This is not my usual writing blog. I'm not going to provide the top 10 best ways to bring realism into your writing. I'm not going to tell you how to write a query letter with step-by-step instructions, wax philosophic about overused tropes, or provide any other listy, writerly tips.
Today, I want to talk about fear and butterflies and taking chances.
Angelica, Conqueror of Fear
I am a member of a local Rotary club, made up of various business owners, school district administrators, government officials, and other past and present professionals who see the benefit in staying connected and helping the community. At a recent meeting, I sat next to Angelica, a woman who had been in Rotary for many years, had worn many hats, and had just agreed to take on a somewhat lofty regional position.
Angelica and I hit it off right away. I congratulated her on her new role and asked if she was nervous about her extended duties, which would require her to step beyond her local, friendly group of peers and reach out to and speak in front of other groups - strangers, really - from the outlying areas.
Angelica gave me a Mona Lisa smile and said, "Of course. That's why I did it."
Her comment surprised me a bit and struck a chord.
Angelica went on to explain.
When a person is asked to do something outside his or her comfort zone, fear may create an actual physical response or that well-known butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. When presented with that feeling, Angelica says one is also presented with two very different choices.
Fight or flight.
Often a fearful person will choose "no." Not Angelica. It is that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling that makes her sit up and take notice. She seems to thrive with a few butterflies. They allow her to grow as a person. When she feels the fear, she usually chooses to say "yes," because she expects to become a better person for it. Her fears push her to stretch her own boundaries.
I love that.
I reeeeallllllly love that.
As a writer, I question myself ... a lot. Should my character have black hair or blue? Should I set my story in my real hometown or fictionalize it, so as not to offend one of my many home-grown characters? Should I have my protagonist go down this path or that?
Should I? Should I?
Should I take my beta reader's advice or stick to my guns? Should I proofread one more time? Should I nix an entire subplot? Should I send my query out yet? Is my manuscript ready? Should I re-write the whole darn thing from a completely different point of view?
I don't know. Maybe?
There really aren't any right or wrong answers. These are my characters, my settings, my paths. I created them. This is MY choice. Still, taking the safe route — sans butterflies — will not likely stretch me to be a better writer. Or, as Angelica would say, a better person.
To sum this up, as writers and as individuals it is always a challenge to meet our fears, recognize them as such, decide if we can (or even SHOULD) overcome them, and choose.
The key is to remember it's our choice. And our choice may help us grow or stagnate.
Fight or flight.
From now on, I intend to choose butterflies in my stomach as often as possible. No idea if this will truly help me grow as a writer (and person). It's possible those butterflies will give me a serious case of indigestion. I suspect, though, my writing will be infinitely more interesting with a few butterflies flitting about. Seriously.
Yes or no, I'm willing to give fear (and butterflies) a chance.
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