running away

I’m running away and going on tour with a John Mellencamp tribute band! (Okay, not really. Maybe.)  Several months ago, my friend Amy joined a site called where bands and musicians can find each other. On a lark, I decided to sign up, too. I tried to make it clear in my profile that I have absolutely zero professional singing experience, but that didn’t stop a local band from contacting me recently about an opening they have for a backup singer with lead vocal abilities. What does this have to do with writing?


Artist Woman Singing Concert in Jazz Club

Image by via Flickr

Singing in a band has long been one of my secret dreams. I love to sing. But I’m also very self-conscious about it. It took me over twenty years to sing in front of another human being: my husband. Until recently, my only experience singing in public was with my church choir. I was almost forty before I sang solo in public.

Do I seriously have a shot at getting into this band? I don’t know. Maybe. My vocal coach once compared my voice to Karen Carpenter‘s. I love to sing along with the radio and most of the time, I think I’m not half bad. But my husband laughed when I told him I was auditioning. He’s sung with professionals before, and he’s heard me sing. So maybe not. Then why am I doing this?


I’ve noticed something recently about how I often respond to the opportunities and challenges life throws at me. My process generally goes something like this:

Idea. An idea comes to me. I get excited about, start brainstorming, and sometimes even get creatively manic about it.

Opportunity. An opportunity comes along that fits right in line with my idea. Call it synchronicity or coincidence, but it happens fairly regularly.

Panic. Every fear I’ve ever had about my competence and abilities rears its ugly head. I panic and flail about like a mad woman. Usually internally. Most people never see me go through this step.

Freeze. The panic is so strong, I completely freeze up. The opportunity passes. My idea fades back to the background.


This is all going to change. Oh, I’m still panicking. But freezing? I’m done with that. After giving this singing opportunity some thought, I realized I have nothing to lose by auditioning. The worst thing that could happen would be if they told me, “You’re in!” Because then I’d have to figure out how to fit rehearsals and tour dates into my schedule.

So how does this apply to writing? Simple. Ask yourself what is stopping you? I’ll bet it’s fear. Fear of not having enough time. Fear of not finding the right words. Fear of writing a weak plot. Fear of poor characterization or dialog. Fear of Mary Sue. Fear of Tom Swifty. Fear of rejection. Fear of being exposed.

Do It Anyway

I’ve accepted that panicking and flailing about mentally is part of my process. But rather than freezing up or actively running away from the challenges and opportunities thrown my way, I’m choosing to face my fears and push myself out of my comfort zone.

Don’t let fear stop you. Acknowledge it. Write about it!  Be compassionate with yourself though. Fear is natural; it’s part of what makes us human. Give yourself permission to feel it. But in the end, do it anyway.

Your Turn

So what’s stopping you? What are you afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen if you write that poem, that essay, or that story? Click here if you’d like to share your fears publicly, or contact me if you’d like to chat privately.

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8 Responses to running away

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Kimberly, I’m giving you an advance standing ovation for stepping out of the comfort zone, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and all that good stuff. I’ve always wanted to sing for a large group on my own (not as part of a large choir). Ironically, I was supposed to sing for a small “longest night” church service tomorrow night – but plans changed due to circumstances beyond my control (or perhaps it was God’s way of saying “Uh, no.”).

    Fear and I are old frenemies. Fear of Failure. Fear of Being Wrong. Fear of Success (what if I can’t duplicate it?). I keep telling myself what’s stopping me or keeping me from writing is that I’m “so busy working on everyone else’s writing” as an editor. But I really need to give it some thought and see if there’s any truth to that.

    Fear has less of a grip on me than it once did, but every once in a while, it gets a choke hold and it takes me a while to break free.


  2. Thanks, Elizabeth! I’ve been in that “too busy” camp too. I’m not entirely sure that “too busy” was ever true for me. I often had time to watch TV or surf the internet. Part of that was necessary down time, but I often asked myself, “If I’ve got time to do this, why not write?” I think sometimes we use busy-ness as a shield. I’d be interested to hear what kinds of ideas you come up with if you do examine this busy-ness a little further to see if there’s really fear behind it. What would you be writing if you “had the time”?

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Kimberly, I have a memoir outlined – and I wouldn’t be surprised if old grief is keeping me from working on it. I know it’s going to hurt and it will be draining, but I know it will serve a greater good when it’s done – it’ll make a difference somewhere. But I think I have to be mentally “ready” to tackle it. Or just plan to do it in small doses.

    I also have an adult mystery, and a YA mystery (a good old fashioned ghost story) in progress. Both are previous NaNo victories.

    And…I’m starting to think there might be some collections floating around inside me too. I already write prayers and meditations, and I’ve been having fun with flash fiction and poetry when I can. Those are pretty new areas though. Definitely not ready for prime time!

    Do you have plans for your NaNo project?

  4. I turned off nested comments; it was causing too many problems and the formatting gets wonky after two replies anyway.

    With old grief, there’s definitely a level of mental (and emotional) readiness you need to have, but I think we need to be extra careful not to use it as another shield. My NaNo novel actually started from a place where I was working out some old grief. I’ve started this story at least three times before finally just plowing through it for NaNoWriMo. Small doses would be one way to tackle your memoir. Or alternating between parts that bring up grief and parts that are less emotionally strenuous. I have a close friend who’s doing something similar, only she’s alternating between journalling through the grief and writing her memoir. The book, Cancer is a Bitch, was written largely from the author’s journals as well. That might be another way to come out this project.

    I think the “not ready for prime time” material is just as important as the others, too. It’s all writing practice, and making yourself available for inspiration.

    Right now, my NaNo project is sitting. Incubating perhaps. I decided to take a break from writing after NaNoWriMo, but I’m starting to feel the itch again. But I’m not yet ready to work on my NaNo project yet. I almost feel like I need to do a ritual writerly cleansing and write something else, anything else, for a while before I come back to it.

  5. Well, I bombed the tryout — but it was a blast! I walked away grinning, so I really feel I couldn’t have asked for more than that.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Bravissima!! Congratulations for getting out there and giving it a go!!

    I warned my family that if any of our local theaters ever presents “Nunsense” I am auditioning and they may have to just live without me for a few weeks. ;-)

    Congrats, again, Kimberly!!

  7. Thanks, Elizabeth! By the way, auditioning for and being part of a musical? Also a blast! I was part of the chorus for a local production of the Wizard of Oz. One more thing off my bucket list! I missed their production of Grease though. That would have been the ultimate for me. You should definitely do it — even if it’s not Nunsense.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I was involved with theater from about middle school through late 20s. I’ve done a few musicals but mostly I’ve done either contemporary comedy or Shakespearean tragedy, lol. On my theatrical “bucket list” was performing in any of Shakespeare’s plays, and I was in Romeo and Juliet twice – Lady Capulet both times. I’d like to do another musical and I would welcome a chance to audition for Nunsense, or to be a chorus member in Les Miserables. :)