Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

THE INDIE AUTHORS DAY ON 7 OCTOBER 2017 was a great Indie Authors Day Program experience for me. When I signed up for it, I thought I was just going to be sitting in the audience taking in all the wisdom of others … I didn’t really realise I had signed up to be a panelist—to pass my wisdom (insert seriously huge eye roll) on to others.

If you’ve been following my blog posts, you know that once I’ve committed to something, I will not back out unless I’m seriously ill or on my deathbed. A commitment is a commitment. That’s all there is to it. So, this deer-in-the-headlights panicked for a few minutes, then remembered something I’d told myself so many years ago—”I can do anything I put my mind to …” (later, I’d added “… with God’s help”). I’d always told people that I loved a challenge (and this definitely qualified). Taking a deep breath, I took the challenge and had a blast—even if I

Meeting Authors

Yours truly and Linda Lamb

may not have been the most knowledgeable person on the panel. I met plenty of people, was able to help (with info and advice) a young teen writer a bit, plus I handled most questions gracefully and with a reasonable amount of knowledge (yay!) …

When it was over, there was definitely a sigh of relief—I’d done it and was glad I’d stuck it out.

Since my husband passed away, I’ve found myself in many such situations like this and each one has helped me grow—in confidence, knowledge and self-esteem (I had come a long way from my very poor self-esteem as a child and young adult, but still carry doubts of my abilities). It also reinforced my integrity. In this last “experiment”, when asked where my ideas came from, I actually dared to step outside the safety of just spewing facts, to announce that “my characters run the show” (something I’ve obviously said before) … but that those characters are, in fact, God directing my story the way He wants it to go, not where I want it to go. That was the first time I’ve ever said that—outside the relative safety of this blog site or to friends. One of the other panelists came up to me afterwards and said she loved that I stated that my story is faith (aka: God)-driven, and that it took courage to say it in front of a crowd. A little growth spurt. And that this particular panelist, whom I grew to admire for her wisdom and skill whilst she passed along information to the audience, made the observation the proverbial “icing on the cake.”

Life is too short to not accept these challenges that are thrown before us. Stepping outside our comfy little world helps stretch our skills and confidence. I used to hate talking in front of people—we had to do it in my 6th grade class all the way through high school—I became a shrinking violet … stuttering, mixing up my words. Horrible. Yet, as a fourty-something mother, I finally managed to engage children by creating spontaneous short stories in front of them (prior to this, I had an awful time even reading stories aloud to my daughter—I didn’t want my dyslexia to show what an awful reader I was.) “Oh, they’re easy to talk and read to,” you say … um, I disagree. Some of them can be pretty tough critics. But I learned by challenging myself—one little stepping stone at a time, till eventually, I was able to stand up in front of larger groups … and larger … until I, heart in my throat, stood up in front of a bunch of seasoned authors a couple of years ago and read a selection from my first book. I was scared to death that I’d mess up in my reading and forgot to mention the title (such a basic—eye roll here) … and that my humble story wasn’t good enough for this awesome collection of people. I didn’t die, or even melt into a puddle on the floor. I made it through unscathed. Rattled, but unscathed. And, discovered many of them even enjoyed the story. Another little growth spurt.

So, my friends, don’t cloister yourselves—take on challenges. Perhaps small at first, but allow yourself the luxury of experimenting with larger challenges. And larger still. Try new things. Travel—with friends or on your own—it’s a awesome experience— and “grows” you in so many ways (check out the bogs I’ve written about traveling with people and on my own). Start writing that book you keep talking about.

As one shoe maker states, “Just do it” … never let failure of a challenge defeat you. It’s simply a learning tool to help you do better the next time.

So, until next week, I bid you adieu—have a blessed week. For the locals, perhaps you would be interested in stopping by Compass Church in Salinas on Saturday, 14 October for their annual craft fair—Joyce Oroz and I will be set up (against the south wall in the main building) with her mystery series and my fantasy series … plus my photography, photopolymer etched prints and other bits of art.

Harvest Jubilee 2017

Confidence Building…

AS A WRITER, I LOVE THE ACT OF putting my thoughts onto paper. It took me a long time to feel comfortable sharing them with others, always wondering what they might think. Once I finally realized that it didn’t matter (well, it did…but not so much) what others thought–I knew that there were some readers out there that would enjoy my stories, so I finally started sharing–first in the confines of a classroom…and when I didn’t get booed back to my seat, I was resolved to further to make publishing my work a reality. First with my blog, then with my sci-fi fantasy story.

And now that it’s out there, I fret. Is it a waste of money? Yes, I did use a “vanity press” to get my book published and they dig deep into your pockets–I’ve been scolded on numerous occasions by fellow indie authors for going that route, but at the time, it was the best way–for me. No, I haven’t gone crazy trying to publicize the book–I’ve been very low key about it. What I have done is to give it to God. Does that mean sitting back on my laurels and let Him make it happen? No, it means I trust that if this book series is meant to be, it will fly. It may take some time. I’ve done a few book signings, now have a twitter account (but refuse to flood the twittersphere with ‘buy my book’ stuff), posted (a lot) on my business Facebook account, a little on my personal FB account, a little on my LinkedIn account…you get the idea.

Friends have give me verbal feedback on how much they liked Secrets Beyond Scymaria. Only one person has given me a ‘so-so’ comment, and I respect that. The book is not for everybody. But, not even one written review. Not one. My confidence has been flagging. Were these wonderful verbal high-fives just to make me feel good? I know many authors go through this. Some more than others. They need to see those reviews (and those reviews are important for sales, too, since most people look at the reviews before considering their purchases).  Those visual ‘pats’ on the back. They want to see lots of them. Lots of five star reviews.

So, I was beginning to seriously doubt myself, my book and starting to feel pretty down, since fellow author friends have had scores of reviews on their newly published books while mine has been languishing since September/October, 2013. That’s a long time in the life of a book. And a long time for a writer. I finally decided I obviously wasn’t ‘giving it to God’ like I’d planned. So, I gave it back to him (again)–and relaxed.

I busied myself with my second book (it”s almost ready for the publisher–I know, I keep saying that, but life keeps getting in the way of completing it!) and have all but one problem spot worked out. Then I realized I needed to come up with verbiage for the hardbound cover inside flaps. Yikes. So, I’m working on that too.

Out of the blue, an indie author/blogger/reviewer Facebook friend, Ey Wade, said she’d do a review on my book. Not just an ordinary reader, but one that does this professionally. I was honored. I sent her a pdf of Secrets Beyond Scymaria and within days, she had a review posted on her webblog (which has some very good reviews, by the way–you might want to check it out if you’re looking for a new book to read)…and on Amazon and GoodReads!

My confidence has been renewed, since not only was it a good review, but she gave it five stars (doing a happy dance). Now…back to getting the second in the series done so I can finish planning for my trip!

And, yes, I am certainly not ashamed to admit it, I did thank and praise God for all that happened…I know His hand is in it, helping me move forward.