About five years ago, when my career needed a major shake-up after a lengthy hiatus for child-rearing, I decided I would do two things:
1. Stretch, especially in ways that I think, for various reasons, are off-limits to me.
2. Say YES.
Usually, the YES part comes first. "Yes I can do that," I say, with a confident smile on my face, all the while thinking, "How the hell I am going to do THAT?" Still, these two mandates have led me to many great places. Lately, I've added a third: Do what scares me.
Which leads me this: I'm writing fiction. Yup, three (probably very bad) rough drafts of short stories have somehow appeared on my desk. It doesn't look like "this fiction thing" is going away; but it also isn't going to take center stage. So, I'm just engaging with it, writing a bit every day, saying yes. The scary part: I've always understood how important it is to incorporate some of the elements of fiction when writing nonfiction; BUT discovering that the opposite is not entirely true -- that some of the foundation stones of memoir and personal essay don't translate to the act of writing of fiction -- was quite disconcerting at first.
I also said YES this month to judging a writing contest for a local arts organization, and to co-chairing plans for a master class series for MEWS (Montclair Editors & Writers Society). Neither of these two things fall into the scary department, except maybe in the sense of finding the time. But I don't sleep that much.
By the way, these three mandates don't always turn out fabulously. Road bumps have ensued. I've made a few dumb choices. Rejections seem to multiply. But they seem manageable. So, not so scary.
On the other hand, the high school reunion coming up in five weeks – the one I still can't decide to attend or not? Now, that's scary.