Sometimes it pays to jump in at the deep end. To commit to a challenge, even though you’re not quite ready for it.
When I was a child, before the internet was invented, we continuously played The Game of Life during the school holidays. It was a popular board game, and I can’t remember the penalty for landing on the square marked ‘Pea Soup Fog’. But the phrase stirred my imagination. It opened my mind to the concept that words could also be played with. How wonderful it was that somebody named a thick, poisonous fog after a food that ten-year-old me loathed.
The fog I drove through on my way to the Rockingham Writers’ Convention on Saturday was not of the Pea Soup variety, but it was eerie, and didn’t let up for the entire 45 minute drive. I couldn’t see the end of the Mt Henry Bridge, nor could I see the water or boats bobbing below. All I could see were the white railings and road marks to keep me on track. And the headlights coming towards me; piercing the heavy mist. It was the perfect backdrop for the early-morning thoughts swirling around inside my head. In a few hours I would meet a publisher face to face to discuss the manuscript I’d been working on for so long. What would she say about it? Was I on the right track? Or was it a load of drivel? Would she have a contract ready to sign?
Okay, I’m joking about that last scenario, but being alone in a foggy cocoon for 45 minutes did let my writer’s imagination run wild. I was hoping I would get some sort of affirmation from an actual publisher that my writing was okay. And that my story concept had potential. My expectations weren’t huge, but I was exposing myself to the possibility that there would be zero interest. The sound of crickets. White noise. A static radio frequency.
I think sometimes we miss out on opportunities because of fear. There will always be excuses: the thing I’m working on isn’t finished; someone else is going to enter something much better than mine; I have no credentials or experience – why would they choose me? But if you don’t take risks and put yourself out there, someone else will grab the opportunity that may have been meant for you.
There were limited openings for publisher critiques when I purchased my convention ticket. I could have left that box unchecked, using the excuse that my manuscript wasn’t ready to avoid facing fear. I could have convinced myself it would be too embarrassing if the publisher pointed out flaws in my manuscript. But I knew those limited pitch opportunities would disappear faster than a Gucci handbag at a Boxing Day sale, so I grabbed mine. And I was right. I spoke to many people later who had missed out on a pitch session. It took a lot of guts to submit my ‘work in progress’ to a publisher, but I was so glad I did.
My revised manuscript was still not complete by the time the pitch session came around. But that didn’t matter. The feedback I received was invaluable. A little shot of positivity to keep me going. It reinforced a self-belief that I’m a capable writer, even though I’m not quite there yet. The publisher told me that the images I created were very visual in her mind, but I had concentrated on some areas that weren’t crucial to the plot. The story had good tension and conflict, but a certain aspect (which is easily changed) didn’t quite gel for her. Taking such valuable and honest feedback on board will make my novel stronger and it was worth putting myself in a vulnerable position for.
If you’re serious about achieving a dream, a goal, a pie in the sky, then I encourage you to put yourself out there. Even if you think you’re not ready. You may not be at Miles Franklin, Masterchef, or X Factor standard – yet. But we all have to start somewhere.