A Path to Publication, pt 13: How self-absorbed are you?!

To bring about a paradigm shift in the culture that will change assumptions and attitudes, a critical number of us have to tell the stories of our personal revelations and transformations.

Jean Shinoda Bolen, Crossing to Avalon

I haven’t posted about my path to publication in a while because, well, last fall the path suddenly became a rut. I didn’t have the time or emotional ability to navigate that bumpy road at that time. But, as these things do, it hasn’t stopped nagging at me. Lately that voice has once again become too loud to ignore.

The question for me right now is: Do I stop everything else I’m doing, including pursuing other work, to dedicate my time to this memoir? It is so close to being finished (pre-revision finished, that is) it probably wouldn’t take too much concentrated time to complete it. But, as always, money and time are in limited quantities and I wonder if even the consideration of taking precious resources to work on a book is foolish.

Yes, the old fearful, imposter-syndrome, “who am I?” question has come into play. Why on earth do I think my story is so special that I have a right to spend anything on it?? Isn’t that kind of self-absorbed? Isn’t it just navel-gazing?

Well, here’s what my journal had to say about that last night:

If you are a good singer, you share your voice with others. If you are a talented cook, you feed others. You are a gifted teacher, you inspire others to learn. You have a story, you tell it.

I am a writer. A good writer, with a story to tell.

People respond to my writing. I have been given a gift. It is my gift back to share it.

I need my words to be read. I need to be heard.

And I have something to say. If it only resonated with one person, that’s reason enough to say it. Writing my story helped me to heal. Maybe it can help someone else too.

Humans are story-livers and givers. We relate, we learn, we empathize, we resonate, we make decisions, we change the world through story. It is my obligation to share mine.

A Path to Publication, part 8: When the Censors come a-knocking

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You can invite them in for a moment, but then shoo them out saying: Thank You. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Today is not a good day as far as my book goes. Last week I finished one step of the editing process (re-reading and making notes) and could not seem to motivate myself to start the next step. I couldn’t even see straight enough to know what the next step actually was. I feel I’ve lost many hours of valuable work time that I can’t get back due to this crisis (as well as being a fabulous procrastinator, I’ve also excellent at blowing thing waaaaay out of proportion).

So, here I am on a Saturday morning of a holiday weekend in full-blown panic mode. It’s gorgeous outside, I have nothing on my schedule, there’s the farmer’s market I could be walking to and around, there’s a library bookstore a few towns over, there’s the dog to be walked. But here I am yelling at myself (silently but quite obnoxiously and bullyingly) that I SHOULD be working!

And that’s not all. You should hear the things my inner Censor is saying to me.

It’s too hard!
It’s a dumb idea!
No one will ever want to publish it!
You won’t get it done before your break (from my weekly columns) is up, then you’ll be screwed!
You’ll never get that pitch ready and memorized before July 19th (that’s when I am pitching to two agents at a “Meet the Agents” event.)
What are you? Crazy?! There’s no way they’ll like it!
You’ll be so terrible at pitching – they’ll reject you in the first 30 seconds.
Just forget the whole effin’ thing!
Who the hell are YOU?!

Nice, eh?

Well, Mr./Miss/Ms. Censor, I have a message for you:

Shut the F**K up! You’ve had your say and I politely listened, but now it is time for you to go back into your dark, slimy hole of negativity and fear and leave me alone!

It is now time — after I have walked the dog to the river, grabbed some locally-produced lunch at the farmer’s market, and purchased a stack of .25 books — to sit down and make a plan for the next steps of this process. I will work through them. And I will believe that, DESPITE my terror, my doubts, my lack of motivation, my supposed foolishness and arrogance that makes me think that I should/could put a book out into the world, that I CAN do this and that I have EVERY RIGHT to do so.

Yup, this isn’t so comfortable, living with a bully in your head that causes your stomach muscles to contract into tight, hard balls that continuously punch you in the gut from the inside, but I will go on knowing it is just FEAR with a bee in its bonnet. It can knock, maybe even come in for a visit, and just like with those door-to-door missionaries, you can listen politely to their tripe, then ask them to leave knowing you’ve got your own thing going on and that their beliefs have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

Onward…

Sharing your light

I have a friend who used to volunteer as a reading tutor. Her Christmas letter informing me there is nothing as gratifying as helping another person sent me into a self-indulgent, self-hate-fest. I used to complain to my journal or Hubby that I never did anything to help anyone else. I had no desire to volunteer anywhere and I interpreted this as selfishness.

When I worked in customer service at a bank, I admit I went out of my way to help the poor, clueless soul who thought the ATM had mind-reading skills and that the balance on the slip reflected the amount of the check she just wrote at the grocery store five minutes earlier. When I balanced her checkbook at no cost it made me feel good – even though I was later admonished for taking too much time with a non-lucrative customer.

But when I worked at a non-profit youth orchestra I was amazed by the retirees and parents who would take a few hours out of their day to help me stuff and seal thousands of fundraising letters or tune and price-tag dusty violins so they could be placed under the chin of a budding musician. On my day off, that would be the last thing on earth I’d want to be to doing.

Then I found something I believed in. Something I can do, something I love to do and know I do well. Now I want to tell the whole world and I’d do it for free if I could! And that makes all the difference.

Today I received a email from a friend who is going through a difficult time. I had encouraged her to write when she was ready, which she did. This was the final sentence of her message:

Thanks  for showing me a way to sort out thoughts and take control of my life.  You have helped more than you know and I would put that in any brochure or marketing tool you would like!!!!

This is better than a paycheck any day – and it made me cry.

I now know that my earlier “selfishness” was lack of self-esteem, lack of direction, and lack of passion. I now want nothing more than to help people. And I have the knowledge to be able to and the confidence to know that what I have to offer is something I would be selfish NOT to share!

I now know that my friend was right – there is nothing so gratifying as giving of your gifts, talents and knowledge for the benefit of another. And don’t underestimate what you have to offer. There is a certain joy that comes from giving the gift of yourself.

PROMPT: The ability, gift, or special knowledge I have that I could be sharing with others is…