I stepped out of the cold into a warm and inviting entryway. A collection of colorful works decorated the walls and surfaces of her home. Artfully placed yet organized, it told the story of a fascinating individual, well-traveled and knowledgeable, confident. We were offered a variety of coffees for our choosing and an accompaniment of delightful fruits and cheeses served on hand sculpted wooden plates.
She was an accomplished instructor, a former Hollywood director and scriptwriter who now made her home just a few minutes from mine on the coast of Maine. I was just a fledgling writer, a woman with the crazy idea that she could write a book. After sufficiently warming up to each other, the class began. Within the first five minutes, I knew this was no ordinary workshop. She boldly announced that she taught only serious writers, putting us all, specifically me, on notice.
I read a portion of my story out loud, the first time I had ever done such a thing in public. My heart pounded furiously, my throat began to close giving way to an irritating cough. Afterward, the critique was tolerable. My instructor and the other attendees were careful not to damage a budding artists ego. It was what came next that made me feel like I had just contracted some exotic disease. She leaned in, staring straight at me with an unmatched intensity. She wanted more, more than I had to give. She wanted every why, where, how … she wanted my deepest, innermost thoughts … my carefully guarded secrets. They were mine. I’d locked them away years ago and I wasn’t about to let them out! My stomach gave way to an odd, queasy feeling, my body shook with an internal quake. To say I was second guessing this whole entire process was an understatement. I wanted to shove my spiral bound notebook into my backpack and run!
“I’d love to take that cooking class.” “You never have time to cook.”
“I want to learn to draw.” “You’re not really that talented.”
“If only I could learn to work with clay.” “I’m too old, it’s too late.”
“I should write a book!” “Are you kidding?”
And so goes the conversations we have with ourselves. As we step out into unknown territory the little voice in our head utters words of caution or tales of woe, second-guessing our actions. Fear kicks in. We suppose we could never accomplish what we set out to do.
In order to push past the fear, we must embrace the tension. So what if there’s a strange queasy feeling in the pit of our stomach or an off-balance sensation in our heads? All the better! It’s a sign we are about to break through! Embrace the anguish that is an unavoidable component of the experience of creating something important. And before you know it, much to your complete surprise, you begin to crave the chaos and complexity that comes with a jolt forward. The intensity can be overwhelming … but just for a moment. The feeling quickly changes from fear to joy!