Monday, 22 August 2011
Tell, and Show
Ten weeks ago, I moved to a new city. Somewhere I'd never lived before. Somewhere where I only knew one person.
Since then, there have been plenty of ups and downs, including 15 workman visits to the flat I'm renting, most spectacularly from the utilities company who took 7 visits to move my gas meter (which was located, bizzarely, in the maisonette below). I have been deafened by Water Hammer (don't ask), traffic, the road being dug up outside my window and the complementary strains of sander, saw and drill from the renovations in the flat above. I have taken to wearing earplugs a lot.
So much for holing up in my new flat and writing. Mind you, even going out proved problematic the other day, as I ventured to my first book group meeting. I walked into the hall and into a mist of white dust which promptly settled on my black jersey and my black shoes, and seeped under and round the door to settle on my coat and new boots. The workman was very apologetic. I promptly burst into tears. Moving is a stressful business.
But I digress. Living in Cornwall for seven years, I became a hermit. Moving to Bristol is an opportunity for me to Do Things Differently. Apart from the noise factor, city living is hugely welcome to my inner urbanite, and suddenly I'm faced with a plethora of choices: places to explore, new walks to try, exciting shops, wonderful delis and cafes. And, most importantly, new places to meet people. My old self would have shrunk from this last. But I've decided that I have the choice, this time, between disappearing or Showing Up. So far, I have shown up for the book group (who were very welcoming). I have auditioned for a singing group (and been rejected.) I have offered to volunteer at the local art gallery (they never called back). I have signed on for courses in Qi Gong, Portrait Painting, Voice Enhancement and Public Speaking. Yes, Public Speaking. With my novel due to be published in spring next year, it will be up to me to put on my brave hat and visit bookshops, libraries, book groups and anywhere else that will have me. So I'd better be prepared.
The trouble with Showing Up is that there's always the fear that you will Show Yourself Up (as an amateur, a fraud, an imposter or whoever your inner critic is labelling you this week). That comes with the territory. For writers, showing up in one form or another is a way of life - which is an odd thing, given that so many of us are introverted and shy. But unless we show up at the page, the novel or the poem or the story will never be written. And unless we submit to agents and publishers (which is showing ourselves up in every sense) our work will never be seen.
Showing Up means knocking on a lot of doors. Some will remain shut. Some will open a tiny crack and then, when they see who you are, will slam shut in your face. And, just sometimes, a door will be opened.
The other day I took my courage in my hands and wrote to a well-known author to ask her if she might consider reading my novel and writing a review. To my overwhelming gratitude and astonishment, she emailed me straight back saying that she would be delighted. What a wonderful example of an experienced writer lending a helping hand to a newbie. It's given me the courage to knock on a few more doors.
It puts me in mind of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson, which is always worth reading for the umpteenth time:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So here's a challenge. What will you do this week to Show Up?