Monday, April 13, 2015

The Water's Fine!

My family and I had some pets when I was a kid. Among them, tropical fish. When you bring home a new fish, you can't just jump him from the plastic, water-filled bag into the aquarium. Instead, you float the bag in the aquarium, allowing the water inside the bag to slowly match temperature with the fish's new environment. That bag provides the safety bubble the new fish needs to protect him from sudden changes. Once he's acclimated, he can happily move in to his new home.

Lately, I've started doing this sort of thing with myself, figuratively speaking, when I'm intimidated by a project or opportunity I know I ought to take advantage of. For example, it's not easy for an introvert like me to go to a writer's conference on the opposite side of the country alone, even though I know it'll be a big help to my writing career.

But, with the writer's conference opportunity and other projects, I've been able to move forward by allowing myself time to acclimate to the idea.

If you're in a similar situation, here are some steps that helped me:
  1. Acknowledge the project is out there. Oh! I should go to that conference!
  2. Just click on it/look around a bit. Without making a commitment, browse a bit. This might involve talking to friends with experience. For the conference, checked out the website to find out about instructors and attendees.  
  3. Make some notes. Write down areas where you need more information or problems you can foresee. For the conference, before I register, I need to know which sessions I should attend, so I made some notes about which ones sounded the most helpful.
  4. Consider the wording I'll need. If your opportunity involves people in any way, chances are, you'll be communicating with words, whether written or spoken. For the conference, I'll be meeting lots of people--including industry professionals--so how should I word my summary of my novel? Because at a writing conference, that's how most authors end up introducing themselves and connecting with each other. Having a plan in mind helps cut down on my worries about putting my foot in my mouth, and that makes step five worlds easier.
  5. Formally commit. Registration forms, plane tickets and down payments happen here.
  6. Do the leg work. Now that my commitment is on paper, I'll do everything I can to make sure I'm prepared to succeed when step 7 arrives. For my conference, I'll research so I know everything I ought to about those I'll be meeting. I'll also prepare the paperwork writers are expected to bring to conferences like these. I'll take time to make sure it looks nice, both for the sake of the others who have to look at it and for the sake my own self-confidence.
  7. Follow through. Time to pack those bags and attend the conference! Or, depending on what your project is, launch that website or ace that interview.
More than half of the steps are performed in the equivalent of a floating baggy, a safety bubble of sorts where you're privately preparing to make a public commitment and then follow through. I've found that if I take my time with the first couple of steps, I eventually pick up speed going through the later steps because I'm feeling much more comfortable with the whole project. I find the water's fine, and I'm ready to make myself at home!

How do you help yourself through intimidating projects?

Your Sister

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