Believe in Yourself by Elizabeth Mitchell

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that I joined ROW80 in July 2011.   Perhaps the best testimonial I can offer shows how I have changed in the past year of Rounds. My first stab at a biography a year ago reveals so much. I wrote, “. . . hiding a deep, dark, secret life as an inveterate scribbler . . . she feels it is time to nourish her secret life.” Although my past year has lived up to “the writing challenge that knows you have a life” in tossing obstacles in my path, I have grown more as a writer in this push-me, pull-you year than in any of the past.  How? Due to the support of this community of writers, many of whom I consider friends.

In my first post last year I said I could not share my fiction and creative non-fiction writing with my colleagues at my day job. I spent a lot of time doubting the small, still voice telling me I was a writer; I threw chunks of academic prose down its maw, but the voice persisted, whispering its dissatisfaction. I worried what I wanted to write was not important, earth-shattering, or mind-opening enough. I worried no one would read it, which is somewhat comical from an academic writer whose works have had at least ten readers. Worse, someone might read it and not like it. However, I was very tired of hiding my writing in corners and desk drawers.  Also, I am small, mean, and grouchy when I don’t write. Today, I can say that not only friends and family know that I write, but many of my day job colleagues.  I have a large document hanging on my cubicle wall that says I am a writer.  I believe it now.

A year ago, I gave three reasons why I had joined ROW80.  The first was the community I had observed during a couple of weeks of lurking. I had no idea how important this community would be to me.  I suffered stage fright at first, especially when I found that many ROWers had published, more had substantive works in progress, and it seemed everyone was much farther down the path than I was.  However, I quickly saw no one judged me on how much or fast I produced, but on what I had to say and whether I was committed to saying it.

The second reason was accountability.  I am a recovering perfectionist, as well as a recovering people-pleaser, so this accountability works well for me.  I have learned one very important thing in this year, however.  If you do fall off the wagon, do not hide from this community.  I speak from experience.  I fell behind, then felt embarrassed. I stopped checking in. When I finally dragged myself back to the group, who were all whizzing along wonderfully on most, if not all, of their goals, guess what happened?  Everyone was supportive, understanding, helpful and just all around lovely.

The third reason was modelling behavior. As a secret writer, I only allowed my husband to read my creative work this past year.  An early, terribly crushing, very public humiliation in a poetry contest scarred me far more than it should have done.  But here were all these writers, smiling bravely at rejection, welcoming criticism, cutting scenes and words to make the work better, and sitting down the next day undeterred.  Many of them had goals I could manage as well.  I faltered a bit last November when everyone seemed to be tearing through NaNoWriMo, but there were still many who had slower goals.  Such is the beauty of this challenge.  It doesn’t matter if you are the tortoise or the hare, this community will support you in the race.

Here I stand, a writer supported and encouraged by the gift of this community every day. I look back astonished at where I was a year ago, and excited about where I will be in another year.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

15 comments

  1. I’ve been ROWing with Kait since the first round. I do not remember how I found her, maybe on Twitter, but it was sometime after NaNoWriMo. I didnt realize it at the time but I had been looking for a community of writers that actually had day jobs, that would welcome a novice with varying amounts of writing and/or confidence. Clearly, there were so many of us that needed this type of arena. Kait created that space for us to come together and for that I am truly grateful. This is community is so important and I thank you all for being so supportive, giving great advice& suggestions. And that much needed push-BICHOK!

  2. Hi, Jeneen. I agree with you; I am very grateful that Kait created this group. At the time I joined, I had no possibility of nearby real-life writers’ groups, and the day job made going to retreats or conferences difficult, as I am sure you can relate.

    Since I moved to upstate New York, I’ve found several writers in the area, but I still gain a lot from this community–especially that push to BICHOK.

  3. I’ve been with ROW80 from the beginning. I had already published some books, but I was getting lazy and had no real motivation to write except a little here and there. This challenge has made it easier because now everyone knows how good or bad I’m doing. LOL. And it doesn’t matter how embarrassed I am about what I’m doing or not doing, I still check in. It helps to know others are “watching” you.🙂

    1. Lauralynn, the accountability is very important to me, too. I like that people smack me back to reality (gently) when I’ve been in the Slough of Despond or procrastinating.

      Everyone has good suggestions for dealing with everything from sleep problems to being blocked with a scene or a character. I treasure the generosity of this group.

  4. I also recall being secretive in the first year that I was writing. I told a few friends and family and gauged their reaction first. Three years in, I’m channeling a ZZ Top song: “I’m nationwide.” LOL. I love hearing your story in this regard and your encouragement to step out of the shadows and get in the game. If you fail a bit, no worries. Other writers are here to invite you onto the ROW80 cruise ship and throw a party for whatever progress you make. Thanks for this post!

    1. Thanks, Julie; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Somehow I changed last January from describing myself as a librarian who writes on the side to a writer who is a librarian during the day. I had no problem telling people at my new day job that I write,

      I do love the support and generosity of this group. It doesn’t hurt that all of them will party at the drop of a hat, either!🙂

  5. Elizabeth, What a lovely testament to the value of ROW80 and surrounding ourselves with a writing community. I’ve been around just about the same time as you, and I know how much it has meant to me, and for the same reasons you listed. You have been a very special voice in the crowd, and for that, I’m truly grateful. Hugs!

  6. Wonderful post, Elizabeth! You’ve articulated so many of the reasons why I have come to love this community so much. It is wonderful to see how ROW80 has come to shape your journey and growth as a writer — such a testament to all of the writers who take part.😀

    1. Thank you, Lena. I surprised myself last week, when chatting with a group of colleagues before a meeting, I just said that I write, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. And it is, but I am so far away from that secretive writer of a year ago it still amazes me.

  7. Gorgeous post, Elizabeth! One of the joys of ROW80 for me, besides ALL of the above is watching all the writers come out of their shells and believe in themselves. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wonderful post, Elizabeth! I remember how you were feeling a year ago and how excited I was when you felt comfortable enough to join ROW80. I’m so happy you’ve found your stride and realize you are a writer and you’re good at it! I love ROW80 and participated in 4 rounds. I helped me find out what kind of writer I am and which path to take with my stories and scheduling my writing time. Wishing you another great year ahead!

  9. Marcia, I remember what a difficult step it was to join ROW80, and how freeing it was to be accepted and supported by everyone. The group has also helped me figure out what I want to write, and given me the confidence to name my goals. Thank you, and may we both have a great year!

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