David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather and a grounded pilot. He cofounded Warrior Writers Boot Camp with Kristen Lamb. You can read more of his posts at https://davwalk.wordpress.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.
Today’s post is by fellow Life List Club member Pam Hawley, who regularly blogs at http://hawleyville.wordpress.com. Check out her blogs there. Meanwhile, I’m guesting at Jess Witkins’s blog, http://jesswords10.wordpress.com. Read Pam’s post first and then go on over to Jess’s site and read mine. You can find other members’ sites by clicking on their names in my Life List Club Blogroll.
Sticking Our Necks Out
There’s a father/son conversation in one of the first chapters of “A Game of Thrones” that brings a little tear to my eye. I’m all mushy and sentimental like that.
A very young boy has just witnessed something that would terrify a much older man. He desperately wants his father to see him as courageous and grown-up. He also wants to be honest about being frightened. So he asks his father if someone can be both brave and afraid at the same time.
“The only time you can be brave is when you are afraid,” his father replies.
Ironically, if I had to point to another lesson learned from this novel, I’d jokingly say “don’t stick your neck out.” After all, heads tend to roll in this entire series.
In real life, though, I think just the opposite is true.
On a not-too-long-ago visit to a nearby zoo, I had a chance to feed a sweet-tempered giraffe some leafy goodies. She was a bit skittish at first, but the temptation of one of her favorite treats eventually won her over and she stretched out her long, graceful neck to claim the prize.
Like her, we have to take risks to get rewards. As we have been working together towards our Life List Goals, we often focus on diligence and perseverance, on the importance of putting time and effort into reaching our dreams. While that may well be the most important lesson we learn on this journey, I’ve noticed something else along the way.
Growing and achieving our goals requires facing things we are afraid of and being brave. We have all been sticking our necks out a little.
When we think of bravery, our minds go to knights in shining armor or maybe soldiers far away from home. We might think of the devil-may-care attitude of a seasoned rock climber or the flashy bravado of a lion tamer. Most of us don’t think of writers, sitting at our (hopefully) comfortable desks and tapping out our tales.
But we are brave. Many of us have been doing things that required overcoming fear.
Although I didn’t necessarily realize I was doing it, I’ve been sticking my neck out quite a bit. It all started when I took a leap of faith and posted my Life List Goals for the blogging world to see. Goals are warm and fuzzy things when they haven’t been shared with anyone else. Unspoken goals are dreams dancing around on fluffy clouds and rainbows. If you don’t chase them and they dance away, no one knows but you. That is disappointing, but you don’t feel like you’ve gone out on a limb.
When you publicize your goals the way we have in the Life List Club, you have taken a risk. You’ve made yourself accountable. There are some days those goals staring back at you from your public blog look more like jagged mountains than gently rolling hills. They can be a little scary.
I’ve seen many other quiet acts of bravery, amongst the Life Listers and within myself, as we’ve walked along this road together. Here are some of them:
- Hitting that “submit” button to send those stories off for potential publication, even though our hands are trembling because once the publisher has our work we can’t grab it back for “one more edit.” Finality is scary.
- Putting aside our fears of rejection to continue sending our work out for publication, even though those “thanks but no thanks” letters feel like kicks in tender hind parts.
- Getting out there at writer’s conferences to network and meet new people, even though we may be introverted by nature and perfect to stay home and talk about writing from the safety of our screens.
- Participating in writing critiques even though sometimes they feel like baring little bits of our souls to relative strangers.
- Making the time we spend working towards our goals a priority, even when that upsets other apple carts in our lives and maybe even frustrates those who love us now and then.
- Taking good hard looks at where we’re struggling and saying “I need to do better there.” Ouch. Admitting defeat hurts. But you can’t get up and win until you shake off the loss and get on to the next game.
- Remembering that as busy as our goals make us, living in the moment and sharing ourselves with our loved ones is important. Sometimes being in the here and now while also looking ahead is like finding the perfect balance while walking on a tightrope, and we’re doing it well.
- Digging deep into places inside ourselves that may sometimes be upsetting or disturbing, so that we can write those characters whose thoughts and actions scare us a little.
So far on this journey, we’ve put ourselves out there, taken chances, faced rejection, tried new things, shifted the balance in our worlds, and sometimes even admitted temporary defeat.
Those acts may not be hikes through jungles or sails on stormy seas. We may not be gladiators or ninja warriors. But we are brave just the same. We are sticking our necks out so that we can reach our chosen rewards.
Each time we take a chance, we’re growing.
What chances have you taken lately, and how have they brought you closer to your goals?
Biographical Info: Pam Hawley is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. When she’s not working at her day job, writing or in the gym, she can usually be found at her family’s pub, Hawley’s, or exploring local hiking trails with her boyfriend Lee. Pam has completed several short stories, including “A Wingding and Prayer,” which was published in eFiction Magazine’s (http://www.efictionmag.com) July issue. She is also working on a novel that is a cross between the supernatural and the absurdly funny. Pam blogs regularly at (http://hawleyville.wordpress.com).
This is why I love keeping my journal and tracking my writing progress. I can see where I’ve made improvements or had aha moments. Similar to how you wrote letters to yourself from your characters. Great advice!
And I love how you get so much good writing advice from trips to the zoo, penguins and now giraffes. LOL. I think I need to take a walk on the wild side!
And I love the support LLC members give to one another. Thank you and Marcia again for starting this and inviting me to join.
And I still have lions and tigers and bears yet to work with : )! It is so funny, we took that zoo trip mostly to play with our new camera when we got it. I never knew I’d look back on the pictures and be inspired for blog posts!
Pingback: Your Health! « Kate Wood's Blog
Pam. another great, and thoughtful post. Everyday is an act of courage for most of us, writers and nonwriters. If we do even one thing that is outside of out comfort zone, you are both afraid and brave.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve done that (am doing that) and each time it has taught me something valuable about myself, people, or life. You can’t beat that!
Great post, Pam! The scariest thing I’m doing right now is picking my fiction back up for Tiffany Lawson Inman’s Triple Threat class. I have a finishing problem and have been immersed in my pregnancy memoir. I fear getting taunted back to the fiction dark side and leaving the memoir in a drawer.
p.s. I’ve been thinking for a while I needed to read Game of Thrones!
Don’t let ANYTHING make you drop the pregnancy series. It’s not just good writing, although it is; it’s important stuff.
Jenny, I so share your finishing problem! Over the years I’ve gotten so mad at myself over it, but never done anything about it. I’m hoping the thrill of actually completing short stories and have 2 accepted for publication will be the push I need to actually finish the novel – I’ll have had just enough of a taste of publication joy to want it on a bigger scale : ).
And yes, yes, yes, read GOT! I think the series would make for wonderful winter reading – perfect for those awful-weather days where you just want to curl up with a cuppa something and get lost in imagination : ).
This is a great post by Pamela! I can relate to everything she said. How true it is! Some get to prepare for a few big battles. Others have to overcome hundreds of little skirmishes. She is right in pointing out that we have to be a little brave everyday and stick our necks out, just like the giraffe. The term comfort zone definitely comes to mind.
Thanks for hosting, David!
Anything worth doing is worth taking a risk. Great post, Pam. Going public with goals and dreams is scary, whether the ‘going public’ is in the form of querying, blogging or telling a group of friends what you’re planning. That fear of being ridiculed, chastised and rejected is bigger than the monster in the closet!
Thanks for your comments, Marcia.
You’re so right, Marcia. In some ways, I think it was scarier for me to tell my friends and family about my goals and my blog than it was to actual put them out there for strangers. They are the people you see every day whether you succeed or fail. But if you let them, they can also be your biggest support system!
Grrrr … that should have said “actually.” I hate when my fingers are faster than my brain : ).
I love that scene in Game of Thrones…book and show. And you’re so right about having to stick our necks out to achieve our dreams. Wonderful post!
Thanks Sonia! Love the scene in the book and the show both too – it gives me those “good” chills : ).
The hardest thing I’ve done this year is start a blog. I was so sure I would be laughed off the face of the earth. Everyone was very polite, though. 😀
The second-to-hardest thing I’ve done is query agents about my novel. Facing the rejection is so, so hard.
However, both of these things have helped me grow. Each time I face a big baddie, I am more sure I can stick it out for the long haul. Thanks for such a well-written post.
I for one am SO glad you started blogging – not only are you are a great writer but you come up with the most interesting topics, and research them so thoroughly! I have not yet done querying about my novel – I’m still in the early-to-midling stages of writing it. But I know that for me, that is going to be one of the scary parts of this journey, too. I am getting thicker-skinned about rejection having faced a few for my short fiction, but I won’t lie. It still hurts, and I’m still scared of it!
Catie, it’s hard to believe accomplished bloggers like you and Piper Bayard feared starting – and that you both just started this year. Wow.
Polite, my ass, Catie – you have a great blog. I love your style, your research AND your info. 🙂
Well, aren’t y’all full of nice words. Thank you for saying such kind things.
This is a great way to think about our process. It’s so hard to be judged by others and yet necessary for our growth. Great post!
Thanks Jennie! What I’ve discovered so far is that for every judgement that hurts (such as a rejection of a piece for publication), there’s been even more encouragement in writing workshops, responses to my blog, and networking with other writers. There’s so much to be gained from putting ourselves out there, even if we do get some stings now and then too : ).
Funny how the things we fear the most usually turn out to be nothing. Thanks for the comment, Jennie.