Jenny Cook is a friend, lawyer and brilliant aspiring fiction writer. She was one of the women at the happy hour where the I Welcome Change Post-it Note Challenge was launched. She’s worked with her Post-it Note Mantra for over a month now, and I’m both pleased and humbled to share, in her words, her experience. I’ve read the manuscript she refers to, The Heart of Annie, and I’m excited for the day that it is published and you all can read it too. In the meantime, you can visit her website to read an excerpt. And now on to Jenny’s story…
MY FEAR OF NOT BEING LUCKY…AND WHAT I’M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT
By Jennifer S. Cook
“I welcome courage.”
“I welcome a successful publishing career as a fiction writer.”
Over a second glass of pinot, amongst good friends, I took the chance and fully expressed—with precise penmanship, in blue ink, on a serene green apple-shaped Post-it note—what I wanted, needed, to be fully realized in my life over the next few, ahem, months. Why was this happening so much lately? Was it the time of year? Was it the premature dawning of spring, earlier than usual this year due to the unusually mild temperatures, in which new buds, new leaves, a new me, was being nudged sooner rather than later into a growing season? I don’t know, but lately it was happening a lot.
First, I had joined a writing group led by one of my closest friends who began each session by asking us to set our “intention” for the month. In the next thirty days what do you want to have done to advance your writing? Draft a blog entry? Draft a short story? If so, then (1) write it down, and then here’s the tricky part, (2) DO IT. Now, one of my other closest friends was hosting an I WELCOME CHANGE POST-IT NOTE CHALLENGE, where she instructed us to write down mantras by which to instigate change, and by witnessing such mantras every morning, hung suspended on your cloudy bathroom mirror just to the left of your toothbrush, you would be more likely to begin making choices that would ultimately bring about the change you seek. Easy right? Suddenly, living proactively was on the top of everyone’s agenda. Clearly, the universe was telling me to stop cruising and begin charting my own destiny.
Kee Kee is a writer herself, and so I knew she had chosen her words carefully. The instructions were to write, “I Welcome” followed by your shiny new destiny. “I welcome ______________.” So Kee Kee, why the word “welcome”? A writer myself, I consulted the oracle. Webster’s defines “Welcome” as “to accept with pleasure the occurrence or presence of.” In a smaller font, it identified the word as, you guessed it, a transitive verb. I sat mulling. So, as a participant of the I WELCOME CHANGE POST-IT NOTE CHALLENGE, to succeed in bringing about the change you seek, it is not enough, for example, to want courage, you must accept it, with pleasure. You must search your heart and come to the place where you can receive willingly that which makes you feel most afraid, and then smiling broadly, with arms open, beckon it further into your existence until, fully housed within you and admittedly doing no harm, it no longer scares you. Huh, Kee Kee? I thought we were just there to have a couple of drinks and disperse early enough to make it home for Downton Abbey. Now you want me, every day while half awake and idlely scrubbing my teeth, to confront my fears? It was heady stuff. But leaving that night, I knew that while it seemed like a monstrous task—to welcome courage—I also knew I couldn’t achieve my second mantra, the more specific and highly coveted, “I welcome a successful publishing career as a fiction writer,” without achieving the first.
This, then, begged the question. What was I so afraid of that it was hindering me in my quest to become a published writer? The obvious choices were not readily available. I was not afraid of rejection. I’d sent off many, many, many queries…all of which, if not completely ignored, had been rejected. I believed in my book so bounced back pretty easily after each of these and moved down to the next agent in line. So rejection = not a real issue. Then, was it possible that I was actually afraid of succeeding? Again, my gut instinct said no. Many people had already read the book and liked it. I celebrated this fact. Again, no real trepidation. Nevertheless, it was true…I was stagnant. I was not moving forward in my quest to be a published writer. Rather, something was holding me back. Something had me afraid, and suddenly all my friends were calling on me to confront it.
It’s taken some time to figure it out, what this fear is. Part of it, I think is a fear of not being lucky. The publishing business is largely one of luck. Well, luck and connections, and for one accustomed to precisely charting a career (e.g., want to be a lawyer? Go to law school. Check. Get job in firm. Check.), the prospect of relying a large degree on luck is, well, unsatisfying. But there is a larger concern there too, hidden even further back. And that fear is that one day I will awake to realize I have just been spinning through what will never be more than just a hobby. The fear that I will just be average—better than most, but not good enough to reach the audience I seek.
And so now I realize that is ultimately the courage I seek. Thank you Kee Kee! I welcome the courage to so completely surrender control of my writing career that I allow it to rise to the level that it is meant to reach. I will continue to write. I will continue to hone my craft. But each day I will muster the courage to not also burden it with my pedestrian expectations. Rather, I will welcome the courage to allow it to develop at its own pace. I will welcome the courage of patience.