Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Camp Jitters

I've got 22 days until I cross the Atlantic for adventures in writing on the Emerald Isle. And I've got full-on Camp Jitters. Because the Singing Over the Bones writing workshop--taking place at the postcard-perfect Anam Cararetreat--is going to include full-on legit writers. And I'm feeling nervous. I'm feeling anything but full-on legit.

I know I'm a writer in the most basic definition of the term. But (like most real writers, I can only assume), I am insecure about my work. My goal for this retreat is to come away with a half-way-decent rewrite of the manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2014. I need to smooth out the rough edges. Buff up the story. Surgically connect all the pieces. Make it... well... a book.
I'm the Pinocchio of Communication majors. I just want to be a real writer. And that is why I have camp jitters. I'm sure you are familiar with this particular variety of jitters.

What if they don't like me?

What if I'm not good enough?

What if they steal my underwear and run it up the flagpole? No, wait. That was the summer camp after 6th grade.

I found this article from the Child Mind Institute*: 13 tips to get your child ready for summer camp 

Here are the tips they suggest to ease Camp Jitters. I will be replacing every instance of "your child" with "Elys" and "camp" with "workshop." Kind of like rhetorical psychology Mad Libs.

1)   Let Elys feel a sense of ownership over the workshop experience. 
I'm gonna own this.... I'm gonna own this.... I'm gonna own this....

Maybe if I keep saying it. Just like Cam Newton. Oh, wait...

2)   Help Elys get excited about camp. 
I've been packed for a month. So, yeah, I'm excited.

3)   Avoid focusing on what makes Elys anxious.
This is a tricky one, because I am feeling most anxious about the very thing that is at the core of this whole trip. The writing. I am not a nervous flyer. I know how to find my way with a map. My phone will work to stay in touch with the Kiddo. I'm only nervous about one think. It just happens to be THE thing.

4)   Don't trivialize Elys's concerns or offer glib reassurances. 
Actually, all glib reassurances will be welcome at this point.

5)   Focus on concrete details in conversations leading up to and during the workshop
Oh, the details. The beautiful, beautiful details.

6)   Reflect on your own formative experiences away from home and share positive aspects of them with Elys
One of the things I want to get out of this retreat is new perspectives on my writing. I keep finding myself driving my stories to a dead end. But instead of backing up and starting over, I think it's important for me to learn how to simply blow through those walls. I'm looking for that ammunition. I think I will find it in Ireland. 

7)   Go through "rehearsals." 
Pfft. I've been "rehearsing" my writing for years. I need to actually take it to the public at some point. Might as well be now.

8)   Don't linger at the bus stop. 
I'm going to miss my Kiddo so much! But I know he is safe and happy with his dad. 

9)   Make communication easy and accessible.
Anam Cara has WiFi and Verizon has an international plan. So, done and done.

10)   Have goals for each letter or conversation, so Elys will come away focused on how she is adjusting, rather than on how much she wants to come home.
But what if I never want to come home? That seems like the real danger. Especially in this election year.

11)   Try not to communicate your own anxiety.
I don't know about this one. Knowing other people are anxious about this retreat might actually help ease my own jitters.

12)   Help Elys formulate realistic, goal-oriented plans for making friends or toasting the perfect marshmallow or passing a swimming test. 
I've already solved the friend issue by bringing my best friend with me. I highly recommend that approach. As far as other goals go, my main goal is to sculpt my Badlands book into a form that I can share with other people.

And then, share it with other people. 

13)   If Elys has psychiatric or learning issues, don't keep them a secret.  
Oy. It has become more and more evident that I never do learn. But, most artists are crazy, right? Even if it is only a little bit crazy? 

Stupid fucking camp jitters. What if they don't like me?What if I'm not good enough?

But what if... just what if... I find out I really am kind of a decent writer?

I think with that, I will sign off this blog for a while, and move over to my travel blog. Where I guarantee you will find lots more insecurity and nervousness. And a lot of pictures of wonderful Ireland. Follow along with my "camp" experience at TravelPod.

*Let's be honest. My mind is not childlike. But probably right at home in an institution.