Facing Fears: Admissions of a Writing Introvert

Today I’m admitting to something I rarely talk about beyond the circle of family and close friends. And I’m stepping way out of my comfort zone by discussing it in a guest post on Jenn Hubbard’s blogs.

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As gatherings go, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is a big one for me. It’s my favourite weekend of the year but it’s also my biggest challenge.

DSC06310Approximately 600 people fill the ballroom for keynote addresses and calorie-laden meals, crowd into conference rooms for their choice of seventy-two workshops given by fifty-eight writing professions, and cram into elevators to get between the two.

It’s exhilarating, rejuvenating, motivating… and terrifying! Why? Because I’m claustrophobic. Oh, not wildly so, but moderately, and the challenge is to keep myself under control so I can absorb all the benefits of the annual October weekend.

Many writers claim to be introverts, so I’m not alone in my reluctance to mix, mingle and schmooze with strangers. A lot of us would prefer to hunker down and write in solitude….

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If you’re a fellow introvert, or deal with any degree of claustrophobia, anxiety or panic attacks, click on over to one of Jenn’s two blogs to read the rest of my story and some of the tactics I employ to cope:

Writer Jenn at Live Journal, or

Jennifer R. Hubbard at Blogspot

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Paralyzed by Fear

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The fabric has well-defined folds and wrinkles from being squashed under a stack of tablecloths and placemats. It’s a batik I created somewhere around 1985. I’ve kept it because I enjoyed the experience of making it and love its colours, but it has resided in a drawer hidden under table linens for all these years because I felt it wasn’t good enough to display.

"Moonrise" - Batik by Carol Garvin

 

Early last week agent Rachelle Gardner wrote about not being able to hit ‘send’ when it comes to submitting our writing. “What holds us back?” she wrote. “It’s our fear of failure. As soon as we put it out there, we become open to rejection. What if we did it wrong? What if it’s not good enough? What if someone says it’s horrible? Can I handle that?”

‘Paralyzed by fear’ may be a cliché, but when your finger hovers over the ‘send’ key and, with a mind of its own, refuses to engage, what else do you call it? Reluctance? Nervousness?  Timidity? They’re too tame. It’s fear all right.

I rarely enter writing contests, but in three of the years that I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference I submitted entries in the associated contests… and finalled each time. It isn’t a contest that offers feedback so I’ve never known what the judges liked or what they thought was lacking. One might think the obvious next step would be to submit to contests that do offer feedback, but I’ve become familiar with the Surrey Conference. Anywhere else is out of my comfort zone.

In my comment on Rachelle’s post I said, “I think I’ll recognize God’s prodding when it’s time to make the move.” Immediately after leaving her site I clicked over to Ann Voskamp’s blog as my last read of the day, and found this among Ann’s words: “We’re in the God zone when we’re out of our comfort zone….” Now, if that isn’t prodding, I don’t know what is!

“Don’t wait for perfection,” said Rachelle. “You want your work to be as strong as possible, yet you can’t just wait forever, always saying, “I can do better.” At some point, you’ve got to listen to your gut when it tells you, “This thing’s good to go.”

So-o-o-o… this past weekend I polished required submission material to a sheen, and sent my entry off to its first “uncomfortable” destination, a contest with written critiques from multiple judges.

It wasn’t easy. I stared at that ‘send’ key for a long time. But it’s done, and now I’m about to take an iron to the batik. Then I plan to get it framed.

Are there obstacles that prevent you from moving ahead into your desired tomorrows? What will it take to overcome them?

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Facing the Unfamiliar With Confidence

We’re into a brand new year – a pristine wilderness awaiting our exploration.

Among the comments on one of my recent posts was one that has stuck in my mind. A writing friend admitted that she faces the publication of her second novel with a degree of fear…. something she recognizes as mimicking an earlier fear that “if I didn’t somehow [fulfill the dream], life would be incomplete and I would be a failure.”

Did you ever see the 1981 movie, On Golden Pond? I’ve been remembering the part where Henry Fonda goes hiking in the woods behind his cottage – I think it was in search of wild strawberries.  His memory fails him and what was once well-known terrain becomes terrifyingly unfamiliar. Lost in the trees he eventually finds his way back to the safety of the cottage. When he tells Katharine Hepburn why he came running back he says, it’s where “I could feel safe. I was still me.”

Not everyone faces this New Year with eagerness. For some of us who have spent the past year(s) writing in the secluded comfort of our homes and offices, the unfamiliar now looms out there on the horizon. The focus changes from putting words on a page to approaching agents, submitting manuscripts, sending our work out into the public eye. No longer are we just writing for ourselves, but marketing our creation to the world.

When we find ourselves faltering in unfamiliar terrain, and in need of finding a safe place where we are “still me”, instead of hesitating, procrastinating, or running back to the familiar, we need to seek that glimmer of light beyond the fear – to be reassured by God’s promises that he is the light, he is our refuge, and he goes before us into every situation.

It’s a new year. Step out boldly and explore with confidence.

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Is there anything upcoming that is causing you distress or fear? How do you plan to deal with it?

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Light arises in the darkness for the upright. [Psalm 112:4]

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. [Psalm 119:105]

Fear, Faith, and the Foggy Swamp in Between

During March I swept aside doubt and decided to revise an old manuscript one last time.  It has something to do with my belief that the MC’s story should be told. Whilst being plopped into a fictional setting, the nucleus of his story is factual.

There are times, however, when focusing on a message can cause the demise of a novel. I know this but I’m persevering anyway. It’s one of those things that will niggle at me indefinitely if I don’t obey the impulse.

I don’t think it’s perfectionism or fear that has kept me from sending this story out into the world although my daughter, Shari Green’s recent post on creativity and perfectionism gives me reason to question my rationale. Shari says,

I think fear is at the heart of perfectionism. Fear of failure, of not being good enough. Fear of disapproval. Fear of disappointing others or self. But when it comes to creative endeavours, here’s the thing: perfectionism kills creativity.”

Maybe it IS fear. Nevertheless, I honestly believe this story isn’t well enough written so I’ve been revising yet again despite wondering if I’m sucking the life out of it.

At Tricia Sutton’s blog today I discovered she’s pushing herself out of her comfort zone with a manuscript, too, and her words hit another nerve:

“I didn’t really begin the query process. I got scared. Then I misinterpreted fear for “not ready”. I told myself fear is my inner voice telling me to revise … again. And again.”

There comes a time when we have to have faith that what we’re doing is worthwhile, that if we’ve enlisted God’s help he will guide us in writing, refining and recognizing when the time is right to proceed. At that point we’ll know if it’s time to either move our writing out into the world or move on with something else.

At the moment I’m slogging through the swampy place between fear and faith. I wish the fog would dissipate so I could see with clarity.

How about you? What holds you back? Is it fear, procrastination, uncertainty? Or is your manuscript simply not ready?

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