Because I’m Brave

The Pom Pom dance class I signed up for just ended and my mom asked if I was going to attend the free session today. It’s free, my mom’s favorite words and I’ve enjoyed the classes, releasing my inner cheerleader since my parents were adament about only allowing me to participate in activities that were practical in high school. That meant no color guard, no soccer, but yes to cross country.

I told her no. I tried to explain my reason, but to an extrovert it probably sounds like mishmash so I’ll try to do it here. You see, I’m brave. It took a lot for me to show up at that class. I’d already been exercising regularly and lost some weight so I figured I could complete the class physically without being too far behind.

Although people treat you differently depending on where you are in your life, I have not had good experiences when it comes to fitness classes. My solution was to have an escape plan. I only paid for the class because it was an amount of money that I did not feel obligated to continue taking the class if I was miserable. I gave myself permission to leave if I felt uncomfortable or if anyone made fun of me.

(Side note: Insecure people will do a thing where they look around for someone who they think is worse than them in a class and then make that person the butt of the joke. It’s the actions of a jerk. The instructor may or may not put an end to it. In those situations, it’s never a good idea for me to stay. Because I have experience in such things instead of blithly ignoring my past experience, I plan for it.)

My concerns were unfounded in this case. I had a great time at the class! The instructor was encouraging and so were my classmates! I look forward to signing up for the next session. But the only way I was able to get through the door is because I had an avenue for leaving.

I knew what I wanted out of the class – a good workout and a supportive environment. I got both and so I stayed.

When it came to my writing, I never wrote down what I needed. I didn’t demand enough from who I allowed in my writing space and myself.

It was easier to tell myself that I just didn’t have it that I might never have it, that I could write millions of words of stories and no one would ever read them – I would just be tossing words into the ether wasting my life.

It was a revision book that called me on my nonsense interestingly enough. The hero’s journey in storytelling is our journey and my books, my stories, whether I want them to or not are deeply personal. The character grows and changes because their prespective changes. Every story starts with a false belief. And my false belief was that my stories didn’t matter. That no one reads my stories even though I’ve actually had an editor reach out to license a story of mine that she had read years ago. Even though that’s happened more than once.

What I was doing was taking the coward way out. That’s not me. I’m not a coward. I’m brave. In my 40s, I rented my house to move to Center City Philadelphia where I didn’t know anyone and had to figure out how to mail my letters and grocery shop in an urban environment when I’d spent my entire life in a suburban one. I took a training schedule from the internet for a half-marathon and decided to walk one. The moment I see a job isn’t working for me, I start making moves for another one.

What I’ve learned is that change is like a muscle – you’ve got to use it to get used to it.

What I’ve also learned is that I’ve treated my writing and my writing career as precious and not nearly as cuthroat as I am with my day career and with my life.

I keep a list of my must haves when it comes to working. I take it out regularly and review and revise it. I believe in building. I don’t have to get everything right the first time. I just get something down on paper. I never did that with writing. I never straight out wrote on paper what I would tolerate, what I would not, and when it was time to pick up my bag and go.

In my day career, there is not a possibility to quit. I am an adult. I need funds to sustain myself. I need health benefits. I must find a way to work it out.

With my writing, there was always that lingering doubt – what if I’m not good enough. The door to exit was always open. I joke that I always have gym shoes around my neck and my eyes on the door, but that’s for a situation, that’s not – oh, I’m just not going to work anymore. Work is a necessity. My health is a necessity, so I have to figure out how to make them work.

My writing was an all or nothing proposition in my mind and also the – you have to suffer – is one that I bought into. If I viewed my writing as I do my day career, I would look at things differently.

For example, I’ve learned not to go too far into a project without getting feedback from the project’s owner. I’ll create a mockup of the PowerPoint slides or the process and send it to the owner of the project to confirm if the path I’m taking is what they had in mind. It’s way easier to get feedback on something someone can see. Few people know what they want, but a lot of folks know what they don’t.

With the initial feedback in hand, I’ll revise the project and keep moving forward. This has worked great for me in my career. It was a lesson learned the hard way. Did I take this hard-learned lesson with me when it came to writing? Of course not, that would be too much like making sense.

Also, I’m going through the revision book and I realize that I’m not treated it like a training for my day career. For my day career, I take notes on trainings and any books. I put them all in a OneNote notebook. If it’s applicable, I turn the information into something that’s actionable for me – a checklist. My goal is always implementation.

Of course, I wasn’t anywhere near as consistent with my writing.

Let’s talk procedures. Every workplace is supposed to have written procedures. I’ve learned not to expect that and to be prepared to write my own. I’ve also learned that even if procedures are written, they may not be current, or I may have found a way to phrase items so that they make more sense to me.

Procedures are not set in stone. They are meant to change. When I’m drafting new procedures for a program my expectation is that they are drafts and will need to be revised because as the philoaopher Mike Tyson said – everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Executing a plan is getting punched in the mouth. With additional information, the procedures must and will change.

Did I take such a pragmatic, measured view of my writing?

Of course not.

It’s time to change my perspective and shut that exit door – I’ll stop writing if BLAH. Nope. I’ll take what I learned, adjust, overcome, and keep moving forward. Because I’m brave.


About Irette Y Patterson

Irette Y Patterson is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. She has been published in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Translunar Travelers Lounge and on the website of The Saturday Evening Post. When not writing, you can find her digging around in her garden or catching the latest musical in the theater.
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