The first time we purposefully attempt something almost never produces the best results. Now, I’m not talking about first time experiences like the first time you tried a certain kind of food or the first time you listened to a particular song. No, I mean the first time you tried something that required skill. For example, the coordinated and physically exacting demands of a competitive sport, or the precise and compelling use of written language, or even the subtle and intimate expression of a kiss…you know, something that tends to improve with experience.
While I may never forget my first kiss, it definitely wasn’t my best work. In fact, there are those who might argue (one person in particular) that it shouldn’t even qualify as a kiss. But in my defense, I was terrified! And some things just take practice. Pillows don’t have noses and making out with a mirror doesn’t work because the other person will always lean in the same direction. And no, I couldn’t watch a YouTube video or check out a wikiHow with pictures. None of that was available back then.
Anyway, it was a goodnight kiss after a dance in the school gym. I got the head-tilt right and I succeeded in not breaking her nose, but I did aim a little high and only managed to touch down briefly in that very soft place just above her top lip. A do-over would have been nice, but had I been self-confident enough to ask for one I guess I probably wouldn’t have missed her mouth in the first place, right?
That was my freshmen year. By the time I kissed the woman who would eventually become my wife, well, let’s just say I’d been doing my homework. I had practiced. That kiss—like falling forward in slow motion—was pure magic.
That’s the frightening thing about first times, isn’t it? The first time you had to speak in public. The first time the coach put you in the game. The first time you performed in front of an audience. The first time you submitted the manuscript of your novel to a publisher. It’s not only the fear that your first attempt at something might result in an epic fail, but it’s knowing that even if a first time is exceptionally successful—if you ever plan on doing it again—it probably won’t be your best work. Chances are, with practice, you will get better at it.
Last year was full of firsts for me. As an author, I published my first young adult novel. As an educator, I published my first professional article, a syndicated piece that appeared in several print and online publications including Time.com. In between, I published my first blog essay, then I published another, and another, and soon I was guest blogging on other people’s sites. It seemed I was a teacher who had suddenly also become a writer, overnight…but of course, that really wasn’t the case.
I’ve been at this for several years. The manuscript of my very first completed novel is safely tucked away on a shelf somewhere in my house. After a few rejections, I decided to call it a learning experience and move on to something else. My next big project was a graphic novel. After numerous rejections, that one also ended up on the shelf (although, I haven’t given up on it entirely). And before the manuscript of my second attempt at a novel was eventually accepted, it had been rejected more times than I’d like to remember. But I kept at it, continuing to revise and rework it until a publisher finally decided to take a chance on me and invest in my story. So, you see, I’ve had many firsts…I’ve been practicing.
But then, just months after my book’s release last year the publisher went out of business and—poof—it was gone. By then I’d written the sequel. Now there were two books in the series and no publisher. I had no choice but to start over, to find a new publisher. And so I did.
Talk about asking for a do-over.
Now, with some plot revisions, additional scenes, and a luscious new cover, a new and improved version of my original novel, THE REVENGE ARTIST, is about to be published again…for the first time.
So you see, such first times are necessary rights-of-passage on a lifelong journey of self-improvement. Some you’ll always want to remember and others you’ll never be able to forget, but if you keep at it, keep doing what you love, keep chasing and facing your fears; your life is guaranteed to be full of them.
Yes, first times can be scary, but you just have to go for it…pucker up, close your eyes, and lean in. You’re bound to hit something, and no matter what, it’ll be worth it.