As you all know I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next for me, now that school is done. I’d like to say “what’s the next big thing I’ll tackle” but I don’t want to for a couple of reasons. One, who wants to tackle another BIG thing when you just finished 5 years of grad school, for the love of…and two, for those of you who know me, while I can be focused, there is probably a larger side of me that leans more to…”squirrel!!!!…..”
So I was thinking perhaps it’s best if I don’t commit to a big thing, then a friend asked if I wanted to join a book club. Sure, I said. What’s the harm? Our first book…Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. If you haven’t read it, it’s wonderful. Give it a try, especially if you like to laugh, enjoyed her previous book Eat, Pray, Love, feel creative, or are just ready for a new thing. It’s really about what happens if we let ourselves be open to possibilities. Where do we go? What do we become, create, do, and it made me really start to think about things in a different way. When I look back in my life, I can see places on the path where I’ve been afraid to try something and let fear stop me. “What if I fail?” “What will people think?” “What if I look dumb?” “What if I get rejected?” “What if they don’t publish my manuscript?” which considering I have been harboring this secret hope of being a published author all my life is not only a real possibility, but now having put that here on the blog is not longer a secret. And quite frankly, if what Elizabeth Gilbert says is true, and I have no reason to believe it’s not, it’s not a possibility, it’s a truism, and one I need to expect over and over and over again for a while. A long while, and for many stories and manuscripts and I will likely not ever be able to give up my day job. But that’s not the point of it really, is it? The point is about telling the story, and following the inspiration, the idea. Grasping the wisp before it’s gone.
I shared some of the book last night with my husband, where Elizabeth wrote about about fear coming on a journey with you. She said fear can come along but it’s not allowed to vote or drive. It can speak, look at the map but not touch the radio. I thought it was hilarious, and as I’m reading it to him I had a very clear mental picture of this character in my mind sitting in the car. It you’ve seen the move “Inside Out” it was a little like that guy, sitting there looking both fearful and scowly at the same time, arms across his chest, legs stretched out and feet crossed at the ankles, eyes downcast. When I finished reading I looked at my husband and his look back was priceless. He gave me the old head tilted, eye brows raised “really?” skeptical look that most husbands are really good at. Which is really funny because I’ve always seen him as the creative one and me as the practical, methodical one, but the more I read the book the more it is pulling the creative side of me out. It’s funny, though, how we are creative in totally different ways. He can build things with his hands, and draw and plan designs on paper that might make even some aeronautics engineers go a little crazy, I have stories in my head. I’d tell you I have voices and conversations in there, but I’m afraid you’ll all call for the men with the white coats, and truly, that’s not necessary!
She talked about an interview she’d done with Tom Waits, the musician and his creative process of song writing. She said it eventually occurred to him that songs were like decorating the insides of peoples minds and her description of that was “intracranial jewelry – what a cool job!” and the phrase just resonated and stayed with me.
What have I done and not done because of fear? Well starting this blog for one. I thought about it for ages, and mostly put it off because of school but when I did start it I was terrified to share it with anyone. For the first few weeks I only told two friends. Then I thought “well how ridiculous is that? What’s the point of being so wickedly funny if no one knows that I am?” So I put on my big girl pants, took a deep breath and shared. With my girl friends. And accidentally on Facebook, oops. No one died, the world didn’t end. Even better, people I don’t know have read my blog and liked it! Then about 2 weeks ago my husband said, “can I read your blog, or is it a secret?” (He’ll probably disagree with me on the comment about making the aeronautics engineers crazy, but I stand firm on that one.)
I love to sing! I’m pretty good, not good enough to start my own band but can hold my own, and sing backup vocals for some friends when I see them on a couple of songs for fun just to tap my inner rock star from time to time. The first time I did it, I was scared to death. It was in front of 1200 people at an outdoor show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and my friends in the Jimmy Buffet tribute band “A1A” were playing. They graciously brought me up to join them and the rest is history! Yes it helps when you can only see the first 25 people in front of you, but if I had let fear drive the car that day, I would have lost out on so many fun memories since then, it would be awful to me that they never would have been there, including this one with Jer and Mike from San Diego, when we held a house concert in our home a couple of years ago. (The faces have been gently, artistically modified to protect the lack of release forms!)
So I guess it’s time to write that book I’ve always wanted to, the one I promised Brenda I would years ago. I have the premise, the outline, it’s all still there. Time to chuck fear aside, and see what I can do when that pesky bugger can’t even touch the radio, let alone the map!
6 thoughts on “Fear, Fear Go Away”
Great post, Beth! Check out this short read, it should give you even more fuel for your fire… https://raouldify.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/2011_1203-the-flinch.pdf
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Very interesting! And how appropros for many of us, as we think about the “what’s next” of our lives. It’s so easy to flinch and protect, but to stand your ground and forge on is tough!
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Hiya, Beth! Just so you know, I, too, did time in grad school. I crammed a two-year Master’s degree in education into five years of evening and night classes.
Listen, Beth. Write your book. Start on it now, right this minute. It makes NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL at this stage whether it’s deathless prose or deadly drivel. Hit the keyboard and make words happen on the screen. Just cannonball in and rip it up. I’m not kidding.
Diane Henders gave me my inspiration and the courage I needed to get started on my journey. I had one brief scene stuck in my head like the It’s A Small Small World theme. So I finally got the nerve to commit it to electrons. Only a few pages. Stuck already. So I asked myself what happened before and what happened after. That was last year and my little piece of a story is now at 420,000+ words and past 900 pages. That’s standard Word document pages, not puny little paperback pages. And not even close to finished yet.
And if NOTHING ever comes of it, I still win. Telling this story and building my world and getting to know all these people is SO worthwhile!!
Don’t think, don’t rationalize, don’t whine or find excuses. Write your story. Start now.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Thanks for the advice, between you and Diane, how can I a) not do this, b) not win? I’ve actually got the bones in my head, and so it’s time to get the outline committed so I can get the draft started. Besides, after 5 years of writing papers for grad school, I’ll probably go into withdrawal if I don’t continue to write SOMETHING at least. Isn’t it funny what a free book from iBooks started?
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Outlines? Outlines? We don’t need no steenking outlines! Or I don’t, anyway. Or haven’t found the need for one yet, rather. All I had was that one scene that wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote it down, then went both directions from there to build a story around it. I’m still almost overwhelmed at the incongruity of it all. And that may explain the 50,000 or so words in my ‘deleted scenes’ file. 🙂
Now that you mention it, grad school stuff may have been a contributing factor. A couple of my instructors gave us the choice of having in-class or take-home tests, and I was a vocal proponent of the take-home variety. When a classmate asked why I was so adamant about it, I responded that I have a fairly severe case of test anxiety. (And yes, that made engineering school a grim experience.) Even though the teachers warned us that the degree of difficulty would be cranked up accordingly, I was still able to convince the other students that we would be ahead if we could take the tests at home with all the resources we needed and without the pressure of a ticking clock hanging over our heads.
My take-home test answers averaged 20 pages. Single spaced. But I blew the curve away. 🙂
I’ll say one more thing about getting you started writing, then I’ll shut up about it. Just start writing. Don’t hassle with an outline, at least not at first. Don’t even put a chapter heading at the top of the page, because where you start might end up as Chapter 5. Or Chapter 6. Or in the deleted scenes file later if the story suddenly takes a sharp turn that you didn’t see coming. If you go to all the trouble of building an outline, then it’ll be a straight-jacket that will limit your movement and your creativity.
Well, one exception. If you’re going to write what I think of as serialized fiction, then go for the long-term outline. Just hit some highlights or milestones for each episode (or not) and move on. But start telling your story first. Make that your commitment to yourself. Don’t let an outline that you may or may not follow be your commitment.
Does that make any sense? If so, great. If not, I’m still done. 🙂
As the characters in my fantasy world would say, “Blessings to you, your family, your nest, and your future.” Rock on, sista.
Well if I’m telling the TRUTH, one book is started without an outline, ha! the other is still rattling around in the brain, but you’re right, it just needs to get going. And procrastination is a mother of a story killer, or a big magic killer as Elizabeth Gilbert says anyway, so I best get on with it.