"Do you have any idea how talented you are? This piece is one of the best I've read since I started teaching high school. This could be your direction, your future."
Talk about being taken off guard. I was flattered, though I didn't follow that path. I went into education, a decision I will never regret. At times throughout my life, however, I have wondered what would have happened if I had taken her advice, had become a writer right off the bat.
Reflecting on a Ship That Sailed
I assumed that, because I did not go to school for writing, that I was simply reflecting on a ship that had sailed for me. That is, until I participated in last April's Platform Challenge, run by Robert Lee Brewer. The challenge consisted of daily tasks, all of which would help writers build their platforms; get their author brand out into the world.
Just a few months before this challenge, I had started blogging about a difficult situation in my life, largely because it was helping me process the unimaginable. That's when I started to think that perhaps, one day, I could write a book about all of it and somehow make a difference. It seemed farfetched and lofty, but it was a thought.
I don't even recall how I found Robert's challenge, but as I looked into it, I learned that an aspiring author is advised to build a platform to help readers to get to know you and your writing, and that it can help you sell a manuscript or land an agent. A platform can help you to become a known entity in the world of writing. I read more about the challenge, and I did hesitate. I am really a quiet person by nature, and I have never believed my writing to be much more than really great for a high school junior; never expected to have an audience beyond my own friends and family.
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Jumping Outside the Comfort Zone
I was driven by my topic, though, and I took a leap of faith, jumping into it with an open mind, even though doing so was entirely outside of my comfort zone. Before the challenge, only family and friends were aware of and read my blog, and that felt safe. Through the platform challenge, I was taking real-life steps to expose my writing to many more people, strangers and experienced writers. I was on guard, and I was gearing up for constructive criticism in an area where I didn't have much confidence in the first place.
The opposite happened, however, and I gained amazing things as the challenge progressed. I was connecting with new people and writing resources, getting positive feedback about my writing, and building enough confidence to provide feedback to others. By the end of the challenge, I had grown by leaps and bounds, not only as a writer, but as a person.
As the challenge ended, I reflected a lot on the experiences and lessons of the month previous, and I was able to recognize my biggest take-away: Living outside of my comfort zone, though scary, opens doors. I started living a little more openly, with more confidence, and outside of what felt safe. I had no idea how much it would change my life.
Living Outside That Zone
This past Christmas, one much better than our last sorrow-filled Christmas, my daughter bought me tickets to see Daughtry and 3 Doors Down. I am a huge music fan, and Daughtry is one of my favorites. I, in turn, bought us a VIP package to meet the bands. As the concert approached, I started paying a little more attention to Chris Daughtry on Twitter, getting excited for the show, and I saw that he was just completing a fitness challenge with trainer Jen Hendershott. This caught my interest. One thing I had let go when tragedy struck my family was my health and fitness.
The concert came, we met the bands, and I actually struck up a little conversation with Chris about his challenge; another bold move on my part. I followed that up with an e-mail to his trainer, asking about advice for getting back to a healthier fitness level. I wanted to find a positive outlet to better heal on the inside, while also taking care of my body in a healthier way. We came up with a great plan, and my new fitness challenge blog was born. It was a whirlwind, and I recall thinking "Is this really happening? Did I just sign on to be trained by a fitness champion, and hold myself accountable on a blog?"
Yes, that really happened, and then some. Not only did I find a positive way to heal and a friend to guide me through it, but I also signed a publishing contract to write that memoir, the one I dreamed could maybe make a difference.
My dreams have become my reality, and it never would have happened if I hadn't stepped outside of my comfort zone and followed Robert's advice. I will forever be grateful for this experience and the lifelong affect it has had on my life.
Kelly Williamson is an Assistant Principal and writer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She has written short stories, personal essays, and is currently working on a memoir that depicts the tragic situation her family found itself in just over a year ago. As she works to move on, Kelly has a strong will to use her writing as a way to help others in similarly difficult situations. Digging deep to find strength, she has begun to redirect her focus on the many positive things in life, including her writing, her loving family, and her desire to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. You can connect with Kelly on Facebook, Twitter, and her two blogs: www.kellyannwilliamson.blogspot.com and www.journeywithjenh.blogspot.com.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Also, check out other previous Not Bob posts: