Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On Being Published and Facing Fears

It may come as a surprise to some of you that I have not been officially 'published' until now.  Sure, I have contributed to magazine articles before and we have been regularly featured in Cruising World Online, but as far as bonafide published articles go, I was zero for zero.  It's pretty embarrassing, actually, considering how much I write and how much joy writing brings me.  I mean, I probably have at least a handful of blog posts that I could tweak and turn into pretty decent articles, and yet, I don't.  Why?

The simple answer is fear.  More specifically: fear of failure.

The thing is this: I have been so immersed in blog writing for so long, that to take off my "blogger" hat and put on a legit "article writer" hat is really, really difficult for me.  I know this because I have been asked (on several occasions) by editors to write articles for their publications and each time I come up with a big, fat, nothing.  I freeze.  I get a case of writer's block that is so colossal,I can't navigate around it.  

You see,  the two styles of writing are very different... With blogging I can be as casual as I want and I don't always have to have a point.  I write, first and foremost, for myself so if you guys out there in cyberspace don't like it - that's totally okay (though I prefer it when you do).  There is also a history that is understood, and for those of you who don't know our history, there are always backlinks and "about us" pages to fill in the blanks.  Grammar can be forgiven (well, kind of, I love those of you who help me edit), and I often write exactly the way I talk.  I can say things like, "awesome" and "um" and "whatever".  It flows, it's natural and - for me - this style is pretty easy.  With articles, however, you are working for someone else. The style is (usually) more formal and everything needs to be laid out in a distinct manner with "x" number of words.  There must be a clear beginning, middle and end and grammar and proper sentence structure are very important.  The story must be interesting and compelling and - most important - be good enough for people to want to read it (they are, after all, trying to sell magazines).  With article writing there is pressure.  Pressure to be successful.  Pressure to be good.  Way more pressure than what I feel when I'm prattling on or waxing poetic on this blog.  Admittedly, some of what I post is crap, some is not.  And that's okay because this is my blog and it's up to me what I chose to say.  That kind of logic doesn't really fly in the publishing world.  At least, I don't think it does.

So yeah.

The fact that I am finally published is a big deal to me.  Not a big deal in the "I have arrived" way (I haven't).  Not a big deal in that it was mind blowing to see my name in print (it wasn't).  I didn't shed any tears of joy.  The article is not framed on the mantel and there was no celebratory champagne toast when we got our hands on it.  Nope.  My being published is a big deal in that I did it.   I finally faced my fear, put myself out there and saw a legitimate writing project through from beginning to end.  It's a big deal because it hopefully marks a beginning of something that might just take shape as a career of sorts... or, at the very least, support my growing wine habit (twins, people, twins <<< see how I did that? You can't do that in an article!)

So about that article....

Some of you might remember my post about this awesome guy.  Denis and I loosely kept in touch after I wrote that piece and when we moved back stateside to await the birth of our girls, I got a phone call from him asking if I was interested in telling the rest of his story.  "You were there for the beginning, and I'd like you to tell the end" he said.  I was flattered.  Classic Boat Magazine had gotten wind of his accomplishment and wanted an exclusive.  Denis had the story, but needed a writer. (Side note: Isn't serendipity awesome?)  I had to think about taking the project on, and I almost used my pregnancy and impending twins as an excuse not to.  Why?  Because I was afraid.  I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone, afraid to try something different, afraid to fail...  This, unfortunately, is a theme that has been somewhat recurring in my life and this time, after some deliberation, I thought, "No.  I am not going to let my fear of failure hold me back.  I am going to try".   The Universe had put an awesome opportunity in my lap and, dag nabbit, I was going to take it.

So I did.

Denis recounted his incredible story to me over the course several long phone interviews and slowly but surely, I pieced together a digestible 2000 word article from my sixteen pages of notes.

My best friend, a former copy editor (and excellent writer in her own right), acted as my proofreader by giving me excellent notes and several others read it with great feedback.  After a few days, it was finished.  I was so nervous.  I felt exposed, vulnerable and I worried relentlessly that it sucked.  With great trepidation, I sent the final draft to Denis.  When he didn't get back to me right away I was sure he hated it.  I was certain I had failed him and he was trying to find a way to tactfully tell me so.

But I was wrong.  He loved it, and he sent it on to Classic Boat Magazine, at which point all the anxiety I felt resurfaced.  "Will they laugh at me?"  "Will they like it?" "Is the story worthy of their pages?"  Weeks went by without word.  Naturally I feared the worst: that my story had not made the cut and was shelved.  That the editors of the magazine didn't like it.  That I had failed.

I had all but forgotten about the whole thing (I was days away from giving birth and a little...preoccupied) when I received an email from Denis with the final PDF layout of our article ready for print.  I couldn't believe it.  I was...shocked, excited, proud.  It was official:  my words would be on the glossy pages of a very respectable and pretty large boating publication.

The article is a six page cover story entitled, simply, "Antigua to New York" (a name given to my article by the editors, since I, in my newbi-ness, failed to title it [facepalm]). It is featured in the May 2014 issue of Classic Boat Magazine and it's pretty good, if I do say so myself.  It's not perfect, it's not earth shattering and it's certainly not going to go "viral" but it's a start.  And I learned a very important lesson: that true failure only happens when we cease to try.

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" 
- Vincent van Gogh


B.J. Porter said...


While most of us are clogging up the internet with dreck that would make the e-Indian cry (you are too young for that reference...)it is good to see someone talented get some recognition for it.

Keep up the good work...in all your spare time!

MaryJo Boyle said...

Way. To. Go. Brittany!!!
Writing is so hard without distractions; you have much to be proud of for conquering your fear and overcoming all that could have kept you from finishing.

Cheryl said...

Excellent Brittany! Thanks for sharing your story- it's inspiration for me who has also been "making excuses" to take a leap. I do recall your post about this guy, so I'm excited to read the rest of the adventure. Congratulations!

Michael Robertson said...

Super, super congratulations! You definitely have the chops, so I'm glad you leap frogged your fear and made it happen. I hope this is one of many for you. At the end of the year, you should consider entering your story in the BWI writer's contest. They have a Profiles category your story would fit in to (in fact, there are 17 categories and you should make it a goal to write and publish another before the end of the year so you'll have two to enter!). All the best, Michael

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!! I often come accross requests for travel and travel related educational material and think of forwarding them to you. You included a great life lesson as well!!! Thanks for sharing both versions of your writing styles!

Mike Patton said...

Are you sure you don't want to celebrate? I want the champagne after reading that inspirational post. All milestones change the trajectory of life, and though you say this is small, I suspect it's influence will be long and vast. Congratulations.

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