October 12, 2011

The Chains That Bind You

Writing is a solitary job. We sit alone and craft our stories and sometimes the only people we talk to are those in our heads. I’m good at talking to the people in my head. They generally don’t hurt me in the way real people have. But to be a writer you also have to open yourself up to the outside world or you have no solution when the people in your head want an answer to a problem they’re facing. So I did something drastic (for me). I joined RWA and found a local chapter where I could meet other writers.

The first time I walked into an MCRW meeting I was terrified. I’m not a social person so joining any group would have given me a nervous breakdown. But I knew that if I really wanted to get serious about my writing I needed to study the craft and find out how other writers worked. And I had to find a way to make sure the chains I had placed around my own shoulders were broken.

That first meeting taught me that my heart still beat when it was in my throat. I was welcomed as if I were already a part of the group and I’ve learned more than I thought possible from this awesome group of women. The first link fell away

Over the past three years I’ve attended almost every meeting and workshop and I volunteered last year as editor of Love Notes. I even made myself go to a retreat and play Little Red Riding Hood for “mystery night”. These things were a big deal for me because I’m not a joiner. I’m a sit-on-the-sidelines-and-pretend-to-cheer kind of girl. But I made myself step up and I’ve had a wonderful time. Now I know that I don’t have to pretend to cheer. I can shake my pom poms like anyone else. Another link broken..

But joining isn’t the only step I’ve taken. I also write. Not every day, but I do write. And I’ve finally done something I never would have done if not for joining this group. I finished my very first first draft. It’s taken three long years of rattling my chains but I did it. I think that one broke away at least two links. And layering in all the things I didn’t know I needed when I started the draft might just get me two or three more links.

Since I started this journey I’ve slowly lightened the load that held me back. I’m still sawing the links and sometimes a blade dulls and I have to stop and hone the edges. But because I took that first step I know that I can break free. And I intend to keep cutting away until I’ve done just that.

If you’re struggling to break your own chains, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Pick up a saw and start cutting. Take that first step. You’ll be glad you did.

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