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Archive for August, 2019

Hands up introverts! Let’s get a hand-count here.

Is it just me, or do writers seem to have a disproportionate demographic of introverts compared to the general population? And what is scarier for an introvert, and even many extroverts, than having to put yourself out there front and center for the world? Writing, by nature a past-time of solitude and, the thing we embrace, is also our bane. It forces us to step out of our semi-isolated comfort zones into a place that leaves us exposed, where the world can stare at us, judge us, and even criticize us.

Stepping out of your comfort zone. Those words are enough to send a shiver of icy dread coursing down many an introvert’s spine. I, for one, am guilty of being an introvert, if ‘guilty’ can correctly be used here.  I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed about being an introvert, however it will cause me to be embarrassed by situations. Embarrassed, mortified, uncomfortable, awkward; they all fit as symptoms of introvertedness. (The making up of random words is another thing entirely). As a kid I was absolutely terrified of talking to anyone.

Like many new writers I’ve met over the course of my writing career, I wrote in secret for years before ever admitting to anyone it was a thing. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. They would tell me how stupid I am being even thinking that me, me of all people, could be a writer. They would demand that I was wasting my time. I’m just nobody, right?

With some coaxing from an author friend I met online, I slowly crawled out of the dark and dusty world inside my laptop as a wanna be writer. “No,” she sternly reprimanded me. “You are a writer, not a wanna be.” It took years before I stopped feeling guilty admitting to anyone other than myself that I am a writer, to stop feeling like I was somehow a pretender, giving claim to a lie. That they would see through me, that my writing is crap no one would ever read, even after having first one and then another book published. (I now have nine under two pen names with another coming soon).

Calling myself a writer was stepping out of my comfort zone in a big way. It opened me to possible ridicule and denouncement. Certainly, there were a few who tried to blanket me in their negativity with the over-used clichés that I was wasting my time, would never ‘get rich’ or famous, would never amount to anything, yada yada yada. The joke is on them, though, because I am still writing and never wrote for any of those reasons.

Writing Tip – Step Out of Your Comfort Zone:

The comfort zone is by nature a very limited space in an introvert; small, solitary, and with limited room to grow; like hiding under your blanket in the dark as a kid. For extroverts that space perhaps is less solitary.

An inability to escape the comfort zone can hinder both your writing and your writing career. First and foremost is the simple act of admitting, to others, that you are a writer.

Whether you write openly or in secret, there can also be the ingrained fear that someone will not approve of your writing. It’s not good enough, it’s not up to snuff for the genre, it’s too this or too little that. Someone won’t approve if you use a few swear words, describe a sex scene, or write about real people and events (especially when it’s your own life).

How we each get through that is as unique as each of us are.  I spent years reminding myself that my friends and family aren’t even going to read anything I write, and I am mostly correct on that. I’m also okay with it. It’s actually quite liberating, really.

One of my biggest introvert challenges is public speaking; any kind of public speaking, even with people I’ve known my whole life. I panic. I freeze. Even with a speech written down my mind goes blank and I am completely incapable of thought or reading the cues. I stutter and make an absolute fool of myself, then feel utterly ridiculous for every word that managed to fall in a jumble out of my mouth. I can talk individually and in twos and threes to a long line of people about my books, but put just two or three people in a staring at me as a speaker setting and forget it. I have managed to read to middle grade kids, and totally bombed at trying to read my story at the St Valentines Horror Con a few years ago (I was so terrified I couldn’t even look at the scattered bodies among the mostly empty chairs).

Writing is stepping out of your comfort zone. It is about experimenting and learning. Not being afraid to try new things and getting over that fear of trying to be published. It is about talking to total strangers about why you think you are good enough to be published, doing readings and book signings, talking about your stories and writing habits. Letting other people actually read what you write, that can be a big hurdle when you are insecure about your writing. It is about realizing that it is okay to say, “I am a writer,” and not letting anything stop you from that dream. It is letting yourself write new things you didn’t think you could, being okay with it if it sucks, and working to make it better.

It does get easier, getting out of that comfort zone, with practice. Anything that takes you out of that comfort zone is practice; facing anxiety at having to return that item to the store, that job interview, and submitting stories and articles for possible publication and to contests. Even if you are certain you will fail, you are facing that fear and that makes you a winner.

What else makes you anxious that you could face? This summer we took the kids and stepped out of all our comfort zones. They have only ever gone ‘glamping’ in a campground with full amenities including a pool and hot tub and other people. For the first time in their lives we stepped out with tents and sleeping bag to real back woods in the bush with nobody but us around, not but a bucket for a latrine, no electricity or running water, if you want hot food you are cooking over the fire, oh my gosh there are bears and wolves and coyotes (and the beaver which was the only actual animal we saw more than just scat and prints of), and swimming in a gravel pit water hole, camping.

They were hesitant to put it mildly, but faced it like troopers. They stepped out of their comfort zone, realized it didn’t kill or mortally injure them, and I think they even had a little fun amid the, “I’m bored, I need Netflix,” complaints. They unplugged, learned new card games, hiked and teased each other, wanted photos, and even suggested they might be willing to do it again if there is a toilet and someone other than us to talk to. They faced it and are stronger for it. One of them is also a budding writer, while the other is an artist. Having not done real back woods camping ever, or even tenting in a campground since a kid, it was stepping out of our comfort zone too. It was a little scary, but fun. Or maybe that’s just the horror writer in me.

Every time you step out of your comfort zone makes you stronger and braver. It makes it easier to step out in other ways doing other things. It makes trying new things, in your writing and writing career and out of it, less scary. Just taking on doing this newsletter is stepping out of my comfort zone.

Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and let your writing flourish.

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