I am about to embark on a big adventure, and I must admit I am a bit nervous. Nope, I have not signed up for skydiving or kayaking down the Mississippi. I am not doing yoga on a paddle board as our daughter did this past weekend. I am not walking across the desert--walking in our neighborhood suits me just fine, thank you very much. Nor have I decided to buy a Harley and go on a road trip.
Those of you who know me understand I am not much of a risk taker, especially when it comes to physical feats. I so admire my friend who recently went to Mongolia and stayed in a ger, also known as a yurt, a portable round tent covered with skins, and other women I know who grab zip lines in the jungle or who live and breathe for the next challenging ski run. That is not me.
My big adventure doesn't involve leaving home or wearing special gear or applying for Visas. Preparation and hard, everyday work have been involved, however, and will continue to be necessary, along with the ongoing presence of a guide.
If you have been reading this blog for some time, you know that I am writing a book. This past year I have spent focused time on this project, especially this summer when I have been taking an intense online twelve week class, Your Book Starts Here, Part 2, offered through The Loft. (I took Part One last fall.) A major aspect of each week has been to submit the draft of a chapter from my book to my small group of three other memoir writers for their feedback. At first that was scary, and I felt unsure and vulnerable and sometimes I was ready to turn and run back down the mountain, but I trusted my guide, the most excellent her royal highness Mary Carroll Moore, and opened myself to all the feedback my fellow writers have suggested. I am grateful for their support and camaraderie.
This week we are embarking on the next part of this trip, one that causes me to hold my breath and wonder if I am strong enough for the challenge. Our assignment this week, along with continuing to write and also submitting a chapter to our group as we do every week, is to read our entire manuscript from beginning to end.
I have compiled, organized, and printed every chapter, every piece of unworked free writing into one document of about 71,000 words, 235 double-spaced pages, and it is now sitting on my desk. Waiting for me to take the plunge.
Why is this so scary? Well, what if I hate it? What if I feel I have totally wasted my time? What if I regret spending the four hours or so every day this summer working on this project? And then there is the other side as well. What if I basically feel good about the direction of what I am doing? Do I then have the stamina and the courage and commitment to see this book to its fruition? Will I ever be able to find an agent and if that happens, will a publisher want it? Or should I self-publish it? EEEEK--I'm a writer not a publisher. Do I have to learn all about that, too? Well, the list of fears and what ifs can go on and on.
How easy it is to jump ahead when all that is required of me in this moment is to grab this stack of paper and sit in a comfortable chair with a Diet Coke next to me and a pink highlighter in my hand and begin to read.
Before reading, however, I will close my eyes, lightly, not tightly, and I will breathe, first deeply and then more evenly, as I find my own rhythm. I will rest in the quiet for a few minutes, listening for that inner voice that called me to show up and to do what I have said I have wanted to do--to write. I will listen again to that voice, the voice of Spirit who lives within me and gently supports me as I attempt to be the person I was created to be. I will listen to the difference between Spirit and my active Inner Critic, who thought it would be a good idea to stop working on this pipe dream of writing a book when I didn't get the grant I applied for this last spring. That inner critic who urged me to stop working so hard. "For what? You'll never get this book published any way and you might not even finish it. You don't have to do this?"
Julia Cameron, as quoted in Creative Authenticity, 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision by Ian Roberts says,
Creativity is really a spiritual issue, point blank!
Period! It takes courage. Another word for courage is
faith--and scripturally we say "faith without works is
dead". Creatively, it is exactly the same thing, so the
whole trick is to get people into action, to take creativity
out of the realm of theory and into the realm of practice.
What that means is to show up, to take the next step, however scary and uncertain. For me, today, that means daring to read what I have written. Just that. The next part of the adventure will unfold, I am sure of that.
Therefore, I have packed my backpack for this big adventure, and I bring the following with me for sustenance and inspiration:
I cherish my own courage. I salute myself for the
brave action I undertake in my life. I focus with
clarity and appreciation on the choices I have made
which have required courage and self-determination.
I applaud myself for my strength and my daring. Rather
than belittle myself for my fears, I choose to honor
myself for the bravery with which I have often walked
through my fears. I count back in specific ways and
enumerate for myself examples of my own courage:
the new friendship I have undertaken, the steadiness I
have shown in a difficult job, the honesty I have
displayed in opening a difficult conversation. I honor
myself for my bigheartedness in the face of challenges
from which I could have--but did not--shrunk back. My
courage brings blessings in my life. My courage blesses
the lives of others.
Blessings, Prayers and Declarations
for a Heartful Life, pp 74-75
In what ways are you asked to be courageous in your life right now? Is there a Big Adventure that is calling you? Is there an Inner Critic or Naysayer who gets in your way? What words do you have for that negative, nagging voice? How is Spirit guiding you and what is the next step? I would love to know.
The Loft Literary Center https://www.loft.org
Mary Carroll Moore http://www.marycarrollmoore.com
Julia Cameron http://juliacameronlive.com
Ian Roberts http://www.ianroberts.com