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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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courage

So, I had my first solo book reading a few days ago…..

……and I learned a few things from that experience.

  1. I could have had more material prepared to read. [1]
  2. Given that it was a hot day, I could have brought some refreshments. [2]
  3. It was suggested I stream it live on Facebook for others who weren’t able to attend to share in the experience. [3]
  4. I now have a better sense of timing it. [4]
  5. Confidence is key.

Those five things are my immediate takeaways from the experience.  I had a lovely crowd of 11 and I sold one book.  Successful turnout?  I’d say so.  This was, as I’ve indicated, my first solo book reading.  I’d been a part of a couple of book readings before, including one at a writers conference.  That event involved multiple authors – in both cases, the only ones in the audience to hear me read were the other authors. [5]

The biggest takeaway for me was being confident in my own work.  It’s easy to hide oneself in a crowd of like-minded and talented writers.  But here, I was exposed to the public, vulnerable, easily seen.  I couldn’t hide.

Still, I did it.  And that takes a bit of courage.

So now, for the next book reading I prepare, I have a better sense of what to do.

And that, you can be sure, I’m looking forward to. 🙂

[1] It took a combined total of maybe 10 minutes to read the two pieces I had selected.

[2] Lemonade and water would have been my first choice, obviously, but the location was in the conference room at the local library, so that’s a possibility I need to check on for next time.

[3] I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure how to work the streaming feature on Facebook, though I’m sure someone might have been able to figure that out. Next time!

[4] I had created an event page and blocked out two hours.  In reality, it took just under an hour. Now I know.

[5] The other authors read amazing excerpts from their works – the only negative was that none of us made any sales.  And we should have.

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So, I’ve been thinking a lot about chances…..

…….and its cousins, opportunities and risks.

We go through life making choices that present us with one or all three.  It’s up to us to decide whether or not the outcome is worth it.

There’s a lot of fear that goes into making that choice and that’s okay.  Fear of the unknown is what helps us be alert to red flags or, in extreme situations, keep us from harm.  And fear is a good survival instinct.  It lets us know that maybe there’s a situation out there that’s too much or too dangerous for us to handle.

But you can’t let fear be the ruling factor in your life.  Stopping before you even start or because of thoughts of failing is fear.  You can’t let the possible negative outcomes determine your choices.

If you have a dream to write a novel, go write it.  Don’t let your real-life responsibilities slide, but do make the time to write every day, even if it’s 20 minutes.  Set a time and just do it.  Same thing goes for any other creative form.  Or if you want to add to your skill set in your field, if it’s medicine or law or cooking.  Add to those skills.  Make the time.

You have a dream.  Accept that there’s fear in making that first step and push through it.  There will be failures and false starts and rejection and obstacles.  Stick with it.  The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

So, it’s the first day of March……

……..and it got me thinking about how the word ‘march’ is not only a noun, but a verb.  It’s not just the name for a month (or a person), but it’s also an action.

The month of March, therefore, can be interpreted as a month of action. I know what it is to be stuck, to not know what direction to go in. What’s difficult about it is that there are so many choices, that we often freeze. We feel paralyzed and panicked and end up staying in the same spot. We are so scared of making the wrong decision that we end up not deciding, which in itself is a decision.

The only true wrong decision is to not decide and remain stuck.

So make a decision and move forward. March forward.

If you realize the path is wrong, change direction. Just keep marching forward.

Eventually, you’ll find your way. You’ll find that the panicked and stuck feeling will fall away and you can breathe easier. You’ll feel lighter, more buoyant. Your energy will come back and you’ll find excitement at your favorite activities that only a few weeks ago, felt dull and routine, boring and stagnant.

Pick a direction, make a decision and go forward. March forth towards your goals and dreams.

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So, David Bowie once said…….

………“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.

I read this quote by David Bowie shortly after his death. It stayed with me, the way things do that make a strong impression. Some of my best creative output came about during the worst times and least secure moments of my life. As long as I was sitting in front of my computer, stringing words together and giving scenes and characters life, I was okay. Whatever was happening outside my little home became easier to handle and navigate. In short, regardless of the uncertainty of my future, my art allowed me to give voice and find strength.
However, as I reflected on Mr. Bowie’s words, I realized that maybe he wasn’t talking about the discomfort of the physical world, but the discomfort of our individual interior and emotional worlds. The analogy of water that Mr. Bowie uses can be interpreted in many ways. Swimming is the most immediate symbol – in order to become a competent swimmer, one needs to learn the basics of swimming. To be a competent or even a competitive swimmer, one had to be willing to push past fear and go into the deep end.
The other image of water that made itself clear to me was the subconscious, as in, “What lies beneath your conscious self?” What, indeed? What we fear the most, about ourselves, our loved ones, our worlds, is generally buried under the busy-ness of every-day living. A lot of times, we make ourselves busy so as not to address that which worries or scares us the most. It’s natural to want to feel safe and secure, but it can also hinder us from making the necessary changes in our lives that would bring us peace.
Embrace that discomfort and that fear. Get out your sketchpad or journal. Just let it all out onto that page, whether it’s haiku or musical notes, oil or watercolors. Let it be what it is. There is no judgement between you and that page – remember, this is for you to express yourself to yourself. Share it only if you want to.
Artistic expression is not just about romance and beautiful landscapes and silly love songs and enchanted cottages. It’s also about the flip side, about the things that scare us, make us angry or sad. The arts can give voice to both our light selves and our darker selves, what Carl Jung would call the Shadow.

Recommended reading:

Man and His Symbols

The Red Book

*****
Editor’s Note – this blog post is also published concurrently on Citizens Journal Ventura County.

And now, a word from Amelia Earheart…….

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Amelia Earhart, aviator
July 24, 1897 – July 2, 1937

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