Now that Above Tree Line is published and available, some of my friends and readers are alluding to my courage. Every time I hear or read the word courage applied to me, I experience a moment of confusion. It doesn’t compute. I don’t see myself as courageous. Never have. Writing my memoir didn’t feel courageous when I was doing it. It felt terrifying. Putting it out there didn’t feel brave either. Waiting for responses and reviews isn’t fun for me, it’s scary as hell.
But I did continue on and now I hold the book in my hands. I turn it over. I open to a page and read an excerpt at random. I lift it to my face and inhale its flowery fragrance. (The memoir was sitting on my lavender-stuffed pillow for awhile.) Fear could have stopped me, but now I have the proof in my hands that it didn’t. I can now allow myself the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing I carried a particularly difficult endeavor all the way to its end.
So many days through the seven years it took to write the book I wanted to give up. In fact, it took me seven years because I’d go stretches when I couldn’t write at all. I’d stop, close the computer, decide to be happy as a non-writer.
But I always returned to the book and that was the key, the secret to completion.
I had to stop thinking about the end result, the future of the project, and focus only on the task in front of me. I’d say, just for today I’ll work on this chapter. Or, just for today I’ll review this scene. Or, just for today I’ll meet with Bobbi to discuss cover designs.
When the bile of terror rose in my throat or my inner critics derided the drivel I laid down on the page, I continued on. Or I didn’t. Sometimes the voices were too strident, the fears too gripping, and I quit for the day (or longer). I went for a walk or read a book or stayed in bed and played computer games until I could hardly see.
The other secret to completion for me was that I wouldn’t have continued to write the memoir without support: support from my writing mentor/teacher Mary Allen; support from my family and friends; and another kind of support which I treated myself to and now believe was more important to me than I imagined it was at the time.
This was the support from on-line coaches and teachers, and a few in-person retreats led by those same coaches.
It wasn’t the online writing courses that were most important for me; it was the courses on how to embrace courage (especially if you are a woman) and how to play big. I needed the programs on savoring as you serve, on self-care, on how to find and claim your voice, and perhaps for me most importantly, how to say no in order to have the time you need to do the work you most want to do. Women who had stepped out in courage and walked the path before me taught what I hadn’t learned as a child of the ’50s.
I grew up in a time when women were just beginning to discover they didn’t have to defer to men or remain silent. Most families back then didn’t teach their daughters how to speak up, be heard, go after an authentic life courageously.
But over the last few years Jen Louden, Kristen Noelle, Tara Mohr, Marianne Elliot, Kate Courageous, Vicky White, Joanna Powell Colbert and others have taught me how to do that. I am not surprised that these women are, for the most part, quite a bit younger than me. They have much to teach the women of my generation and I am listening.
What is it that you want to accomplish? What goal fills you with dread when you think of it in its entirety instead of breaking it down into small, doable steps? Let’s begin to bring our dreams out into the light, to talk about them. This, Dear Reader, is the first step to completion.