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.