I'll admit that when Keely brought up the WOTY concept for the blog, I felt a certain smug satisfaction. I had not just a word, but a whole phrase: Stay The Course (STC). It'd been my mantra for 2011 and with it I had completed a 60K-word version of my novel, pitched it at RWA, and received a couple of nibbles. I was on top of the world.
Then, in November, something really wonderful happened. The Rockville 8—those wacky women that write and laugh…a lot—extended an invitation to me to join their group. This was just what I had been looking for: savvy critique partners who would help me take my manuscript to the next level.
Seemed like a good idea in December. It's February now, and I feel differently. Very differently. Smug is no longer an emotion I'm enjoying. Thanks to the wonderfully supportive R8, I'm growing as a writer and my manuscript is becoming tighter and more focused. But, I'm also running smack up against my own self-imposed limitations and STC no longer applies.
I realize now that Stay The Course only works when you're in a safe place and just have to avoid distractions. It's like cupping your ears and squeezing your eyes closed while singing la-la-la-la. So in 2011, in my uber-efficient and security-conscious way (), I carved out a niche for writing that would inconvenience no one, except me. The alarm sounded at 5:30am, and by 5:45, I was seated at my computer with a cup of coffee. Armed with a detailed plot, character bios, and Goal-Motivation-Conflict charts, I followed the plan and wrote every morning. No matter how often my inner critic told me I was writing crap or the list-serve featured another “publishing is dead” article, I just sang la-la-la-la and stayed the course.
It worked, but, I ask you, is that sustainable? Maybe for some people, but I'm burned out and growing as a writer demands more time. So, why not just claim it? Because I’m a Southern woman and we're cursed to put the needs of others ahead of our own. But, even more, I'm afraid of facing uncharted waters. I want to make a plan and follow it, but you know, sh--t, happens. Plans get interrupted.
The French writer, André Malraux said: "The difference between a successful person and a failure is not that one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk—to act.”
I was ten the first time I jumped off the high dive. Shuffling out to the end of the board had been terrifying and now I was frozen with fear. At the base of the ladder, a group of children waited and watched. Some yelled encouragements; others taunted me with fraidy cat. Minutes passed. I made no move. Finally, the life guard shouted, "Bless your heart, Girl, just jump!"
Risk. Courage. Those are the words I'm mulling over today. Will I have the courage to take the risk and jump? I hope so. The girl that I once was did.