Getting Past the Fear

Last night, at 4:00 a.m. I finally pressed ‘Send’ and submitted my first ten pages to the Oregon Christian Writes Manuscript Submission program. For $5.00 you can have an editor or agent look at your first ten pages when you attend the conference. They may or may not want to meet with you and possibly ask for your complete manuscript.

Before I go on, I’ll just give you a brief summary of what has happened since I dropped off the scene for awhile. I hope we can be the kind of friends who can pick up where we left off because that’s the kind of friends I mostly have. We are in this for the long haul and know there will be interruptions for various reasons.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the direction of my life and during the last three years I took two different admin assistant jobs. Previously when I was blogging regularly (2012) I was between jobs and very focused on moving ahead with my writing.

Working at these jobs made me realize that I have a very strong admin gift, as I have been told, but that my passion is not so much in the area of keeping a machine running as it is in connecting with people and finding ways to make meaningful contributions. I like to contribute in many ways. Hosting a meal, planning a birthday party, interacting with children and seniors, finding and sharing significant information, decorating my home, creating beautiful paintings, taking photos, building memories with loved ones, problem solving, and enriching my marriage.

While I was working I kept thinking that I was wasting my time. I know I wasn’t actually wasting my time, but maybe I was missing opportunities. I felt I was missing the things that only I could do. However, I had to counter-balance this with the fact that I was helping others on my job reach their goals and that is very significant to me. I love to help others in this way.

But now I feel the time has come for me to start my own business, in a sense. This is the second go I am having at building a writing career and to tell the truth it scares me. I could have pressed ‘Send’ at 10:00 p.m.yesterday but I had a fear of putting my work out there. When you are younger, I think, your mind doesn’t go so many places and consider so many possibilities before making a decision. In other words, you basically just think, if I mail this, then I might get a publishing contract. What could be more exciting?

But me, I was sitting in bed thinking, is this really how I want to be perceived? Is my novel saying what I want it to say? Am I being true to my characters? Would I be embarrassed if so and so read this? If so, why?

I have a lovely friend, a published author, who is nudging me along with my writing. She even came over this week and helped me sort out my first ten pages. I was completely stuck. I have spent a very long time trying to find out where my novel starts, how much is back story. After sending her several different chapters, because my book is mostly complete, she finally said, “That’s it! That’s where your book starts!” I was so relieved, until I tried to figure out how to move ahead from there and suddenly it looked like none of the rest of the book fit. Thankfully she was able to help me out with that too.

It’s an understatement to say I’ve learned a lot in this process. But one thing I do know. I keep getting excited about sharing what I have learned with my readers, right here, on this blog. It is what I have finally discovered to be one of the things I love the most. As I said before, I love sharing significant information. So, I am keeping this thought in the back of my mind and trying to figure out the best way to do this.

Back to last night. With those questions rolling around in my mind I took another look at my writing, and specifically my last page, because I felt uncomfortable with it. My friend, Gail Sattler (check out her novels-she writes humor), had helped with my edits on these ten pages and really improved my writing. She has a lot of experience and knows how to put the feeling on the page, unlike me. But, as I looked at the last page I saw it wasn’t me. I had to take out the things I loved that she had suggested and turn it into my writing. When I finally did that, then I was able to press ‘Send.’ Incidentally, she is also the kind of friend who says, “I’ll mail yours with mine.” I wonder why?

Writers can relate to the fear of putting ourselves out there. There are so many ways to fail. My plot might be weak, my middle story might lose the reader’s interest, my writing style might be boring, or I realize I can never write like so and so.

Nobody in my family is a writer. I am breaking new territory. I admit I am afraid of what people will think of me, of my writing. I want to be seen as a thoughtful intellectual, but maybe I am just a hopeless romantic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and that is confirmed by book sales. I am just trying to find the courage to put myself out there, whatever it is.

I read something helpful today in Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain.

Don’t try to be all things to all men. Universality of appeal is a myth….Quit wasting your time pretending that it doesn’t exist, or that there’s some esoteric way around it….You can’t change yourself at will to suit a given public. You must accept yourself the way you are. Then, seek out an audience that sees the world the same way you do. Can you be sure that such an audience exists? You can. Individual you are indeed; and different. But not that different, for you’re human also (p.117-118).

“You must accept yourself the way you are.” Haven’t we all heard that a million times before.

I didn’t want to hurt Gail’s feelings by taking out those really good bits, or re-wording them. But the writing process is about helping the writer become the best they can be and that means the best THEY can be. Gail gets this. She’s awesome.

I truly hope that I will be able to write here with some consistency over the next months. But, one of the best things that I have learned this past year is that this is a dialogue. It may look like the conversation has ended when bloggers stop posting for awhile. Maybe for some it is. But others just need to re-group, decide what they want, figure out the best way to move forward, and trust the timing. The break may be exactly what was needed.

 

Why do you write?

Recently I had someone ask me why people blog. I explored a few blogs to see what other writers are saying. If I were to sum it all up I would say we write for two reasons: ourselves and others–we want to give something to others and we want them to give something back to us.

We want to share ourselves and have others do the same. You tell me your story. I’ll tell you mine. We are looking for subjects that resonate with us and we are looking for people who get it, or get us.

I enjoy creating and discovering meaningful dialogue. I feel rewarded and even excited when I read a blog where someone expresses a thought succinctly or uses language in a way I would never have thought to express myself.

It happens in comments too. I don’t think we give comments enough credit, not only from the reader’s perspective, but also as writers who comment. A good comment can be as skillfully crafted and insightful as the blog itself. Comments are reflective responses that allow us to see how readers received what the author of the blog wrote. They are also an opportunity for creative dialogue.

I guess I am just plain fascinated by how people think and communicate. Some are all compassion and understanding; others are aloof and intellectual; still others are agitated and insulting. Why? What is it in their experience that makes them react this way?

I was facilitating a discussion group this weekend and had an amazing opportunity to watch in person how people interact with each other. One of the participants started out by clarifying that she is a “thinker” and not “emotional.” She didn’t like to be “told”…. Another participant immediately revealed something very personal, hurt from the past, and shared how he was willing to risk being vulnerable. I appreciated both of their openness. But I noticed that the other people in the group were more responsive to a third person, a song writer and performing artist. I think years of experience had taught her how to anticipate the kind of response her words would generate.

In blogging we are looking for a response. How do we get people to talk about what matters to them? Of course, we want to talk about what matters to us, but if we are not tuned in to others we can actually impede communication, as happened with the two examples I gave.

Some bloggers are naturals. They have discovered not only what others want to talk about, but how to get them talking. We love to read their blogs. They are the writers that tend to get picked up by publishers.

I love this writing journey. I love the blend of experience and thought and communication that makes each blogger unique. I think this joy of discovery is the reason I blog. Why do you blog?

OCW Conference

I promised to report on my experience at the OCW Conference. Initially the goal was to find an editor who would want my novel. As the date approached I saw that I would not complete editing my novel in time.

I did a lot of the hard work, as I had intended. But something was missing. At the conference I found out what it was.

I did not show my novel to anyone nor did I pitch it. But I consulted with my coach and a mentor. What I learned was very helpful.

I learned, first of all, that I am writing “women’s fiction,” not a “romance,” as I had thought. In women’s fiction it is the story and issues of the heroine that drive the book, not the romance.

For me coming to this understanding was huge. It meant I now understood why I could not accept some of the recommendations of my critique partner. It is alright for me to do the things I want to do, and feel I need to do.

I also dug deeper, with the help of my coach, and refined the underlying message of my book. I now have greater clarity about how to proceed with my writing.

Several people encouraged me to stay with my novel. One author remembered my characters from the time I shared my story with her last year and she is particularly waiting for me to finish the book.

At the conference I found something I needed and for which I did not even know I was looking. Now I can’t wait to see what my book will look like by the time the next OCW Conference rolls around.

Paint what you see

Yesterday I saw the sky, strikingly blue, behind a row of dark evergreens and a bright yellow-orange poplar. As usual, I wanted to imprint the scene in my memory and paint it. There is something inside me that desires to capture and hold beauty.

As I looked at the intensity of the colors and the gorgeous contrasts, the thought came to my mind, “paint what you see,” not as in, “paint this particular scene,” but, “paint the way you see life; paint it from your perspective, paint it exactly as it appears to you.”

It is very challenging for an artist to capture a mood and try and recreate the precise feelings evoked by a scene. But isn’t this what draws us into a unique work of art? We see a painting and it moves us. It speaks to us without words.

The fall season, in the northwest is so beautiful it takes my breath away. I am intimidated at the thought of trying to recreate what I see, to put it on paper or on canvas. My attempts usually end in disappointment. But every day I can enjoy this beauty as I look out my windows or go for a walk or a drive. The part of me that desires to capture and hold beauty can’t help but praise and thank and honour the original Artist.

Relaxing in the sun

I just spent six days lounging by a pool in the Arizona sun. One of my sisters rented a house in Phoenix and invited me and our two other sisters to stay with her. All of my family live in central Canada and I live on the West Coast, so it was lovely to get together and relax away from our usual responsibilities.

Today is my first full day back, and my mind is returning to the feeling of the warmth of the sun on my body, draining the tension from me. I was conscious of the fact that I had accumulated way too much stress and had not been able to shake it. The sun did wonders for me. While my sisters are sun bathers, I tan in moderation, but I made an exception for this trip and it was good for me.

I have never had a “tropical vacation.” Not being one to lay in the sun I thought this wouldn’t be for me, but I think I may be changing my mind. I enjoy a stimulating vacation where I keep moving and enjoying new sights and experiences. But I can now say that I see value in slowing down and simply resting.

I am trying to find the words to describe what happened to me as I relaxed in the sun. It was as though there was a cable or a spring that was tightly wound around my abdomen and my chest and even my neck and head. By the final day in the sun, it began to release. In my head there was a disconnect between the right and the left side of my brain. This may sound strange. But it felt as though the blockage between the two sides opened and the flow of information began again.

I don’t want to lose this feeling of relaxation, but I know my habits and my lifestyle are what brought me to this place of tension. It remains to be seen if I can bring about the changes necessary to maintain this peaceful feeling.