Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't Be Intimidated


My name is Marianne Strnad and I am not a shy writer. However, I have spent many years being extremely intimidated by people, which can outwardly resemble shy.


I thank Mom for giving me the “outgoing personality” gene, but curse Dad for the “Why yes-I’d love to take your crap and not say anything” gene. Sometimes the former can be a curse when I presume too much familiarity with someone I hardly know, and the latter a blessing when trying to diffuse a very bad situation. More on this concept later.


I’m quite new to the pursuit of authoring my first novel and realize that I have just thrown myself headlong into a steep learning curve. The first thing I learned was that authorship and “all things writerly” has its own unique lingo; I’m hearing terms I’ve never heard before. Secondly, there are sub-genres of romance writing out there that I never knew existed. Don’t even get me started on all the legal stuff and self-promotion concerns that now lie ahead of me-yikes! Thankfully, the one bit of advice I have heard repeatedly is to never give up, and to avoid allowing the inevitable rejections and critical reviews diminish your dreams of writing. Unfortunately, that which registers as sound advice to some folks may not sink into the psyche of others, and those who are easily intimidated are the first among them.


Flashback to high school in the mid-seventies. It never failed that when you took a stand for something, there was always an equal and opposite force working to crush your spirit into a compromise of your standing principle. It’s a scene that repeats itself endlessly in the realm of “Us versus Them”, and is nearly always at the heart of teen angst. We’ve all been there, and it is painful to the core. When I was in my junior year of high school and in the throes of my own teenage angst, a science teacher of mine dispensed a short piece of advice to me that became my personal watershed moment in life.


I’ll never forget him. Maxwell Stewart taught physical science my freshman year. I immediately liked his laid-back style of teaching and easygoing way of explaining scientific concepts. However, two years later he witnessed a terrible fight I had with a classmate in the hallway during a class change. The classmate was literally swearing a blue streak at me for a stand that I had taken on a class issue, which of course he was dead set against. The loud brawl left me feeling physically ripped to shreds from the verbal onslaught. Afterwards, Mr. Stewart called me over and spoke this simple phrase to me, “Marianne, when somebody says something bad about you, they are really saying more about themselves than they are of you.” At the time, I remember thinking that his advice was just a “pat answer”- an oversimplification of life and more or less brushed it off. However, his advice sank in and embedded itself into a place in my brain where it lay hidden until later in life.


Over time, I realized how wise Mr. Stewart really was. Using his advice has freed me from the chains of intimidation that used to strangle that fun-loving and outgoing personality Mom gave me. Whenever another horrid situation or point of contention arose, recalling Mr. Stewart’s words released me from the hurt that I would have previously accepted into my soul by thrusting it back on the doer, much like reversing the polarity of a force. When the doer of an evil is taking their own hurt and throwing it onto you, you can either choose to accept it internally and become hurt by it, or disown the responsibility of their words by refusing to accept them. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.


In the first paragraph of her poem “Life In This World”, my poet friend Daniella Pawl beautifully illustrates my meaning:

Life in this world
Is a journey
We feel the pain
We take it and that fire burns
It is in these burning moments that we have the possibility
To decide what becomes fuel
What becomes ammunition
So it doesn't turn on ourselves

Mr. Stewart taught me that I can refuse to let hateful words become the fuel that will devour my spirit and cause me to cower before bullies.


So, what does this have to do with writing and not being shy? It’s a fear-releaser. If you’re shy because you’re afraid to suffer the hurt of potential ridicule, then the advice I use from Mr. Stewart can possibly be your ticket out of a self-imposed fear imprisonment too. Personally, it has prepared me to avoid becoming too bruised by rejection letters, writing edits, or criticism in general. It’s my go-to coping mechanism, maybe others will find it helpful as well. Still not convinced? Watch the bully’s facial contortions as he or she spews his poison; it’s almost comical if it weren’t so sad. When in full character assassination mode, these folks libel only themselves.


Lastly, if all else fails and you are feeling particularly brave and confident in your use of humor, there’s always my favorite snarky comeback you can use post-verbal barrage, (and saying this straight-faced works best) “Sphincter say what???”


Thanks again Mr. Stewart for an unexpected life lesson. And by the way, you totally rocked that ‘stache back in the day!

21 comments:

  1. Marianne, wonderful advice and what a wonderful teacher you had! Best of luck to you as you sell your first books!

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  2. Marianne,
    That was very inspirational. Thank you for being willing to share your "heebie jeebies". Those of us lucky enough to have run across a great teacher, like your Mr. Stewart, are indeed blessed. Sometimes we forget to thank them. I have a 90 year old retired english teacher of mine living in my town, and I'm going to find him and thank him.
    As Babe Ruth said (I think it was him): "You don't get 100% of the swings you don't take." And that's what it's about, sorting advice, deciding what to take and what to pass on. But taking the swing is the only way to get there, right?
    Thank you.

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  3. Marianne, what a great post. Thanks so much for being on the blog. Mr. Stewart sounds like a great man.

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  4. Now that is some EXCELLENT advice. You're right. Mr. Stewart is a wise man.

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  5. Hi Marianne!
    So glad you took the wise Mr. Stewart's advice! It will certainly help you as you pursue a career in writing. I get my share of negative fan mail and reviews-- you simply can't please everybody. I'll remember Mr. Stewart's remark from now on-- it will help the negative stuff roll right off. That quote from Eleanor Roosevelt has always been my favorite. I wasted way too many years letting my spirit be squashed, and the result was I didn't start writing till I was 42 because I didn't believe in myself. I understand the courage and determination (and sheer terror) that comes with making that plunge into the "I'm going to be a writer" mindset, and I applaud your leap. I believe you can do it! Go get 'em, girl!

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  6. Hi Marianne,
    Excellent advise indeed! Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your coping mechanism. Putting your words on paper and sending it out into the big bad world is so hard, and made harder when someone dismisses your hard work as not good enough. I always try to remember that it's just one persons opinion, and not everyone is going to share his or her views. Every rejection is just proof that you're trying, that you're really putting in the work to become a writer, and one day, it could all pay off.

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  7. Hi everyone,
    Marianne is having trouble posting here for some reason, but she is reading all your comments and will be on shortly! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  8. Great post Marianne! Mr. Stewart was right. I always say, love yourself enough to make up for those who don't love you!

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  9. Well, thanks to the lovely filters on the government computers at work, I had to wait all day to post my comments to you all, so here goes:

    Thanks Liz! Mr. Stewart was a great teacher-I had him again for physics my junior year. The book is being written now, so that’s goal #1. I’m nowhere near the place of selling it-but I’ll get there eventually!

    Sharon, I loved your “heebie jeebies” remark-funny! I am very touched that you are going to bestow that lovely act of kindness upon the teacher in your neighborhood; I’m sure it will make his day! LOVED the Babe Ruth quote-never heard it before but so true. What a smart cookie he was besides being a candy bar-lol!

    Rebecca, thanks again for this opportunity, it was great fun!

    Thanks Laurie! It’s not often when excellence strikes, so I’m glad I could share it via Mr. Stewart!

    Kerrelyn, thanks SO much for stopping by! It’s hard to believe you get negative fan mail and reviews-you’re such a HUGE favorite of mine! And the part regarding your spirit being squashed- (insert New Yawk accent here) “You want I should whack ‘em for youse?” LOL!  Your belief in me makes me feel so honored & humble-an extra hug for you in Orlando! See you soon!

    Erin, I love the way you think-right on girl!  Rejections = effort! Thanks for all the great advice too; it’ll be nice to finally meet you!

    Hey Manon! Great saying you have there-we all need to make that part of our daily mantra!

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  10. Here's a comment from my former work Buddy Mark Salas, who ROCKS the blood bank department as supervisor in the lab at Phoenix VA Hospital:

    "Marianne, I have always admired the way you express yourself. It is obvious in your blog that you have the talent to be a writer. I look forward to being one of the many that you will intrigue and titillate!"

    He's a sweetie, and Kerrelyn, if they were unable to find the hunk to represent Carlos for the cover on your upcoming release, I would have sent you Mark-lol!

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  11. How wonderful that your teacher's wise words helped you on your life's journey. When you think of all the people who cross our paths and all the words we hear, isn't it amazing that just a handful of words from one person can make such a difference. Good luck!

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  12. It IS Leigh! And even more so when they arrive unexpectedly. Thanks for the luck too!

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  13. Hmm, so Mark is a hunk and he works in a blood bank? Does he have rather pointy teeth?

    See you in Orlando!

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  14. LOL! Uh-I don't so, but he IS very popular with the gals! See you soonly!

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  15. Great words of wisdom and insight Marianne and kudos on being a guest blogger! I have always suffered from paralyzing fear when I feel attacked and was very shy growing up. As the years go by I feel like I can be myself and not worry about what others think. Thanks for sharing, and I can't wait for your book to come out.

    Love ya,
    Rebecca Truman
    a.k.a. Super Duper Becks :)

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  16. Thanks Becks! Fear is a paralyzer for sure-it's the worst. I always wish that I could have known earlier what I know now, sigh...it's the way of life I'm afraid! Better late than never I guess.

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  17. Hi Marianne, teachers can sure make a big difference in the lives of the kids they work with. I had the blessing of a freshman english teacher who was impressed with my writing. I respect him to this day and remember his words as encouragement.

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  18. What wonderful advice your teacher gave you, Marianne! I'll definitely remember that. Great post too!

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  19. Wow Debby-good for you! Does he know how you "turned out"? he sounds like a "keeper"!

    Thanks Laurie! It's always a good thing to share great moments; feel free to use mine! :)

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  20. Wow. Awesome advice. Thank you for sharing it!

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