“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Is there anything that scares you so much, something that you dread doing for fear of embarrassment and validating the negative thoughts you have cultivated for years, something that the mere thought of doing has you running towards the nearest exit? I don’t know about you, but I typically tackle these situations by trying to present a well- crafted rationale to others as to why I should hold off or completely abandon an idea. A decision that has been plaguing me for what seems like a lifetime but in reality has only been a few weeks is whether I should take an introduction to magazine writing course. I love to write and I think magazines would be a great platform to get my writing juices flowing, so what’s the problem. Well, the problem (or what my neurotic mind has perceived to be a problem) is the second week of the class. By the second week of class students will have been expected to thumb through some magazines, picking out some of their favorite articles and coming up with 4 to 6 ideas for stories they would like to write. Thumbing through magazines, no problem, picking out some of my favorite articles, piece of cake, coming up with 4 to 6 story ideas, hold the phone. I have to come up with, and eventually draft, story ideas to be written, rewritten, and potentially pitched to magazines. What the heck! Couldn’t we just be assigned topics to write about? I would be a phenomenal paint by numbers magazine writer. But no, this instructor actually wants students to dig into the recesses of their minds and come up with story ideas that make some modicum of sense, haven’t been done to death, and most important, that an editor of a magazine will pick up and print. Cue insecurities, writer’s block, fade to black.
What story ideas could I possibly come up with? Really, what story ideas could I possibly come up with? I am not an expert in anything remotely sane and any story ideas that I could come up with have either been done to death or are what the publishing world would consider gibberish. I realize that this is not exactly the type of attitude that I take with me into the class. This sort of frenzy will do nothing for my creativity, my confidence, and my non- refundable tuition fee. At this point, whomever is reading this blog post has either reasoned that their time would be better spent browsing Amazon, or they may be asking “Er, what did this chick think she would be asked to do in a magazine writing class, knit?” I would like to learn how to knit but am aware that a magazine writing class is not the venue to learn that skill. Obviously, writing is the centerpiece of this course, what I blinded myself to is that along with flexing my writing muscles I’d also have to tap the part of my being that can think of a marketable idea for a magazine article. Does this part of my being exist? The answer, I don’t know. The concern, I’m scared of maybe finding out that not a trace of this ability is housed anywhere in my DNA.
Worse case scenario, I don’t possess this skill and I’m out a good chunk of change. No, that will not be enjoyable, and yes, I will be crabby for many, many months to follow. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that the best way for me to find out if I can hack it in the freelance writing world is to discover whether I am willing and capable of engaging in all of the heavy- lifting required to get my foot solidly in the writing door. This includes, but is not limited too, being able to write well, come up with fresh story ideas and/or new twists on old ideas, pitch my idea and style of writing to an editor, get rejected a thousand times, then a thousand times more, and resist the desire to set both my computer and hair on fire. As most freelance writers will eagerly tell aspiring freelance writers, initially, you will get shot down more than you are picked up. Translation, if you can’t hang by the deep end of the pool, get out of the water. Hanging by the deep end of the pool is a no- no for the girl who never learned how to swim, but acknowledging that I have to jump into the pool at some point is something that I know is necessary in my journey towards the deep end of pool. What will be waiting for me at the other end of the pool I can’t say, but I think it may be time to get more than a few toes wet.