It’s Okay to Run Away

Two days after publishing my debut mystery, I did the unthinkable. Instead of following all the advice in workshops, blogs, newsletters and books about how crucial the first few weeks are to get your book noticed by undertaking a huge promotion blitz, I flew 2,458 miles to visit my daughter.

I didn’t take my laptop and hardly looked at emails.

Every time I started to panic about what I should be doing to get the word out about my book, I looked at my daughter and knew this was exactly where I needed to be. I’d just finished with a lot of activities that were out of my comfort zone and a big learning curve for me, and I needed to allow time to feel good about the big step I’d just taken—especially since it was a long time coming. Being with my daughter reminded me of what is as important in my life as achieving goals—spending time with family and friends and allowing myself to enjoy each step of my own journey.

How do you maintain your equanimity when taking big steps in your life?

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Get Real with your Writing

Knowledge and memory are okay, imagination is great, Google is primo, but hands-on experience is hands-down the best way to get real with your writing.

Most people know this, but how many writers live it? The best ones, I’m guessing. I’m a reticent person, a borderline introvert, and imagination is my favorite tool. All I have to do is travel to my own head. It’s great for inspiration, but when real-life details are needed, when knowledge, memory, and Internet search engines don’t quite cut it, it’s time to interact with the real world.

Sometimes all you have to do is seize an opportunity.

For example, friends wanted to show me their restaurant remodel before the grand opening. We started the tour through the dining area with its stunning textures and artwork. Then we checked out the brand new stainless steel kitchen and my inner eye—always tuned into my writing—popped open.

Coincidence or something else?

In a scene in my novel, my protagonist is locked into a restaurant walk-in freezer. When creating the scene in my imagination, the kitchen area looked similar to the one I was currently touring, but the freezer wasn’t quite like this one. I’d even Googled walk-in freezers, but looking at the one standing before me opened up a novel way to show how my protagonist couldn’t get out, even with an emergency button.

My friend shut me in and my chest tightened, goosebumps rose on my arms. Even though I knew I could punch the button and open the door, the feeling of what it would be like to be enclosed in an ice cold box unnerved me, if only for a few seconds.

Do you have examples of how getting out of your head and away from your desk has brought your scenes to life with real details and visceral emotions? I’d love to hear them.imagesCAN9WY1A

Birthing a Blog

I’ve been writing this blog for nine months and here’s what I wrote in my first entry last January about why I started it:

“Over the years I’ve attended writer’s conferences, workshops and countless author readings. I’ve read a library of books and many blogs on the art and craft of writing. Some of the most insightful and helpful ideas about writing have come to me through the generosity of others who shared what they picked up along the way.

“I started this blog to continue that tradition and to cast my net in hopes that writers attracted to this site will find something useful that might help with their own journeys.”

Those statements are still true today, but I didn’t mention another reason a private and introverted person like me wanted to blog. I wanted to change, to be less afraid to put myself out there for the world to see. I’d written a draft of a novel and realized that I’d never get anywhere unless I learned how to get comfortable with showing my work.

Last week I posted the first chapter of my finished mystery novel and the difference in how I felt when I hit the Publish button this time compared to that first time showed how much I’ve changed and grown. The first time felt like I had stepped off a cliff into a bottomless ravine. Now, when I step off a cliff, I know there is a safety net. And that’s because of you.

Gratitude

I want to thank all the people who have checked out, liked, followed, and taken the time to comment on my posts. It warms my heart every time someone makes that connection. It gives me hope for humanity that even in an election season, even when there is so much wrong in the world, there are still people who want to share something positive and who take the time to do so.

Learning and Growing

Your blogs have introduced me to new writing genres and styles, photography, design, art and spiritual guidance. They’ve led to insights that have made me more aware and definitely more knowledgeable.

Some of the outstanding people I’ve connected with during the past nine months have nominated me for awards and I want to acknowledge how grateful I am.

Janet Koops nominated me for the Genuine Blogger and Reader Appreciation Awards. She introduced me to Postcard Fiction and I love it.  If you want to read some great short fiction, check out her blog: postcardfictiondotcom.wordpress.com

                       

fstopfun nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Award. He’s an artist and photographer who has a great big heart. Check him out at: http://fstopfun.com/

Catriona nominated me for the Sunshine Award. She’s a poet, writer, photographer and works in human rights development. Check her out at: luckydiplife.wordpress.com

          I know part of the reward process is to pass award nominations on to others. I’ll be doing that in one of my next posts. Thanks again for your support and encouragement!

      

Facing the Dragon

Last year my writing group produced an e-zine. I wrote about it in this blog because it was a big leap for me to submit a piece and read it aloud to an audience of approximately 50 people.

I’m writing about this again because even after a year of writing with and learning from some of the amazing writers in this group, I still froze when asked to submit to the e-zine. I’d produced a large body of work during the year, but none of my drafts seemed remotely ready to be shown to anyone else. For an entire week I read through the pieces and eventually chose two and polished them. For another week I fussed over how unworthy they were and debated not sending. But then something happened and I submitted my prose poems, warts and all.

Ray Wylie Hubbard

I recently saw Ray Wylie Hubbard perform at the Palms in Winters, California. Early in his career, other artists made his mix of country, folk and blues songs famous. He said that at 42, out of fear he’d never performed alone until he read something that changed his life. A friend gave him a book of Rilke poems and this sentence turned his life around:

Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) 

A scruffy old unshaven mop-haired overweight country singer from Texas spouting Rilke might just have changed my life too. It doesn’t matter whether my work is as good as anyone else’s. What matters is that I faced the dragon.

What precious treasures are your dragons guarding?

 

Anniversary

One year ago this month I stepped into a room to begin my first writing group experience. I’m taking a moment to reflect on some of the positive changes that have taken place in my writing and in my life since that first Friday evening.

More Confidence

As an introvert, my weekly Amherst Writers & Artists writing group has given me more confidence in my writing, and more confidence in speaking in front of a group. We read our work aloud and offer feedback and our group can be as small as six or twice that. Learning to be comfortable in a changing setting has been another benefit. Writers from other AWA groups frequently drop in and interested writers are encouraged to join.

More Curiosity

It renewed my interest in poetry, both reading and writing it and learning about new poets. My writing group has generated a willingness to experiment and put myself out there with new and different writing forms.

More Writing

I’d gotten into a rut with my writing after working solely on a mystery novel for an extended period of time. Now, my mind has opened to new writing experiences and my writing group work enhances all my efforts: short stories, mystery novel, postcard fiction, poetic fiction, flash fiction and this blog.

More Publishing

It’s opened my mind to submitting my short pieces even while working on a long project. I’d thought I needed to pay attention to one thing at a time until completion, when in fact, working on many projects has made me more prolific. I’ve recently submitted seven short pieces to an online fiction contest and received an honorable mention and one story was a finalist. I didn’t win but I felt like a winner every time I submitted.

More Giving

Best of all, through my writing group, I’ve been introduced to a wonderful group of writers who are giving back to the community in so many ways and that’s encouraged me to want to do the same. One example is 916 Ink. It helps Sacramento youth improve their literacy skills by providing free creative workshops that end in a beautiful publication. Check it out!

Even a small step like joining a group can feel like a big challenge to an introvert. I’m hoping my enthusiasm will encourage others, particularly introverts like me to take one small risk and find out how much more your life can hold.