I’m delighted to feature a guest post by Andi Cumbo-Floyd. Andi has written a beautiful book comprised of encouraging letters – love letters – to writers. I received an advance reader copy of this lovely collection of letters and I can’t wait for you to be blessed by this wonderful book. It speaks to the heart of not only writers, but anyone who struggles to share their creative truths.
Andi’s book comes out November 14, but I’m thrilled to give you a sneak peek. Following is an excerpt from Andi’s book, Love Letters To Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling.
What Are We Afraid Of?
by Andi Cumbo-Floyd
Dear Beautiful People,
I have a cat who is terrified if any people are near. I’ve had her and her sister living with me for almost eight years now, and she’s still terrified of me. Nothing I can do will coax her out. To be sure she’s okay, I actually have to startle her out from her hiding place.
Sometimes, I think writers are a lot like Charlotte. We tuck ourselves into corners— be they journals or password-protected blogs or ideas about writing or writing books. We are so afraid that we only come out when startled, even though we really want to walk about in the world with our words unfurled.
I long ago learned that there is nothing I can do to coax other people out from their hiding from writing in general or from public writing in specific. Sometimes, it’s hard enough to get myself to do it. Nothing I say will draw some of us out, and I’m not interested in frightening anyone into revealing themselves.
So, if you will, imagine me here, whispering to you in the same voice I still try to use with Charlotte. “It’s okay. It’s just me. You’re safe.” I’m just here to remind you that you are loved, no matter what—whether you step out boldly or choose to hide. You are never less loved.
Still, I hope you step out boldly with your words. I hope you push past your fear and take a few timid steps into the big room of the world that is waiting.
Perhaps a few reminders will help:
- Some people may be waiting to hear just what you have to say. Some people might NEED it. Books have, as I’ve said often, quite literally saved my life several times. Maybe yours will save someone else.
- The people who count in your evaluation of your own value are waiting to cheer you on, to support you, to say, YES!! (The people who don’t do that need not have a place in your echelons of loved ones.)
- Sometimes what we say by way of “reasons” for why we aren’t writing is just fear’s crafty creation of excuses. A real reason for not writing is magnificent and temporary—a sudden illness, an injury, a massive project that comes up out of nowhere; an excuse for not writing is usually chronic and anticipatable. So your child’s fever and subsequent need for your care—REASON. Your four hours of TV a night that leave you too tired to wake early to write, even though that’s what you WANT to do—EXCUSE.
If we can turn our “reasons” for not writing and begin then with the phrase, “I’m afraid to write because . . ., ” then we can be pretty sure we’re dealing with excuses brought on by fear. What we say: I’m too busy to write my book. What we mean: I’m afraid to write my book so I keep saying YES to other things.
My “reason” that’s really an excuse: “I need to make more money, so I have to focus on ‘building my business.'” Total excuse for me. Total way of giving into the fear of how hard writing is, of how much apathy my books will find when they come out.
I don’t know what your excuses are—fear of people feeling neglected by you, fear of not having enough time to finish what you start, fear of not ‘doing it right,’ fear of having regrets that you gave time to something that was just for you first—but if your “reasons” for not writing are rooted in fear, trust me when I say, they are excuses, not real reasons. That doesn’t mean they’re not real or not burly in their power. It just means you can get past them, if you choose to do so.
Charlotte, my precious cat, can’t tell me her fears. She can’t explain what keeps her from exploring the great big world that is now open to her with her new cat door. But you can, and I hope you will. Sometimes, the easiest way to diminish a fear is to call it out for what it is and watch it shrink.
Excerpted from Love Letters To Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling. Forthcoming on November 14, 2018.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and writing coach who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, three rabbits, six goats, and thirty-six chickens. She writes regularly about writing at Andilit.com.