Writers talk all the time about filling the well. And we all need to do it, whether we’re writing or not. Creativity does not thrive in a vacuum, so every now and then, we must leave our writerly cave (or wherever we dwell) and seek the light.
For me, filling the well can mean doing something I love, like gardening, hiking or reading. But often it means getting out of my comfort zone, which is my writing chair behind my computer. Twenty-five years ago, I doubt I would have called that my comfort zone, since writing was new to me then and my scary place. But now, it’s the other things I need to push myself to dabble in. I need to challenge myself all the time to do things that put me on the other side of comfortable, just to see what happens. Often, it’s something bigger that involves being brave, whether I like it or not. (If you’re a reader of mine, you might notice this very theme running through my recent books. Hmmm…)
Change is inevitable, as they say, but I seriously prefer to be leading the change in my life, rather than waiting for change to lead me. When I feel stagnant or stuck, it’s time to look outward and see what needs attention. Because something is out of balance in my life.
One year, many years ago, a friend challenged me to teach at UCLA Extension. He had some juice there and got me an offer. Me? Teach? Pffhhhht! What did I have to teach? Maybe they’ll figure out I’m a fraud! (Am I the only one who thinks this?) I spent an entire summer quaking, laboriously writing lectures and suffering sleepless nights. How would I talk for three hours a night about…anything, much less writing? Turns out, it was fun. One of the best times of my life, the fifteen years I spent teaching. Time would fly by and my students ended up getting published, winning Golden Hearts from RWA, making the NYT lists. Best of all, I made some of the dearest friends of my life. So what was I so worried about? That open door looked scary, but was really just an invitation to adventure.
Publishing itself is a leap of faith, sending your book out into the big bad world to be critiqued and possibly rejected. But no one will publish it if it’s under your bed, so…you send it. For years I was published in NY and there was a certain comfort in that. I loved seeing my books on shelves in real stores. But all of that changed, too. The leap into self-publishing is another giant step into the unknown. Would anyone remember me? Would they like my books? Can I do this on my own? Again, stepping off into that scary territory with blind faith is frightening. But why not try it? What is there to lose?
This year, it was a big move across country. After spending most of our lives in California, my husband and I moved across country to be closer to our daughter and her family. It was really a leap of faith to go, since our lives were both tied up in Hollywood. But it was also time for a change. Time to see new things, challenge ourselves and really get to know our grandkids. It’s still a pretty new change and so far, we’re happy we made it, though we miss our friends in California. <
And with everything this year, the move, a new grandchild being born, my daughter’s move to a new home, I’m going to manage to get three books out this year, a personal record. My well is full.
OMG. Seriously! What was I afraid of? That the lock wouldn’t work?
That silly question has become a running joke between my husband and me. If we find ourselves fearful, or stuck, wondering which way to turn, we often repeat our friend, Yoram’s, admonition. “Try them all! What are you afraid of?” And then we laugh and know we’ll figure it out.
I’d love to hear what you do to get outside your comfort zone and fill your personal well. Leave a comment and I’ll give away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky commenter.
Barbara Ankrum’s latest historical western, THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS, is available at all major ebook retailers. http://amzn.to/1TjpYJK