always ask the same question: “How’s the book coming?” She was so excited and couldn’t wait to read it.

I remember her answer when I finally finished my first draft and asked if she wanted to have a look.

“Oh no,” she said, shaking her head, with a smile that reached into her eyes. “I want to wait until it’s done. I want to enjoy every word.”

So I got back to work.

But I’d soon find that my battle had only just begun, that the road ahead was paved with pitfalls. After finishing my novel, I spent a year facing one rejection after another from just about every agent in New York and beyond. I can’t say how many there actually were, because I stopped counting at a hundred. Many never even bothered reading the pages I’d sent, and the ones who did seemed to feel my book would never sell. It was heartbreaking, and it was discouraging, but I refused to give up. I couldn’t. I’d already struggled through so much to write this novel.

But by June of 2010, it seemed pretty clear that I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Out of desperation, and as a last-ditch effort, I took the only option that seemed available and uploaded my book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Platform. I figured there was nothing left to lose. I’d let the people who really mattered — the readers — decide whether my work was worthy, and whatever that decision was, I’d live with it. At least I’d know that I had given myself a fair shot.

Then I got my answer. Four months later, While the Savage Sleeps began moving up the bestseller list. My book, the one that nobody wanted to publish, the one that no agent even wanted to represent, eventually passed two of Stephen King’s current releases on its way to number one. My perseverance had paid off.

Unfortunately, my mother never got to see our dream come true. She passed away before I could finish the book. But I still remember the day I hit the bestseller list. With a tearful smile, I said, “Look, Mom. We did it.”

Three surgeries later, after my health finally began to improve, I found my stride and kept writing. In December of 2011, I released my second novel, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted: A Psychological Thriller, and the results were even better. That book moved into the upper tier of Amazon’s Top 100, becoming their seventh highest selling novel out of more than a million titles available nationwide, and I was soon named one of the top-grossing independent authors in the country.

Within three months, my sales had pushed well into the six-figure mark, and before long, movie studios, literary agents, and publishers began contacting me. It was quite a change, going from being ignored to suddenly in demand, but it felt wonderful, and I wasn’t bitter at all; in fact, I was thrilled. This wasn’t about saying, “I showed you.” It was about finally being able to say, “I showed me.”

But it seemed this would just be the beginning of my real-life reboot. I eventually signed with one of the biggest literary agencies in the country, and soon after that, was offered an international, dual-publishing deal.

After releasing my third bestseller, Darkness & Shadows, and with a new book soon on the way, my novels have also topped lists in several countries, further confirming what this journey has taught me: when life throws challenges onto my path, I can let fear mobilize or paralyze me, but choosing the former is the only way out.

It’s been five years since that day the doctor told me my future looked questionable. Five years of good health and unquantifiable happiness, of living my dreams instead of longing for them.

Of learning that life is all about the lesson.

~Andrew E. Kaufman

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