I came across this quotation today: "If you are not nervous about your passion, you're not passionate about it." It's attributed to Bobby Flay, and I can't stop thinking about it.
People are sometimes surprised at how nervous writers get--about writing first drafts, editing, submitting a book, doing public appearances, reading reviews, and so on. It's not just first-time authors who get nervous; this includes well-known, multi-published authors. And I think that nervousness is driven not just by the uncertainty of this art and this business, but by what Flay is alluding to here. It's about having something at stake, having an emotional investment.
Not that nervousness is constant. There are those moments where everything clicks, when the writing comes together in a way that is its own reward, when our cup is so full it couldn't hold another drop. There are times when the characters feel like old friends. There are times of sheer joy.
It's like falling in love: there are those electric moments, and moments of uncertainty. There are the times when we hold our breath, the times we're living on hope, wondering if things will work out the way we want. And then there are the times of total ease and comfort, mutual trust, and just plain fun.
I hadn't thought about it quite this way before, but nervousness may be a necessary part of the game. It's based on a strong desire to do well, enough doubt to keep us humble, an acknowledgment that we don't control the universe, and most of all, it's the sign that we've invested something, that we care. Not too much nervousness, mind you--not a debilitating amount--but a little bit.