Saturday, May 21, 2016

Barbara Ankrum: Conquering the Fear

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. <> But it feels good to be somewhere new, somewhere I don’t know every street. 

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.

I remember the first time I went to try to get my mail from the group mailboxes near our last home. I called my friend who’d owned the home before us to say I didn’t know which mailbox belonged to us. Which one should I stick the key into? He was a gruff Israeli who merely scoffed at my silly call. “Try them all,” he said, “what are you afraid of?”

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.


Natalija said...

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing! My main resolution for 2016 was being more sociable. I'm extremely introverted and find it very hard to interact with people, even online. I know I'll never become a social butterfly, but it does feel good when I step out of my comfort zone and enjoy going out/meeting new friends.

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching my children to "get out of their comfort zone" and enjoyed watching what that has brought them in skills and adventure. They leave home for internship, travel and then college this fall, one of them for the first time and the other, study abroad. But now that they are truly flying the next I have to focus on me and I hope to take a course in dance.

Kimberlyindy said...

I try to always find the positive and if things are not going the way, I thought they should, I tell myself that God has a plan and I just did not know what it was. I have worked very hard the last few years to not let fear keep me from doing something. Some days I am better at that than others. =) Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Laney4 said...

I say yes whenever my now 28-year-old daughter asks me to join her. She once won two two-way tickets anywhere in the country by bus, so the two of us took a three-day trip to my sister's home 2000+ miles away. Comfort zone? Hard to find with all the scary characters on that bus - and two weeks after we returned home, a sleeping passenger (on that same travel route) was stabbed, beheaded, and cannibalized by another passenger! Will we go by bus again? No way! Comfort zone is one thing; fear for our very lives is another....
I just Googled it. It happened in 2008 but apparently that man was released from a mental institution in 2015. OMG!

jcp said...

adding more fiber to my diet

traveler said...

Best wishes on your success and your move. It is difficult to get out of a comfort zone which is a habit, but I decided that it was necessary to move away in order to begin anew. A fresh start, a new business and a new life made my life richer, better and more interesting.

petite said...

Leaving our comfort zone and adapting to a new situation requires a great deal of strength, determination, and motivation. I spent my life in a comfort zone and realized as I got older that it was important to try something new and change my life. I had an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands, moved to a new climate, completely different setting and immersed myself in a new world. I realize that I have benefited greatly and I am happier.

Barbara Ankrum said...

Ya'll, (she says in her former Tennessee accent) I loved hearing your comments and all the things you're doing to challenge yourselves and your kids. Thanks so much for sharing. It's something we all battle with, I guess, which makes that all so universal. But that's okay. It gives us a common hill to climb.

I have chosen a winner of the $10 Amazon gift card and it's: @Kimberlyindy! Kimberlyindy, please PM me your email addy on FB and I'll send you your gift card.
Thanks all of you for sharing!
Best, Barbara Ankrum

Kimberlyindy said...

Thank you Barbara!