My feet hit the ground to the rhythm of a Led Zeppelin song as I jogged a wooded nature trail, all the while keeping a wary eye on the nearby pond for hungry alligators. (I kid you not. We do this sort of thing in Florida). The trail was reptile free for the time being and I was in my zone, feeling the kind of high I only get from pushing myself to my uncomfortable limit.
Now, because Facebook seems to follow me everywhere, even on lovely nature trails, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a notification on my phone. My friend Tim Baker had messaged me: “I’m thinking of writing a blog post about what a good writer is.”
Because I happen to be a good writer—or at least that’s what I tell myself most days—my brain started devising my own version of this blog post…one that would presumably be better than his.
By the time I made my second lap (no alligators spotted yet) I had it all plotted out and I came up with something a bit haughty:
The good writer dishes out her words to the reader in concise, palpable bites that make us crave more…. Her stories are familiar at their core, because they are ultimately stories that weall share—ones of fear, loss, desire, joy. She taps into our humanity, always in the end reminding us of who we really are.
“I’m so smart,” I thought.
Then I got home, read Tim’s post and was humbled. Tim had some very different things to say…
Let me give you the back story.
Four months earlier Tim almost had me crying at a table in Dominck’s deli. Not quite, but almost.
Tim, an author of eight books , was trying to convince me I needed to hire a developmental editor. Now, Tim knows his shit, and for the things he doesn’t know, he fakes it well. He’s cocky as hell—it’s one of his most redeeming traits.
Now, I know my shit too, but I unlike Tim, I always assume that I don’t . I question my perspectives, doubt my credibility. So when Tim offered me a way to better myself as a writer all I heard was “you’re no good.” “You need to be fixed.”
Naturally, this was not his message. Instead the little voice inside me who is terrified of failure and resistant to change made her presence known. She wanted to run. However, one thing you’ll learn about me is that I am not one to give in to the voice of fear too often. I refuse to stop growing. Tim knows this, which is why he pushed me so far.
I don’t remember if it was that day, over a Rueben and kettle chips or a few months later that I let my friend’s words settle in and I decided to interview some developmental editors.
In my search for an editor I came across a brutally honest man, who told me a lot of things about my manuscript that I didn’t want to hear. My ego was bruised, but I decided to no longer be scared. I wasn’t going to run.
I showed Tim the editor’s letter and much to my relief he didn’t laugh at me. Instead, this was his response: Tim’s Blog
Tim’s on my side.
There are alligators out there. Trust me, I’ve seen them in that pond! But most of them are just the reptiles of our minds. If we refuse to do our morning jogs because we’re scared of being eaten, then we’re missing out on life’s beauty and the challenges that make life so great. We have a choice to hide away inside, keeping the beasts at bay or to head out that door and face those sharped toothed naysayers that dwell in our minds.
As artists, we are our own worst alligators. But when we put fear aside, we allow ourselves to expand, to explore new territory and become not just good writers, but better people.
Becky Pourchot is busy managing her own mean, little alligators in Flagler Beach, Florida. You can find her pretty good books at www.beckypourchot.com