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The Benefits of Venturing Beyond my Boundaries…

Stepping out of my comfort zone – a phrase I’d usually associated with some dare-devilish feat such as hurling myself backwards out of a plane or scaling Mount Everest. I’d certainly never linked it to my writing. Well, not during the plotting, researching and first drafting stages, anyway. All that bubbling enthusiasm, coffee on tap, whilst I sat, hunched over my PC, squeezing out another chapter…

But then, oddly, instead of completing the draft, I started editing as I went along, revisiting scenes over and over again, tweaking and re-tweaking, picking and pulling apart every sentence until my poor old novel almost waved the white flag at me.   

It was like I was trying to delay the process, as if all of a sudden it had become too real.

People began asking me: “When can we read it, Jan?” or “When will it be finished?” quoting words like synopsis and self-promotion.

WHAAAAAT??

I mean, give me a drum to clatter on someone else’s behalf, and I’m there, but bang my own? Were they serious?

I could feel the pressure mounting as fast as my zest and bounce dwindled. My self-belief had been well and truly walloped by The Fear Factor.                                                                                                        

                                                                                                             

But then a little voice in my head piped up: “What about all the hard work you’ve put in? The passion, the research trips back and forth to York, and the unwavering support you’ve received from Mr B, your family & friends?”

And so began my voyage across the border.

I can do this, I thought, tentatively joining Facebook and Twitter. After all, I was a friendly enough soul, wasn’t I?

And sure enough, I was soon interacting with both published and unpublished writers, relishing their advice, kindness, support and complete understanding of how I’d felt, quickly realizing that it was actually all quite normal. Friendships I’d begun to establish were strengthening week by week and I could feel myself starting to believe again.

A huge personal breakthrough for me was hearing about the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) and their New Writers’ Scheme. I’d attended an inspiring talk given by four incredibly friendly and approachable authors (Juliet Archer, Victoria Connelly, Jean Fullerton and Janet Gover) who suggested I go along to one of their local RNA chapter meetings, as they’re referred to, in London.

I remember, upon arrival, how daunted I felt. Rainlashed and windswept, hoping that someone would recognize me and praying that I wouldn’t fall flat on my face, Calamity Jan style, as I walked through the door.

Instead, it was like being welcomed into a giant group hug. Lots of laughter, writerly chat and encouragement.

Thrilled to be accepted for The New Writers’ Scheme the following year, it finally dawned on me how beneficial being able to submit my manuscript (or in my case, partial manuscript) and obtain feedback from my elected RNA reader would be.

I’d confronted my fears and although terrified at the prospect of somebody reading and critiquing my work, I knew inside that it represented my best hope of progressing.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby when I opened my NWS report. Yes, there were negatives, but constructively composed and professionally advised negatives, suggesting how and where to strengthen and far outweighed by the positives which, in turn, far exceeded my expectations.                                                                                                            

The huge sense of relief and freedom it gave me renewed my confidence, hence my subsequent participation in The Romaniacs group blog which has been an absolute honour and joy to be part of (thank you, Laura, Sue, Celia, Liz, Vanessa, Lucie, Catherine & Debbie). I can’t believe now that I almost chickened out!

Whilst it’s still nice to occasionally wrap myself up in my old familiarity blanket and plant myself firmly back in the zone, the rewards of travelling beyond it, I’ve discovered, are priceless.

I’d love to know your thoughts and stories on the subject. Can you identify with me?

Jan x

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27 thoughts on “The Benefits of Venturing Beyond my Boundaries…

  1. Totally understand, I’m a bit like a yo-yo sometimes when it comes to self-confidence with this writing lark. If you are a sensitive soul to boot by nature it’s tough too. Some days with Gunshot Glitter I am like BRING IT ON!! Other days: ‘can someone please do the rest for me and put it out there while I hide under the bed?’ But as you said, when you’ve come so far, you realise there is no turning back and part of you that’s stronger than the ‘fear factor’ won’t let you.

    Writing is a really ‘exposing’ thing, it can make one feel raw, but when you get positive affirmations, soak them up Jan and revel in them. Those boundaries start to get fuzzier and after a while you stop thinking about them so much and just dwell on the pleasure of claiming what you are – a writer : ) xxx

    • Yasmin, you sum everything up so well. It’s EXACTLY like being a yo-yo, I can’t believe sometimes how I can go to bed, absolutely 100% sure of everything, happy with my latest scene or chapter or whatever it is I’ve been working on that day/evening, and then, BAM, in the space of a few hours, my WIP seems like the biggest mish-mash of nonsense I’ve ever read. You’re also right when you say the boundaries become fuzzier. Confidence breeds confidence. Thanks so much for commenting. Together, we’ll give that old fear factor the biggest brawl of its life! I wish you shedloads of success with Gunshot Glitter! 🙂

      Jan x x

  2. Jan – been there, seen that, got the t-shirt and the video (in Betamax, natch). I was lucky in a sense because my first trips to London to the RNA parties etc were easy because I had other chapter members to go along with (including two ex-chairs). So I just tagged along and kept quiet – well, for about fifteen minutes if I’m honest. But I totally get where you’re coming from. My biggest mistake was listening to folk saying how important those first three chapters were so I worked, over worked and then worked them some more until I was heartily sick of them. Now I’ve nearly finished my novel I know WHERE my novel really starts, what my ‘voice’ sounds like, what has got to be cut out and how my heroine thinks. So I’m going back to attack them with a samurai sword before sending off the NWS in July. (Let’s hope hari-kari won’t be necessary when I get my report back). But its friends like you, the Romaniacs, the Leicester Chapter – especially my alpha reader, June – and long suffering mates who keep asking me when I’m ‘coming out to play’, that’s kept me going. Power to your collective elbow(s).

    • Lizzie, I can remember when we first chatted to each other on Facebook, how friendly and encouraging you were, and still are, and heeding your wise writerly words. We’ve had many chats about the ups and downs of penning our novels, the ‘going back over the same scene a thousand times’ syndrome and just knowing the level of support that’s out there re the doubts and fears never fails to amaze me. I absolutely love the sound of your novel and now that you’re almost over that finishing line (well, the first finishing line, anyway – if that makes sense?) it’s great. I can almost hear your renewed self-belief singing to me through your comment 🙂 Thanks so much for calling in.

      Jan x x

  3. Hi Jan, first of all–congratulations, if you’d not owned up, I would never have known how far blogging and social networking has taken you out of your comfort zone. You are doing fabulously well (I hope that doesn’t sound condescending, but I am just so in awe!) and it’s wonderful to meet you ‘out there’ (and hopefully at the RNA Christmas do later this year?!?). Secondly, I think this whole marketing and promotion things is a bit of a shocker. Some authors are natural ‘exhibitionists’ as it were, happy to go out there and chat and ‘expose’ themselves and their work. Others are a little more shy and hesitant, and it is tough if you’re in that category: you really do have to stretch yourself, because it’s got to be done!

    Fortunately for me, I’m a bit of an author-exhibitionist, or so I’ve discovered. I have no fear of going out there and shouting about myself, although I do try and avoid the ‘buy my book, it’s so great’ type messages: which I find cringeworthy and embarrassing. But tweeting reviews or great lines from my book? Bring it on. The thing that daunted me (and continues to exhaust me) is just the technology of it all; I’d never FB’d or Twittered before I launched my novel on the world, and the learning curve was steep (and riddled with frustrated tantrums).

    Lovely post and really helpful to aspiring new authors. Love your message, thanks for sharing. And apologies for taking up so much space… you know me, once I get going, I’m hard to stop, heee heee!

    • Ah, thanks Nicky. You never take up too much space as far as we Romaniacs are concerned! Always a pleasure to hear from you. I do wonder now, if I hadn’t taken those first few tentative steps, whether or not I’d still be writing. It’s a horrible thought as I love it so much and I find it hard to imagine not knowing any of my lovely, supportive FB & Twitter friends. Yes, it’s been daunting at times, and I’m not the most IT savvy gal either, believe me, I still have trouble with my digital this, that & the others and disk drives. Not to mention dongles!! – lol It really is great to chat to so many different writers, inhibited, or otherwise, and I thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Jan x x

  4. Jan , this is so timely for me. Firstly though it is heartwarming to read about you coming out of your comfort zone and surviving. Power to you. Like you say often we are there like a flash to support others but when it comes to ourselves we find it more difficult. I used to sing at festivals and folk clubs so people expect me to be able to talk about myseslf but that is not the case. Troubador Publishing have just sent a connection to a blog page for me to join and write on!! I loved your illustrations – write? que? about myself? You will understand that I am leaving it for another day. They also want a photo, but you see when I started writing with dreams of my books being bought at airports 🙂 I was young and dark haired – now I don’t recognise me….but then my readers will only know this me. Inspiring, lovely post, but I am still not sure where to begin! I look forward to becoming an author exhibitionist.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Daisy. I can see we definitely identify with one another. Re you joining your blog, I can only speak from experience when I say that it was one of the best things I ever did, not only for my writing, but for my confidence and moreso for the level of support & camaraderie it provides. It is daunting, this writing lark & everything that goes with it, there’s no getting away from that, and I was much the same as you at the thought of compiling my first blog post. But, BOY, am I glad I took the plunge. I can see where people would assume you’d be able to talk openly about yourself, given your singing background, but like you say, speaking about yourself and promoting yourself is a whole different ballgame. Bit like the rock star or actor who comes across as uber confident on stage but loathes giving interviews. I’ve read about quite a few people who feel like that. I’m glad you found the post inspiring and really do wish you the best of luck going forward. Keep us posted!

      Jan x x

      • Jan. Thank you very much. 🙂 I still have not started a blog – there is always so much else to do. Maybe it will be easier in the autumn. Now I have to get used to my photo and details being on a poster to advertise my forthcoming book. I wish I had run with my adult historical rather than the children’s book. Hope you are enjoying summer.
        Bren

    • Hi Bren, don’t beat yourself up about not starting the blog as yet. You’re right, there is always so much to do, especially over the summer. Do it when you’re ready (not that I’m being a bossyboots or anything) 🙂 Re your poster, I can imagine how nerve-racking it must be, as I’m sure I’d feel the same, but how exciting too! I wish you the very best of luck with the book. Have a great summer. Thanks so much for the update.

      Jan x

    • Hi Laurel, I know what you mean, it’s getting that balance, isn’t it?! I’ve certainly learned over these past few months how important self promotion is, that’s for sure. Thanks so much for commenting. I’ll be sure to check out your link.

      Jan x x

  5. Jan, I remember meeting you at the RNA London Chapter meeting your first time there! 🙂 I can definitely relate to the fear factor – and I’ve discovered it doesn’t get much easier. However, you do become more confident over time and even a little negativity won’t hurt (as much!). Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I’ve found that published or unpublished, putting our babies out there is always terrifying.

    • Oh, Talli, I can remember that first meeting as if it were yesterday – my thumping heart when we all introduced ourselves around the table. You were so friendly to me. 🙂 I still get the jitters about speaking up about myself/my novel but you are so right that it does become a little less frightening over time. Attending the RNA events has really helped too. Thanks so much for the reassuring comment.

      Jan x x

  6. Hi, Jan. I’m certainly glad that you found the RNA or we’d never have met!

    It gets easier all the time, I think. One of the reasons, as Lizzie, said, is that you make friends and you’ll see the friends you’ve made at the different events, and you’ll make more friends. I can’t imagine that there’s a friendlier, more supportive community than the writing community.

    Liz X.

    • What a lovely comment, Liz! Thank you. It’s been lovely getting to know you too. I also agree that as far as support, friendship and encouragement go, you can’t beat the writerly crowd. I can’t imagine now not being part of the RNA. It seems unreal to think I might never have met any of you. Thanks so much for taking the time to say Hi.

      Jan x x

  7. Hi Jan, I’d just like to say thank you for posting this because it’s very easy to believe that you’re the only one going through all this yo-yoing emotion and that’s the position I’ve been in for months. I just started a blog last week and it was a really big deal to me. I was so scared. It was putting out not just my writing but myself to the world (well, the couple of people who’ve actually read it!) Sometimes I go to bed really pleased with what I’ve written but the next day I am wracked with doubt and full of fear that I am fooling myself, that everything I write is a disaster and that I am trying to be something I’m not. I find the whole self-publicity thing a torment to be honest, but it has really helped me to know that I’m not the only one. Judging by the comments left by other readers (including lovely Lizzie who gave me some advice and guidance, too) it’s quite normal to feel so full of doubt, and not everyone is a born showman after all. That’s an enormous relief to me. So thank you!

    • Sharon, thanks so much for your lovely comments. It seems there are quite a few of us yoyos out there! You’re right, it is scary but SO normal to feel that way. I’m just like you when it comes to feeling really pleased one minute (bordering on confident, dare I say – lol!) then waking up the next day with doubt-fever. The fact that you’ve started your blog is great. I’ve just had a peep actually and love your style of writing, really friendly and honest. Being in this together is what gets me through the jittery times, so NO, you are definitely not alone. Really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      Jan x x

  8. Hi Jan
    I’m so glad you stepped out of your comfort zone as, personally, I have found your kindness and support online invaluable 🙂 I can count on one hand the number of people in real life who know that I write because I don’t like to talk about it face to face. Without you and my other lovely online friends I would all on my writerly lonesome! When I think of “putting myself our there” I get a bit sweaty (sorry for the image) – I started my blog a few weeks ago and it took me a good year and a half to work myself up to it. That’s a lot of sweat. (Sorry again). Perhaps I will find my way to a summer/winter party or conference one day and will get to say Hi in person – or almost in person as I’ll be the one with a paper bag on my head 😉
    I definitely feel fortunate to be part of the NWS. Well done with everything you’ve achieved so far and very very very best wishes going forward.
    Elle xx

    • Elle, what a lovely thing to say re the online support. The feeling is very much mutual 🙂 I, for one, would LOVE to see you at an RNA event, as I’m certain the other Romaniacs would. If our twitter convos are anything to go by, we’d be laughing away together in no time. Well done on starting your blog, I’ve just had a peep. Seeing your reference to perms brought back a vivid memory of me having the most horrendous one when I was about 17 and running the length of the high street with my leather jacket over my head in case anyone saw me. Thank goodness my subsequent two or three were more successful. Ha! I shall look forward to reading your future posts. Thanks for your good wishes and for taking the time to comment.

      Jan x x

      • Hi Jan,
        I have a problem with being bold enough to go on twitter and facebook. I am really encouraged by you taking that step. So I am going to take that step, and hopefully will be tweeting with you. Writing is a lonely business, but the support you get from the RNA is amazing. I love meeting up with Vanessa and Evonne they are such an encouragement to me. And meeting up with the romaniacs was a great joy. I definitely sensed the encouragement you give each other and the friendship you have. Writing can be a love hate relationship, particularly when my characters won,t go where I want them to. Keep on writing.
        Lorraine x

      • Hi Lorraine, I’m so pleased you’ve decided to join FB & Twitter. You know us Romaniacs will all welcome you with open arms 🙂 It was so lovely to meet you at the summer party. You’re absolutely right when you describe writing as a love/hate relationship – it is exactly that – which is why all our mutual support and encouragement is so important. Thanks so much for commenting. It really is appreciated. Oh, and see you on Twitter 😉

        Jan x x

    • Hello Elle, your comment really struck a chord with me. At least you had the nerve to join the NWS. I didn’t even get that far! Like you I don’t have many people in real life who even know I write and only my tutor has actually read the first chapter of my WIP (nerve-wracking experience!) I really feel for you. I am hoping to apply to the NWS next year so fingers crossed. Well done on starting your blog! It’s scary isn’t it? I just took the same step. Have had a look at your blog and really enjoyed it. Hope you don’t mind but I added a link to it on mine. Good luck with the writing!

  9. PS, Also can relate to you Lorraine. Good luck on Facebook and Twitter! Apologies to the Romaniacs if I have posted too many times. Just so nice to have someone to share with!

    • Hey Sharon, no need to apologise at all. You post away! Any mutual chat and support is always welcome by us Romaniacs. Writing can be so isolating so it’s great that we can all encourage each other 🙂

      Jan x x

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