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I was all set to write an article on how the writing process makes me blissfully happy. It was going to go like this: I would sit down in my favorite writing space (my grandmother’s couch in my living room, facing the fireplace, with a freshly brewed cup of coffee by my side) and walk you through my process in my authentic writing voice.

I planned to share how happy it makes me feel when I write articles for newspapers, magazines, and books, explaining the difficult roadblocks and triumphs. The entire writing process makes me fully content and happy. But as I gave the topic more thought, my storyline crumbled like a stale cookie.

While it’s nice to have goals and map out how you’re going to achieve them, delving deeper and growing wiser with age, I have come to realize that facing the fear of the unknown when you are writing is where the true magic happens. And it makes me blissfully happy.

Facing the unknown when you’re writing may seem like a - there is no other way to describe it - yucky part. Because it’s scary! You don’t know what’s going to happen. Will they like it? Hate it? What if they think it’s stupid?

Let me tell you a story about how I embraced the unknown just a few months ago while working on my latest novel, “The Most Amazing Department Store,” and realized how happy this part of writing makes me feel.

Picture the scene. I was sitting in a beautiful writing area (Grandma’s couch, as mentioned above). I was reading over my latest edits from my manuscript, and my editor asked me to fix a scene. For whatever reason, it was not working.

Panic rushed through my veins as I asked (yes, out loud as I paced around the house), “How the heck am I going to fix this? I thought my scene was perfectly fine. What can’t she understand? What does she want?”

Being the – ahem- mature woman that I am, I couldn’t call her up and whine, “What do you meeeaaan?” Okay, I could, but I decided to let her constructive criticism rest in my head so I could think it through. During times like these, I always think of the great Victor Frankl who said:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

And then I went for a walk, without any music or podcast playing. I allowed my body to release all tension. Hoped, okay prayed, that the answer to fix the damn scene would seep into my subconscious. Come on, growth and freedom, I chanted!

Then I sat back in my favourite spot and opened my laptop ready to work.

No, I wasn’t ready to work. I heavily sighed as if I was facing an Ikea desk to assemble. It was time to pull out the big guns: my neighbourhood coffee shop.

But I didn’t go at that moment. It had to be super early, when it’s still dark outside and quiet. Work with me – this is my thing.

The next morning, I got up at the crack of dawn, kissed my husband adieu, packed my things, and walked to the writing destination that means business. No offence Grandma, sometimes your couch doesn’t work. On my way there, I smiled, and, like a burp that comes out of nowhere after eating a burrito, a giggle escaped.

Can you feel the giddiness? This is the magic I was talking about. I had no idea how this was going to turn out and how I was going to do it. But I was going to try because I had a story that I needed to tell, and nothing was going to get in my way to tell it.

Can you see the pain I was going through? The anguish? The panic? This was hard stuff, and it felt like I was outgrowing something. It was painful, like a lobster trying to grow out of its shell. I heard they scream. And, darling, so was I, and I was loving it.

Back to my travels to the coffee shop. There I was, walking briskly in the cold Toronto air, crossing my arms over my winter coat to penetrate extra body heat. I shook my head, thinking about my choice of a career. What the heck am I doing? I could be a… or a… or sleeping! But nooooo.. I chose to write!

As I entered the coffee shop, a barista recognized me right away, hollering, “Hey, Sharon!” The greeting, which was very much welcomed after the bitterly cold journey, felt like he put his arm around me and told me the words I needed to hear, which were “You got this.”

I laughed as I waved my hand and marched right up to the cash to order my ‘usual’ from him. Holding the cup of warmth in my hand and letting the aroma of the coffee reach my nose, I quietly smiled and gently nodded my head, thinking that I needed to be here. At this coffee shop. To work. Nowhere else would do. A sense of calm surfaced as I took off my coat and arranged my workspace.

I opened my laptop, took my first sip of coffee, and dove in, typing while I trusted my instincts. I gave it my all. Doubt, “you are not welcome here.”

Two hours later, I was so happy that I was almost crying. I felt like I ran a marathon and broke through the finish ribbon.

What if she doesn’t like it? What if it’s no good? There’s that doubt again. “I told you to go away!” I said to myself, reassuring my inner child that if that happened, I would repeat this process again. I did, but in another area of the book.

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Love,
Judy