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Lusty Lady

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

On stepping out of my literary comfort zone

Last week, while battling a head cold, I also ventured into new professional territory: copywriting and entertainment blogging (for a retail business and a soon to launch site, respectively). And let me tell you, I was nervous. I have found over the last four and a half years of supporting myself as a freelance writer/editor/teacher/consultant that, even though every day is different, I can easily get into a rut. The status quo can seem like the only option because it's hard to imagine someone taking a chance on me in a new field when they could just as easily hire someone who's been doing it for years.

Both of those small gigs came about by referrals from friends, and I'm not sure if either will pan out into something larger. But whether they do or not, I'm grateful for them because they forced me to revisit all the other times I felt confused and uncertain about the work I was doing. Trust me, the first day, first month and many of the months that followed as I learned all the intricacies of copyediting marks as an editor at Penthouse Variations, I was baffled as to how it all came so easily to my coworkers. It was like learning a new language, but somehow, doing it every single day, I learned that language so well that now my mind can't help but copyedited everything I see, whether it's a sign on an office wall or the website a new friend is showing me or random billboards.

I felt the same way when I taught my first LitReactor writing class, that panicky feeling of everyone's-going-to-know-I'm-totally-winging-this. I would not say I in any way enjoy that sensation, those thoughts looping through my mind of how-the-hell-do-I-approach this? In both cases last week, I had moments of wondering if I should simply give up and say that I wasn't the right person for the job. In the past, I have given up when I couldn't get past that negative feedback loop, and in all those cases, it's haunted me ever since.

But this time, I didn't give up. I let myself acknowledge that my work wasn't perfect, that I'm a beginner, no matter how much other writing I've done, and I have to embrace that fact. I reminded myself that if they didn't like it, they could edit or tweak my work, or kick it back to me. I thought about all the times I've been edited heavily, all those notes that often on initial receipt feel overwhelming but ultimately produce work that's both stronger and more in line with what my editor is looking for.

I also thought about how many of my LitReactor students have posted some variation of "I've never thought about writing erotica before." That always blows my mind, because I went into teaching that class assuming that anyone shelling out a significant sum would have their mind set on becoming a professional erotica writer. Some students are, but others are simply open to trying something new, ready to take a chance, even if they don't know the outcome. I want to emulate that sense of literary risk-taking.

I am proud of myself for being able to say yes to something new, although it's far more challenging than staying with what I know, and hope that the future brings more newness, even if it comes with a steep learning curve. Coming out on the other side of that learning curve makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.

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