Wow, that’s an old saying isn’t it?
“You’re getting too big for your britches young lady!” I can remember hearing those words from my mom, and boy did it have the result she wanted.Everything came to a stop. You needed to be still and think about what you were doing and that what you just said, might be taken as rude or egotistical.
Now being proud of yourself was one thing. That was encouraged, you should be proud of your accomplishments, or if you worked hard on a task or project, painted a picture or got a good grade on a test. But arrogance was not tolerated.
Getting too big for my britches in later years became literal. It literally meant weight gain. I could hear the words in my head as I tried to force my thighs into denim that did not appreciate my efforts. I had the seams from those jeans embedded on the sides of my legs until the extra weight was lost, or perhaps it was simply pushed behind my knees.
This week the term changed again. Getting too big for my britches was whispered in my ear, this time the focus was on my own writing. I became my own worst enemy.
Since I began this journey, I cannot tell you the number of people who have approached me, written me notes and sent emails praising my writing. I made them feel good, laugh, cry or connect. I’ve corresponded with people inside and outside of the United States. The conversations, stories, sorrows and joys have been extraordinary. It has been wonderful. So wonderful in fact that I began to think, “Hey, I got this!” When in fact I was just peeking below the surface. I wasn’t looking any deeper and that’s when it got dangerous.
I can only compare this with a student studying a martial art. In the beginning as a white belt, you do not know anything and everyone knows that, so no one really pushes you, punches or kicks you. What’s the point? They’d just be a bully – “Hey, I can beat the snot out of this person who knows nothing!” Big deal. Now as the colors of the belts begin to darken, perhaps to green, purple and then to a brown belt – that is the color I always worried about the most. They had been training for a while, they knew the rules, practice the routines, stretches, workouts. They have begun to understand the gravity of what a punch and kick can do to the human body. They know just enough to get their faces beaten in. And I say that with all respect. It’s knowing enough to get you in trouble.
That is where I have found myself this month in my writing. I am re-rewriting three chapters that my editor feels need more work. And here I thought – ta-da! Done – Look at me! Whoo hoo! I’m getting ready to start researching agents and publisher’s right?! Taking the next steps towards submissions! Wow! Yeah – No. Such is not the case. I have forty four chapters in my novel. I’ve just written nine more scenes that I think will pack that punch, create a giggle, and make the reader gasp because they didn’t see it coming! I can’t wait to have this book done! And there lies the lesson.
I have to practice patience. I can only learn so much at a time, then to implement it, practice it, now make it mine takes time. I can talk flow – but can I write it? I get the concept – now prove it by using it. How about rhythm and syntax? Don’t know what that is? Look it up! It’s important and expected! There are rules in writing and if you’re going to write – you must learn the rules. The agent is not going to take your hand and teach you. The publishing house will just laugh, because they have stacks of other stories that are already polished and ready to go.
So, this month, I got too big for my britches. It’s time to take a step back. Again. And listen to my editor, again– learn from her – practice what she bestows and put pen to paper. Again.
I have a good story. In fact. I’ve got a damn good story. But I’m not going to put it out there until it is ready. Until it is complete. Polished and shiny. Something I can be proud of. But first, I learn patience and humbly remember what Laura (www.lauramunson.com) told me at the beginning of this journey. Do The Work! Not just a piece of it, or what I want to work on, all of it. There are no shortcuts.
If I may offer one last piece of advice. Surround yourself with people you can learn from. Not just those who pat your back and tell you how wonderful you are. Those are important people too no doubt. But in this writing life, you need to learn from a variety of people. I have been so blessed, fortunate, lucky – call it what you will – to have met and know so many writers and authors since returning from Montana. I have met some extraordinary writers who have no desire to get published. I have the honor of knowing people who finished their first book (www.kristinmeekhof.com) their second, third (www.lorraineash.com) fifth and thirtieth book (yeah I know – how crazy is that?!). If I can walk this path – so can you. But it means you must put yourself out there, meet people, stumble and fall, then get back up and keep walking. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. What you write after those mistakes, will be even better, stronger, more solid. You’ll start to ‘see’ where your own issues lie and have the tools to correct them. Do not be afraid to pull on those jeans and realize, you know, I have to go take a walk and put that ice cream back in the fridge! Do not be afraid to toot your own horn either, when appropriate, but not at the expense of someone else. Least of all yourself.
Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to take my dogs for a walk.
Breathe Deep, Think Peace