Thursday, August 22, 2013

THE FEAR OF PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE

First, some good news to share: my short story The Stalker was published today at Short-Story.me

And I have another, Fool's Venture, up at Hogglepot.

Yea and yea for those. In that way, I'm always happy to be getting out there.

But lately I've been thinking about certain aspects of the writing gig in which putting yourself out there can be downright scary.

Image: Mari Z.

Dan Blank's insightful blog post on the subject of anxiety and the creative process was posted a few months back, but I only came across it yesterday, and the timing is spot-on for me. In one way or another, I can relate to almost every issue raised, but specific to my present anxiety, a great deal of it stems from a single source:

Joining an in-person writing group, something I've never done before.

I have been a member of a few online groups for several years, and I'm not in any way knocking those--they're great. I've learned all sorts of things, received lots of useful feedback and advice, interacted with many interesting, talented people, participated in writing challenges, some of which have ultimately resulted in published stories, and even those that haven't were a great learning experience.

Now, it's just time that I met some fellow writers in person, time that I put myself out there in that way. So if it is time, why is it still so scary?

For one, all the same reasons that meeting a new group of people can always be scary. What if we have nothing in common, other than writing? Sure, that provides a heck of a lot of common ground, possibly enough to be enough, but what if it isn't? What if everyone there is already so established I'll always be "the newcomer"? What if they all say to-may-to and I say to-mah-toh?

For two, I'm a socially anxious person in general, speaking in public scares me, and reading work aloud is part of the deal, so that adds an extra layer of scariness.

For three, all the same reasons that it can always be scary to share your work with a group of other writers. What if they're all a lot further along in this gig than I am? What if their tastes all run in the same or similar veins and I'm the odd vein out? What if they hate whatever I end up choosing to read and the room goes as silent as a tomb while they struggle to find something inoffensive to say? What if they don't struggle and just say they hate it?

Yes, I know using the actual H-word is unlikely--most people would be more diplomatic than that--but a sugarcoated lemon drop is still just as sour underneath. Of course it's more considerate to add the sugar, but you still recognize the flavor and understand why it needs to be sugared. (No offense to lemon drops; loved them when I was a kid.)

I realize that these fears are mostly (or wholly) irrational. I also realize that this is something I need to do, both for my growth as a writer and as a person, so I just need to bite the lemon drop and do it.

But like a whole world of other things, that's easier said than done. I can only hope that I'm not biting off more than I can chew, and do my best not to have a panic attack when it's my turn to read.

This weekend. It's happening this weekend. Hopefully I'll survive to post again next week.

Kidding. To an extent. I do have positive thoughts about going or I wouldn't go at all. And in my experience, writers are a generally friendly bunch--I definitely don't want to give the impression that I think otherwise.

I'll post an update once I've gone, so that any other writers who might be at this same stage can hear what it was like for this first-timer.

Wish me luck! 

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