I’m Going to do a #Challenge to Overcome my Fear

It’s that time. It’s time for change. All my weight has settled into one slump and my bones are shrieking for the mercy of movement–any movement. I’m ready (am I? the doubtful mind gremlin asks) to shake things up.

I’ve tried challenges in the past. On this here blog, I did a 30 Day Restart Challenge leading up to my June 2018 residency. I only got about halfway through that one. Whoops.

But I’m ready to commit more to my writing. I’ve been dragging my feet for years now and I’m done. It’s time to pick up these weary bones and park myself in front of Perseverance and Discipline and wait for the blood drops to form on my forehead, if that’s what it takes.

Having taken a step back and looking at myself, I’ve been ridiculous these past few years. What’s stopping me? Why am I not taking this glorious opportunity I’ve been given to make writing my life? To live and breathe it? What’s stopping me?

Fear is very likely the top answer. Well, okay. That’s all well and good but I’m going to refer myself to one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite writing gurus:

Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting–and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are a part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still–your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

My favorite part of that entire passage is “You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote.”

Here’s to not giving fear a vote.

So, what will this challenge look like? After watching Cynthia Koo’s How to Start (And Finish!) Your Very Own 365 Day Project, here’s what I’ve decided.

Starting February 1, 2019, I will write everyday for a year.

I hesitated saying a year. Why not just start with 30 days or 100 days?

But then I thought about it: what’s a year in the career of a writer? And if I can’t write every day for a year, that doesn’t exactly bode well for my aforementioned career.

Also, I feel like I’ve fallen so out of touch with my writing these past few years since I started college, so I want to get to know my writing again.

So with that, here it is: with this challenge, I want to

  • overcome my creative fears
  • become more disciplined
  • up my productivity
  • rediscover my process

Thus begins my #WatchJeanWrite365 Challenge

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Getting Struck by Lightning v. Sifting for Gold

I deeply and ardently admire Elizabeth Gilbert.  Let me count the ways–no, I won’t, because that would take an entire novel’s worth and I doubt you’re that interested.

But I have to say this: Elizabeth Gilbert and I think a little differently about creativity.  The way we process creativity is different.  Which, of course it is, because people are different.  That’s definitely a Thing.  

The way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity makes me feel like a prude.  A creative prude.  She challenges her readers in Big Magic to “have an affair” with their creativity.  Sneak away to make out with it for fifteen minutes in the stairwell.  “Don’t think of it all as burdensome; think of it all as sexy.”  I mean, me here.  Ha.  I treat my writing like we’re an old married couple: “You gonna hold my hand today?” “Don’t I hold your hand everyday, woman?”

Liz Gilbert thinks about creativity in Big Ways.  In Extremes.  When Liz Gilbert talks about creativity and getting ideas, she labels it as Magic.  “Like, in the Hogwarts sense.”

This is not where we disagree.  Because I would be the last person to tell you that creativity isn’t magical and magic itself, because it totally is.

But consider this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s magnificent book, Big Magic:

When he told me this story–especially the part about the jungle swallowing up the machines–chills ran up my arms.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood up for an instant, and I felt a little sick, a little dizzy.  I felt like I was falling in love, or had just heard alarming news, or was looking over a precipice at something beautiful and mesmerizing, but dangerous.

I’d experienced these symptoms before, so I knew immediately what was going on.  Such an intense emotional and physiological reaction doesn’t strike me often, but it happens enough (and is consistent enough with symptoms reported by people all over the world, all throughout history) that I believe I can confidently call it by its name: inspiration.

This is what it feels like when an idea comes to you.

Disclaimer: I know that I’m going to be putting too fine a point on it here, but here it is.

I agree with a great deal of this statement, because it has happened to me several times, once very vividly, when I got the idea for my epic middle grade series and, in the space of a very intense minute, I could see the entire story laid out in front of me, and it felt like my brain was going to ooze out of my ears.

But I’ll be honest.  I feel just a smidge left out here, because I don’t tend to get Struck like this.  Maybe back when I was a teenager, and I’d run off after any idea with a pretty enough face, but I learned not to chase those ideas, or to give them as much time as I was, because I couldn’t hunker down for the long haul and that’s not fair to the idea or to me.

Inspiration has become subtler and subtler to me over the years.  It isn’t as electrifying or, dare I say, magical.  When I get an idea for a story, I don’t know that it’s going to become a Thing because they tend to come to me the same as any other idea.  Finding an Idea that I’m going to turn into a Story is, for me, like sifting for gold.  I paw through the ideas that are kind of ordinary and dull until I find something shiny.  It may be half-buried in muck with dirt all in the crevices that’ll be a bitch to get out, but it glints with promise under the scorching sun.

All that being said, I kind of like the way Liz Gilbert gets ideas.  It sounds practically orgasmic, and hey, I’ve been kind of tense lately.