Feb
15
2016

If You’re a Little Scared, You’re Doing it Right

Last week, I attended my fourth consecutive Superstars Writing Seminar. The annual trip is a fantastic opportunity for me to reconnect with old friends, meet awesome new tribe members, and catch up on what has changed in the business of writing in the last year. While there is a ton of excellent material presented across the three days, one of the most anticipated talks of the seminar is always James A. Owen’s Drawing Out the Dragons.

I’m not going to ruin the talk for you by trying to paraphrase it here. Truth is, James’ story of struggle, choice, and triumph are best told by the man himself. Instead, I’ll skip to the end.

Each of the three other times I’ve seen that talk, Drawing Out the Dragons culminated in James drawing the dragon from the cover art of his first Imaginarium Geographica book.

Here There Be Dragons

I was lucky enough to win the dragon at my first Superstars and choose to hang it in my writing space.

While he does so, he reemphasizes the major themes of the talk and uses the drawing process as a metaphor to tie it all together. As he looked at the room of 130 people, he told us that this year he wanted to do something a little different.

The instructors of the seminar, he continued, give us lots of good advice. Write your book, pitch and submit it to editors and agents, and when it comes back with a rejection, always be ready to try again. However that’s easy for them to say, but hard for us to do. From our perspective, submissions are still scary. So to set an example he’d do something he was afraid of.

He’d draw the dragon, the same picture he had made hundreds of times before in books and on easels just like that one. But this time, he’d draw it with his off hand. He wasn’t sure he could do it, he said, it had been years since he had tried to draw anything at all with his left hand. He paused and looked at us nervously, stalling for a moment more.

Then something magical happened.

The silence was broken by a single, clear voice from the back of the room. “You can do it James!” Then a second, and suddenly a cacophony of encouragement and support. With a grin and a look of gratitude on his face he turned to the easel and drew.

He continued talking as the dragon took shape. As authors, he said, keeping yourself motivated and continuing to work is the hardest thing to do. When you write your next book, try to write something a little bit more complex than you think you can possibly pull off and then try to make it work. That’s how you grow.

You may have to be a bit more deliberate with your lines, but if you take your time and do your best, the easy times and hard times are nearly indistinguishable from the outside. When he stepped back, I saw that he was right. I could hardly tell the difference at all.

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