Stepping Up


The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs. – Vance Havner

Today I did something that scares me. It was a simple, tiny little thing. It only took about two minutes, but I’ve been thinking about it all day.

I signed up for a five-day Writer’s Retreat in January, with the author Patti Digh.

So what’s the big deal? Why does that scare me?

I have loved writing – and its close companion, reading – all my life.

At my high school graduation in 1978, I received the Creative Writing Medal. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I wrote that was considered good enough to receive that medal.

But I would never, EVER say that I am a “writer.”

Writing and photography are just hobbies for me. They are a way to escape, to wind down and decompress from my rather intense professional life.

I love photography, it brings me joy and teaches me something new about the world each time I go out with my camera. I have much to learn, but I don’t find it that hard or difficult. A basic understanding of the mechanics, a decent camera and lens, coupled with a big SD card will yield some pretty good results.

But writing is different. Writing is hard, people, damn hard.

Sometimes the words flow, but sometimes they don’t. Perhaps it’s because I can see the words as I craft them, versus a photo where I only see the results after it’s taken.

When I write, I struggle. I judge the work in progress constantly, never finding it good enough. And once I post it, I worry incessantly about what people will think of it.

But sometimes I just HAVE to write. A concept or a feeling comes over me, and I am driven to sit down and get it out. It takes on a life of its own.

Through all the soul searching I have been doing over the last five years, writing has been my personal home base. But it’s been mostly private, done only for me or for close friends and family.

This weekend I was messing around with the format of my blog’s WordPress home page. By accident, I added a widget for followers, and was surprised to see that I had 393 followers of my blog.

393 people?? I don’t think I know 393 people! That’s a very small number by most blog standards, but it surprised the hell out of me. I don’t have much time to spend on my blog and I don’t do any pushing, ‘boosting’ or marketing. I have absolutely no idea how to even go about that. Maybe most of those 393 followers are just WordPress trollers, but perhaps more people than I thought might be interested in what I have to share.

But let’s get back to that scary feeling. I know what drives it.

I don’t think I’m good enough.

Not Good enough to claim the title of ‘Writer’. Or ‘Photographer’. Or maybe anything else.

Classic imposter syndrome. I have paid some amount in therapy over the past year to identify this theme. It’s permeated my life since I was a little girl. Driven, high-achieving, hard on myself and others. Couple that with a strong sense of duty and responsibility to always carry the biggest load – again to prove myself – and you have the mess that is me.

A few months ago, a friend who is a wonderful artist, photographer and published author sent me a note. She suggested that I submit some of my writing to the On Being website. I practically laughed out loud. But inside, I was truly flattered. I didn’t do anything to pursue it, but it still made my day.

Imposter syndrome is insidious. If not tackled, it can limit exploration and the courage to delve into new experiences. And I’ve got some exploration I want to do.

Photography and writing figure prominently in my private dreams for my future. I don’t have much specificity to those dreams yet, only a vague outline. I have no idea of timing and am literally too afraid of failure to put them out there in black and white at this time.

But I know what lights my fire and makes me feel alive.

So, I listened to my heart today and signed up for that retreat.

What if I can’t write “on demand”?
What if I have to actually share my shitty first drafts?
What if I’m overwhelmed with people whose writing is so much better than mine?
What if I’m right and I truly suck at this craft?

I have a beautiful photo card of the Vance Havner quote, created by my friend Catherine Anderson, propped on my desk at work. I see it every day, in that big high rise building in downtown Charlotte.

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs. – Vance Havner

Every day I wonder when I am going to stop taking baby steps and start really striding up those stairs.

I don’t know how this Writer’s Retreat is going to go. I give it 60-40 that I really am an imposter.

But what the hell. I’m going to step up some stairs in January.

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. – Somerset Maugham

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