Pushing past fear

July 25, 2011

Every Saturday morning since mid-May, I’ve packed up my turquoise leather tote with laptop, notebook, pens, highlighter and notes and taken the hour-long drive up to San Francisco for the day.

After finding a parking spot in the Lower Haight, usually on a hill, trying to remember to curb my wheels, I’d start my morning around 10a.m. at a coffee shop. What a gift to have time to read and write for a few hours to the white noise of a sizzling grill, espresso machines, people talking, laughing, eating. At 1pm I’d climb the short hill to the huge yellow Queen Anne Victorian, where I joined a dozen others for three hours of memoir workshop.

We read our work aloud, took comments, discussed and waited for nuggets of brilliant guidance from our excellent workshop leader, Adair Lara, who is as close as anyone can come to being the patron saint of writers in these parts.

I started the workshop in abject terror of doing a book-length work. I’ve always been an essayist, for God’s sake, and the thought of doing something that was 50 times as long as my best essay and good enough for a book publisher was so daunting I was frozen in place. {That’s the escape key, trying to escape.}

Yes, of course, I’ve been a writer all my life, and a pretty damn good one, too, just not a book writer. But every writer has that secret fear that someone in the know will say “don’t quit your day job,” which would be pretty scary if her day job’s always been writing.

And I don’t just want to write a book, I want to write a REALLY GOOD BOOK. One that resonates with readers and most important: is well-written. There are a boatload of crap writers out there today; I don’t want to be one of those.

But over the weeks, as I did the writing prompts and met the challenges Teacher set out, my fear thawed and I actually began to write. Long stuff. There were some rockin’ good writers in this workshop and listening to (and reading) their work helped me find my own path. The value of a workshop format. And here’s the proof that I’ve actually produced work: pieces of chapters.
The spring/summer writing workshop term ended yesterday, on my birthday. And while I’ve had to kill scenes that I thought were fabulous but didn’t fit the narrative arc, and I needed to learn to add more and more color and background, it was all good.

And when Teacher gave me the ultimate compliment, that she thinks my work is very good, well, it was such a floating-on-air feeling I could have walked home on the cloud. The single most perfect birthday gift a writer could get.

I’ll be in the fall workshop that starts in September, and my goal is to leverage my current writing momentum and arrive there with the better part of a draft. Of the entire book. Or close to it.

So to the writers of the spring-summer workshop: thanks for the inspiration, the lessons and for making this term so much fun. Mostly, thanks for pushing me past my fear.

To Teacher: you rock, with counsel that is right on the money every time. Thank you.

To my family, who unknowingly gave me my current narrative arc: I know it’ll gall you, but thanks for helping me dig deep and see the bigger picture of my life.

To my fabulous husband, who said a couple years ago: “Hey, you don’t have to work, you know. Why don’t you just write?” and gave me my freedom even as we joined hands: You’re the most incredible husband in the world.

And biggest thanks to the Great Being who gave me this particular life and its rich material: not all that conventional in many ways, and certainly not completely pain-free, but I wouldn’t have traded any moment of it. I’d do it all again, exactly the same way.

Well, gotta go now. Pages and pages to write before Sept. 10, when the fall workshop begins.

4 comments on “Pushing past fear
  1. Cheri says:

    Love this, Carol. You go, girl!

  2. Thanks, Cheri! See you Thurs for power shopping!

  3. Delores says:

    Love this. I am dabbling in writing as well…have been getting encouragement from a friend who has a couple things published. One step at a time….. thanks.

  4. Yep, one step at a time, you’re right, Delores!

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