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 BandMix.com 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?
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.
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.