Thursday, January 28, 2010

Breaking Out of Your Shell

I joke that I am a Cancer Crab and that I live up to it, but really, it's the sad, sad truth.
I am 20 times more likely to stay at home in my little shell doing what I think I want to do, than to accept an invitation to do anything else. Seriously,the way I complain about it, some people could get the idea that I'm agoraphobic!
Now, I am a bit of an introvert, and I do get nervous meeting new people or having to interact with large groups (parties where I don't know anyone drive me crazy), but that's not what's stopping me going out.
No, the whole 'staying in my shell' thing is really more a combination of laziness and overzealous time-management.
I'm terribly content to be in my house. I have lots of fun art to look at, and books to read, and two dogs to cuddle up to, and once they're snuggled into the crook of your legs on the couch, it's just impossible to move... and....what? you want me to go with you to the fabric store? Oh I know, it's something I like doing, but I think I'm just too busy today (Ann says as she is sitting half asleep on the couch with the dogs curled up against her)...
Also, my idea of time-management is almost always finding some excuse to turn down going out. I tell myself it's because I need to write, or read, or research something for the book, or watch some movie, or relax for a few minutes because I had a hard week at work, or something, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is related to reason #1.

ANYWAY... my whole point in this post is to tell you to Break Out of Your Shell! Don't be a Crab like me, no matter how comfortable you are in there, you've got to challenge yourself sometimes, leave the house, and do something you would't normally do. Unless you're writing a book on how one becomes agoraphobic, because then you'd be right on track.

So last night I went with fellow blogger, Valerie Geary, to hear 5 successful, award-winning Portland YA authors, Laini Taylor, Lisa Schroeder, L.K. Madigan, Christine Fletcher, and April Henry, speak about their writing, their processes, and their experience in the business. And it was great. There were parts where I felt proud that I already knew something they knew about the business, and parts where I felt relieved to know that my writing process wasn't that different from those of successful authors. I loved hearing that they all came to writing a bit later in life and were published in their 30's-40's (sometimes on the web it seems like everyone is getting a book deal at 15, and I'm the irrelevant old fogey just now trying), and I loved hearing about their reactions to editor's notes on their manuscripts-- it seems a certain level of venting and a few days of trying not to think about the editor's changes (before finally giving in) is normal. They all agreed that their books were infinitely better thanks to the insights of their editors.
It was also super fun to hang out with Valerie again (although I think the fabric of space/time will rip wide open and the universe will implode if we come up with any more eerie similarities between us-- last night we discovered we're both reading World War Z!). Doing her part to break out of her shell, Valerie has been reading books in genres well outside her normal comfort zone, and then posting reviews on her blog. This month has been travel books, next month she tackles another equally foreign (to her) genre.

So, I am going to take my own advice and try to break out of my shell more often. I'm going to read books that I'm not sure about, I'm going to go to author events and writer's group events even when I'm feeling shy, and by god, I'm going to go to the fabric store next time someone asks. You never know where inspiration is going to strike! And you never know what experiences are going to come in handy for your next book.

Besides, who wants to be on their death-bed reminiscing about all those great times sitting on the couch?


Jonathon Arntson said...

Grab a cute little hammer and keep it at your side.

Valerie Geary said...

Shakes fist! You revealed next month's genre before it was time!! :D Ah well... no biggie. And break free little Crab! Break Free!! I read somewhere a most delightfully inspiring phrase... which I will now share with you: "Live life deliberately."

Heather Kelly said...

That sounds like a wonderful night. The kind that fills up your reserves for a long time to come!

And, I agree with Jon's hammer and Valerie's deliberateness!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

#1 - I'm jealous that you got to spend the evening with Valerie and I didn't.

#2 - I would have loved to be there, listening to and learning from those authors.

#3 - You are right...break out of the shell!! :-)

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm glad you got to hear all those authors speak!

And I'm totally with you- I would rather be home than anywhere else. Not having much of a social life is fine by me- that means I can stay home!

Stephanie Thornton said...

OH! I got my art yesterday and it's splendiferous! Thanks again for hosting that wonderful contest!

ann foxlee said...

Glad you got the art Stephanie!

And Valerie-- CRAP! Sorry, somehow I forgot that it wasn't out yet... I'll have to tell you what my next contest is, and then in retribution, you can blurb it on your blog before I post it! ;-P

Catherine Denton said...

Okay that's freaky. Replace dogs with kids and this could've been my post. Thanks for the reminder to LIVE. I'll try to get out more.

This is brillant: "Besides, who wants to be on their death-bed reminiscing about all those great times sitting on the couch?"
Winged Writer

Christine Fletcher said...

Thanks for coming out to hear us last night, Ann and Valerie! The audience was great, which always makes these events a blast to do. And great questions, too! We might be banding together to do this again, so keep your ears open...

ann foxlee said...

Christine: I will definitely keep my eyes open-- you guys were great together, a really good combination of experiences and personalities!

yokohamamama said...

I bet you like winter for the same reason I do--no, not the ccold, clear night skies, nor winter sports, nor frolicking in the snowflakes. No, we like winter for the sheer contentment of being INDSIDE when it's so damn cold OUTSIDE. I can hardly think of anything more jolly, really, and the worse the weather, the greater the sense of contentment. So, you're not *too* sorry it's winter, are you:)) Is homebody-ness genetic? Weird--and in spite of how much we like to travel (ditto mom and dad...)...

Was it Thoreau who went to Walden to "live life deliberately"?

A book for breaking out of the comfort zone, and, I expect, of peculiar comfort to writers as well (which I am not, just my sis--of whom I'm proud to bustin':)). Unless you happen to knit, you've probably never heard of Elizabeth Zimmerman, but she was a fantastic writer as well as knitter. A bit from Knitter'S Almanac (the one I'd recommend, short and you can skip pretty easily over the knitting bits):

"This chapter will be a curiosity of literature.
Exceedingly few old women of over sixty go water-camping in the Canadian north woods. Some of them write picture-postcards, some write home, but I'll bet that not one in a thousand tries to write part of a book. The experienced sympathy of one who has gone through the same travail is something, then, that I shall probably never receive.
I will try to explain.
When the weather is foul one cannot write because all waking hours are used up trying to keep warm, dry, and fed. When the weather is perfect--there is little mixed weather--one must naturally take advantage of it by going on extended trips in the canoe.
In a travelling canoe one cannot write."

And on in this vein. Ann, who has dragged her laptop all the way to Japan and failed to type a word (true--I saw it happen), can appreciate Elizabeth's sentiments, I'm sure:)

yokohamamama said...

Sorry to be posting again, but I've just remembered something you might like.
The abovementioned Elizabeth Zimmerman often used to sign off her newsletter thus:

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."

Substitute "write" for "knit", and you've another inspriring phrase...:) ao.

ann foxlee said...

Thanks Amy! Great quote that makes me feel a whole lot better about my unproductive days :-)

Laini Taylor said...

So glad you made it, Ann! I didn't realize you were working on a fantasy trilogy (it sounds awesome!) We have a Portland "kidlit" group that gets together periodically for drinks -- we're actually meeting up tonight; maybe you can make it . . . I'll look for an email link to give you details . . .