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  • Maggie Eliot

FEAR!

When I think back to my days in high school and undergrad theatre, I'm jealous of the fearless little shit I used to be. Even though some of the memories of rookie mistakes and misguided greenhorn ideas makes me cringe, I envy the twenty-year-old me who boldly performed audition pieces that showcased her ignorance but were full of life and fire.


Now that I'm well into my forties and am attempting to step into a new medium, I find myself holding back on a lot of opportunities to learn/be seen out of fear. My memories of my rookie mistakes in theatre and all the ones I've witnessed others make, sit in the back of my head and mix with general shyness to keep me from saying what I want to say, posting what I want to post on social media, or sending out what I want to send out.


But I'm turning a corner. After sending multiple queries to agents, entering writing contests, and entering Twitter pitch contests, I'm starting to build confidence. It's exhilarating. And the more I put myself out there, the more I roll my eyes at myself for my wallflower behavior. Making mistakes is part of learning. Nobody ever actually DIES of embarrassment.


The best part of actually getting my stuff out there, is I'm starting to get an answer to my constant question, "is my stuff good or am I just kidding myself?". I've had some positive responses to basic premises of some of my work, and even that feels like a good indicator that I'm not a complete fraud.


This week's victory, as small as it may seem, was in taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge in my local chapter of RWA. We all have a great opportunity to pitch to an editor from a major publisher and while polishing my pitch, I saw that one of the members put her pitch on the group Facebook page for feedback. My fear-based self gasped at how brave that was. And after a half day of deliberation, I sacked up and posted mine. I thought back to my most cringe-worthy audition in college and realized the thing that made it so bad is that I put it together alone in a vacuum. And if I had just taken a minute to talk to classmates who all seemed to know what they were doing, I might have saved myself the humiliation. Fear and living in my own little world kept me from showcasing my talent. I wasn't about to let an opportunity to learn and improve pass me by again. And I wasn't about to let fear rule the roost anymore.


The members of the group were really helpful. I shouldn't be surprised. Many are much more experienced than I am and everyone has been open to giving advice in the past. People can't read your mind. You have to take the initiative, no matter how scary it is to put yourself out there, and ask for the help you need. Dumb questions are okay. Better to ask the question, than to presume you know the answer and look foolish.


Looking foolish will happen. I'm going to embrace it so that I can get to the point where I know what I'm doing.


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