Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Breaking Free of the Comfort Zone

As you may or may not know, I play poker online. It helps me relax and it uses a different part of my brain than writing (leaving the writing part to work out plot niggles or to just rest, as need be). Anyway, I play the low stakes tournaments. I'm comfortable there. If I lose, I don't lose much, so there're no worries about going broke and having to reload. On the other hand, if I win, I don't win much. A piffle. My bankroll never really goes down, but it never really goes up either.

Now, looking at the play money bankrolls I have at various places around the online poker world, I know I'm good at this. One site has me at over two million in play money. Another site was closer to three million before I stopped playing there. But I still don't play bigger tournaments. (And yes, it took me a long time to reach those stacks playing for beans.)

The problem is fear, of course. I'm a chicken. A big chicken, as a matter of fact. I can't seem to bring myself to take the risk. Which also means I can't reap the rewards. I was thinking about this yesterday and came to the realization that this big-chicken-ness drifts into other parts of my life--namely writing--and it has the same consequences.

I'm working on polishing (re-re-re polishing) Spectacle to make it presentable for a publisher. But I'm not working very hard. I'm dragging my feet. I'm inventing excuses to not work on the book. In short, I'm being a big HUGE chicken. You see, the idea of submitting to a publisher is outside my comfort zone. Sure, I've done it before. Twice before. Four years and four ready-for-publication manuscripts and I've only submitted to publishers twice.

Big chicken.

I believe in my writing ability, like I believe in my poker skills, but making that jump to the bigger risk is freaking me out. And if you've ever played poker, you know that fear is the quickest way to lose. If you're afraid your pocket Jacks will get beat, you'll never push all-in with them, and you'll end up getting beat by some moron with 8-7 offsuit who gets lucky flopping a straight. If you're afraid your manuscript will get rejected, and don't send it in, someone else's book will get published while yours gathers dust in a corner. In either case, someone else wins.

And you lose.

So, last night I decided... To hell with my comfort zones. No more excuses. I will finish polishing Spectacle and get it out to the publisher before their submission window closes and I'm left standing in the snow like The Little Matchgirl (read at your own risk - it's not one of Hans Christian Anderson's happier tales).

And who knows, I might just play for higher stakes today. I might lose some big money, but I could win bigger money, too.



Travis Erwin said...

Great post that I can relate to on all levels. I've began wondering if my inability to come up with a satisfactory ending to my WIP is just a defense mechanism.

Funny thing is though while I hate query letters I love to pitch my book in person. also I don't play much online poker anymore because I tend to play too much by the number sand play cautious, but at a live table I get bolder and play hunch and reads from other players more. I've never won an online tournament even though I once played several every week, but I ahve won a handful of live action tourney including one at the alddin in Vegas.

By the way I'm heading to Vegas in two weeks.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm jealous. Not because I want to play poker in Vegas, but because I miss the city. I've never played poker in person. I have no poker face. I've won some online tourneys, and can usually money if I don't play stupid. But I am very impressed about your live wins. Maybe I'll be seeing you on TV someday doing the WSOP or the Heartland Poker tour.

Debs said...

I have no idea how to play poker but loved this post and agree with you.

I have a problem coming out of my comfort zone but try to remember that it's all part of writing. I'm always re re re polishing too. Get yours out there and best of luck.

Arashmania said...

Roosevelt I think it was who said that the only thing we need to fear is fear itself. And yes, it's quite true. Nobody likes rejections, but guess what ... once they start coming in (and they surely will) you kind of shrug and say, oh well, what's another rejection. I've read that famous published writers have once had to wallpaper their rooms with rejection slips! Besides if publishers should accept one's work, how much more to celebrate, how many poker games!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Debs. It'll be ready soon, and then off it goes.

Thanks, too, arashmania. I'm no stranger to rejection letters, though. Just not too many from publishers. I could probably wallpaper my office with the ones I have from agents.