By CL Bledsoe
I have no idea what I’m doing in any area of my life — including writing — but my personal philosophy could be best summed up as:
Throw yourself off the cliff. You’ll figure out how to fly on the way down.
Or you’ll hit the ground, hard. Either way, something will happen.
I’m a big believer in momentum. Do something. Anything. Put yourself out there in some way. You’re bound to bump up against some opportunities. Sure, you’ll also probably encounter hardships, bad stuff, traffic, etc. Life is chaos, after all. But even seemingly weird things might lead somewhere interesting and helpful, even if it isn’t obviously apparent.
I could give you all kinds of examples from my own life of things that’ve had a much larger impact or led to much cooler things than I expected. Another way of expressing my philosophy is:
Take every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how small they seem.
I have two caveats for this. One is that you have to be smart about it. I used to do a lot of poetry readings. When I had a kid (and got older and lazier) I became more selective of reading opportunities; i.e. I wasn’t willing to drive an hour or three to read poetry for five minutes to six people. This had repercussions, though. If you say no to people, they stop asking you. It might only take one time. People definitely stopped asking, and giving readings really helped me build up an audience. But travel (and expense) meant time away from my daughter, and since I became a co-parent, time with my daughter has become sacrosanct. But time with my daughter is much more important to me, right now. I directed my energies towards being present (physically, mentally, and emotionally) with her, and it has led to so many opportunities for growth and joy. So I took advantage of the opportunities, just not necessarily the ones I would’ve expected.
The other caveat is that most of the opportunities I’ve had, I sought out. I just might not have realized what they would lead to. Going back to readings, when I moved to northern Maryland, I looked around for local magazines to submit to. I found this crazy little local one called Artichoke Haircut and sent them something. They liked it, published it, and announced a launch party reading. I asked if I could read (again, they didn’t offer outright, but they were open to it). I had no idea what to expect, but that reading did so much for me. It was my introduction to the local scene, in many ways. I met so many awesome people.
This sort of thing has happened so many times. Similarly, my first poetry collection was picked up but took forever to come out (years). I ended up totally rewriting it, pulled a bunch of poems out, and turned that into a chapbook. A local press took it, and I met the amazing editor and cover artist who ran it. The editor has invited me to read all over the place and continues to. I’ve met so many people through this — including the person I ended up starting the How To Even…blog with.
Of course, I’ve done plenty of readings that led nowhere — not even to book sales — and published plenty of things that went no further. But even that much was a success.
In my personal life, I could give all sorts of examples. My last major relationship started because I reached out to someone to do a reading with me. We hit it off and started dating. We were together for a couple years. Ultimately, it didn’t work out, but it was definitely a good thing for me at the time. We never did do that reading.
None of these things I’ve described were necessarily what I expected or even would’ve sought out. I just put myself out there, and things happened. As long as you’re moving, you’ll encounter opportunities. And those opportunities will lead to more. So keep moving.