Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Process of Becoming......

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. ------Anais Nin

The moment I opened the door, the club’s aroma hit me in the kisser. Scents which hadn’t touched the old schnozolla since my single days—cigarettes smoke, booze, aftershave, perfume, perspiration and…popcorn? Okay, so this joint did popcorn, maybe a cheaper alternative to peanuts. Club smells. Familiar, even after my seven year hiatus from the Houston nightlife. 

Every man who hunched over the bar turned in unison at my entry. Raised brows and narrowing eyes in their previously bored faces spoke the universal club language: new dame on the scene. My legs nearly gave out under me. Fear. Unadulterated fear.

I stood on the threshold, swiped a palm down the skirt of my snazzy red dress, and gave myself only a split second to decide—turn back and run or step through the door. Nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, I walked into the joint and asked one of the men, “Is this where the Parents Without Partners meetings are?”

He took a draw on his cigarette, blew a stream of smoke, and scanned me from head to toe through half-closed lids. He jerked his head toward the opposite end of the club. “They meet back there.”

With a shaky nod, I made my way past the row of men to the back of the club. Every eye followed me. I could feel them.

I crossed the club to the back room and found the meeting place. The usual skeptic, critically appraising stares met me, but I braced my padded shoulders (this WAS the 80’s, after all) and proceeded to sit at a table. A big, amiable teddy-bear of a fellow picked up his drink, scooted over to sit beside me, and introduced himself. Chuck—my first acquaintance at Parents Without Partners—became a good friend, and he made it possible for many more new friends to cross my path.

I’d done it. I’d taken the huge step to becoming social. That horrific first step, now a thing of the past.

That traumatic experience was my first attempt at an organized social event after my divorce. And, yes, this story actually DOES have something to do with writing.

My first novel is due for release in March. I’ve seen a mock up of the cover, I’ve completed the first round of edits and sent them to the editor. Congratulations, C. Zampa, you are officially an author. 

Or…whoa, back up there, girlie. Welcome, step right up to the next phase of this author-lady stint—promotion. You’ve got to set up a platform to promote yourself and your book. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites…and loops.

Upon hearing the word loops, I was immediately transported back to the door of that nondescript club for my first Parents Without Partners Meeting. A scene that intimidates me. 

Joining loops and mingling with new faces is, for some people—especially for me—traumatic. My, redemption, I thought, was the fact that, unlike real-life clubs, loops are only in cyberspace. I told myself it would be easier, as these were merely email addresses with no faces. How hard could that be? Surprisingly, it can be just as hard. 

Fortunately, I’d already been a member on various cyber groups—mainly author fan groups and a writing workshop—and had made some wonderful friends long before my book was finished. But, no, they said, I needed more exposure. Ay-ay-ay. More groups? More strangers? 

I have joined more cyber author groups, and it’s the same experience as my initial outing into the single world after my divorce. It’s scary. Scary as hell. I stand in the doorway, seeing this huge gathering of already-in-progress chats, and I scout for my ‘Chuck’ in the group, a face I know, somebody to reach out a hand and lead me around. My fortune IS that I DO already have friends who mingle in these groups as well, and—just as any real-life club, I find myself hanging onto their coattails. 

Some groups are so busy, jumping into a chat is much like tossing yourself over Niagara Falls in a dinghy. You get immediately carried away in the rapids and disappear before they ever see your face. Your ‘Hi from a Newbie’ is quickly silenced by the force of the already-gushing currents.

How do you survive? Just how good of a swimmer ARE you? 

 Me? As a kid, I nearly drowned my swimming coach AND myself in an Olympic sized, very deep pool and pretty much ditched all hopes of swimming after that in the real world. And I’m not sure I’m a strong swimmer in the cyber pools either. I’m not sure my voice is loud. I don’t demand to be seen and heard, unless I’m very comfortable in the forum. Then just watch my mouth run ninety-to-nothing. But cutting through waters where big, big schools of fish swim is hard. Very hard for many. And, like I said, it’s scary. 

If your comments should go unnoticed, do you sit and pout or just persist? Oh, come on. Is it EVER the better option to pout? Now, now, you know it isn’t. 

But is it worth it to persist, to push though the thick crowds of other fishes until you are finally recognized? Personally, I’ve found it can be. For a skittish fish like me, the attempt has produced some wonderful friends, some of them very dear. Some of these bigger fish have mentored me, and guided me around the cyber waters until I felt comfortable swimming on my own. Some have been instrumental in helping to build my confidence as a writer, and have encouraged—even pushed me—to get my work submitted. And they were there to cheer me when I was accepted by the publisher. So, considering this? Hell, yes, it’s worth it to persist in the cyber sea. There is nothing like the warm, genuine support I’ve found through the loops. The ears to listen to my fears, my cheers, my cries, my why’s. 

Just as in my Parents Without Partners experience, groups CAN have drawbacks. Every aspect of life has its own unpleasantness. I look back on my PWP outings, and remember many of the other ladies hissing because the men liked to dance with the me, new girl. And they snickered because the new girl always wore a dress or skirts. But I toughed it out. I dressed how I wanted to dress, and faced the leering tootsies every Tuesday night. I kept wearing my skirts and dresses and—go figure—very soon the other snarling dames were wearing the same. In other words, if it’s a place you feel you’d like to be, then stick around. Ignore the negative facets that might rear up, and focus on what you like about the group.

As I said, I’m navigating my way through some very large author/reader groups, and once again, I’m terrified. But I’m trying. Because, as Anais Nin said in my opening quote, I can’t make friends by remaining in the state I’m in, constantly looking in and not moving. And I certainly can’t put the burden on the other members of the group to take me by the hand like a toddler and shelter me. I DO expect them—and all groups—to be courteous, to do their part to make a new member welcome. That is to be expected and necessary for the group itself to form a genial impression. The rest is up to me. 

Anais also said this: I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy. Get it? I have to take part, too. This isn’t just a racket where everybody has to cater to me. It’s a two-way street and I have to participate. 

Or, as Dale Carnegie said: Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
You heard the man! And I’ll be willing to bet you’ll find your Chuck-fish in the crowd, just like I did.
Now, go, little fishies! Swim!


She said...

Nice column. I can remember my mom always saying "To have a friend, you have to be a friend." I guess that's true everywhere. You have to put yourself out there and risk rejection but in the process you find good people. I always figure if one person doesn't like what I have to offer it's their loss. 3 or 4 others will come down the road who do want what I have to offer. I go a lot of places alone but a smile and being open brings new people to meet and new opportunities to do or learn new things. Took me a long time to learn that but life is good since I did.

Robin Badillo said...

I can certainly relate. The entire process of networking, constantly learning, endless promoting, while still trying to edit, write and improve your craft, is at times overwhelming and even discouraging and frustrating, but I guarantee that it's all worth it.
I learned recently, when disaster struck and I lost an entire completed 75,000 word MS due to some freak technical problem, that these loops will reach out to you in your time of need and see you through.
I not only retrieved and repaired the entire novel, but did so with the help of peers from my author loops.
You're a successful author in the making and we all believe in you...kind of lessens the intimidation factor, doesn't it?
Congrats on your contract and I look forward to visiting your blog again.

Sarah Ballance said...

Something tells me, C Zampa, you will be JUST FINE! And I'm quite the wallflower, but I will elbow through a whole room full of folks to be first in line for your book. ;c) Fantastic blog, as always!

C. Zampa said...

Welcome, She!
That's it in a nutshell. You do have to be a friend to make friends. It isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.

Thanks for visiting!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Robin!
What a horrible experience, to lose your work! But what a good example you shared about friends coming through. That is very uplifting, and think you SO much for sharing that! Makes me smile!

And thanks for the support! Yes, you're all there and it feels good to have the friendly community!

C. Zampa said...

Sarah Ballance, my friend, what a sweet thing to say!
You've helped me so much with this book, from its conception to this point. I thank you!

Big hugs.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Putting yourself out there in any circumstance is terrifying. I like the analogy between publishing and dating. It's a horrible step that has to be taken just so at the end of it all we can say we faced our fears.

I'm so proud of you.

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Joylene! Facing our fears. So many already faced, and so many yet to come with every step of being an author!

You've come such a long way in your journey, and I admire you for it! And I'm proud of YOU as well!

Hugs to you!

Natalie Dae said...

I understand exactly what you've said here. It is daunting. Good luck on your new loops! You're braver than me!


C. Zampa said...

Brave? LOL. Ay-ay-ay! Not brave, shaking the whole time! But so far, everyone's been so nice, and I'm getting over my fears.

You and I are just alike in that way, lady, and I know you DO know how I feel!

Hugs, my friend!

Debbie Gould said...

Great post C. It's kinda like when you're the new kid in school, coming in in the middle of the year. Scary stuff, wondering if you're going to be accepted.
I have no worries for you. You're peronalbe and know your stuff. Have fun. Meeting knew people can be a blast!

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Debbie!
It IS like starting in a new school, isn't it? Scary stuff!
Thanks, sweetie, for the kind words. I'm sure going to give it my best.

Nigel said...

How brave you are! Good luck.

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Nigel!
Nah, not brave. There's still time for me to chieken out! LOL.

Good to see you!

Laura G. said...

Great post, C.! Enjoyed the beginning and the popcorn. LOL But yeah, I get what you're saying. Most everyone's been there at one point or another. And you are so friendly, such a sweetheart, I have no doubt you'll be a Chuck to someone else soon. :)

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Laura! Nice to see you!
I wish I WAS as nice as you think! LOL. But you made me think of something...that I DO want to be a 'Chuck' to others. Sometimes we find ourselves 'invisible' in clubs, and having those warm 'Chucks' is a blessing!


Shopgirl said...

Your writing is not only engaging but also informative, a very difficult combination. I identified with your experience, but I'm still at the swimming with the coattail stage so I guess "Hi from a newbie!" :)

C. Zampa said...

Hi, and nice to meet you, Shopgirl! I love the name, reminds me of one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail.

I'm not so sure how I'm doing in the waters, either, a little swimming, a little floundering. LOL. But I'm going to stick it out.

We'll just hang on to each other and, in time, we'll get situated among the fishes!

Welcome, and so nice to meet you!