Sunday, September 18, 2011

Never Pass Up An Opportunity

The past few months have brought opportunities that I never could have imagined. Some I accepted because friends asked me to do them and some I felt obligated to do, but they have all been enriching.

As writers, we are more internal people than external, and would rather shut ourselves up in a room with a computer and play out things on the page.

Yesterday was Constitution Day and at the last minute, I was asked to tell the story of Emily Geiger, a teenage Revolutionary War heroine. It was WAY out of my comfort zone to speak to hundreds of people and tell a story to them, but I felt obligated since they couldn't find a teenage girl who would do it.

People came by in groups of a dozen or so and I did my best to tell them the story as if they were sitting in my living room and I was relaying a great story to them. The feedback was encouraging to say the least! Teens shook my hand and thanked me. You could see on their faces they were all getting into the drama of Emily's story. The expressions changed as the drama unfolded and ended with smiles, clapping, thanks, and hand shaking.

After the first round, when my voice stopped shaking, I really got into it and had fun. After all, a writer is also a storyteller. It was a lovely day and I met some great people.

The point of all this is to say: Opportunities are everywhere. Don't automatically say no because you don't think you have time or it's not your forte or whatever excuse you may want to give. I keep a running list with dates of all the events, projects, achievements (no matter how small) to remind myself of how far down the path I have traveled. I've just begun on my route, but I'm looking forward to reaching the point where I can look backwards too. Every writer started with that first article, book, play, or engagement. Each of our paths is different and mine is different than I thought it would be, but it's my path and I'm enjoying watching it bloom and grow.

My motto these days is to accept things outside my comfort zone. It kind of reminds me of a fence I built in my early 20's. We bought brick that matched the house and I laid brick posts every 10 feet around the perimeter of the yard. Because the yard sloped up, I used a level string to keep the posts looking neat and even. After the posts were up, I put up privacy wood sections, also leveled with the use of the string to fill in the spaces between the brick posts. It was a lot of work. I had never done something like that and once I got started, I wished I hadn't ever begun, but at that stage, it had to be finished or it would have looked horrible. I developed a rash from the cement, but I persevered. When the wood was cut, I rounded the top of each board using a dinner plate. The result was quite nice.

I have begun many projects in my life, not knowing what I was getting myself into, and having to finish them because leaving it half done was not an option I was willing to accept. Along the way, I've learned how to do many things I never thought I could do. Now, people call me for advice on how to do things.

It's funny how that works - do a few things and suddenly everyone thinks you are the expert.

My writing experience did not start with a degree in journalism, English, or anything else applicable. It began with a life of stories, a big imagination, a love of reading and a love of knowledge. I have no mentor watching over me, but people have come into my path and given me opportunities, encouragement, and tasks to do that have been wonderful additions to my journey. Now, when someone asks me to do something that I automatically want to say "no" to, I think about it before answering. What new avenues could this open up for me? Can I help someone or teach something along the way? Will I meet new people who I can help or who might be helpful to me? It's give and take and makes you feel great when you can help someone else. Don't always expect something in return.

Looking at opportunities in a new light may keep you from passing on something that could be a wonderful break for you and a blessinig to others.