Last Wednesday morning, high on chocolate-raspberry coffee and too many sugary macaroons, I made my way to the first fall session of Tinderbox — 8 weekly workshops facilitated by Kimberly Brock. Of course I’d entered the wrong address into my GPS and ended up a few miles away, but, as per my usual M.O., I didn't panic or freak the hell out. I quickly entered the correct address and reached Broadwell Cottage on time. When I walked into the sun-dappled meeting room, a sense of serenity and acceptance washed over me. I was home, and these were my people.
My journey to Broadwell Cottage for the spring session wasn’t so bright and breezy. You see, driving scares the bejesus out of me. My overactive brain thinks I’ll lose control of my car, which will cause it to flip, and I’ll die from the resulting injuries. Morbid, I know.
Four years ago, after my family and I moved from Ireland to Atlanta, I got my first ever driver’s license at the age of 37. Over the following months, I gained some confidence on the roads, but not nearly enough to drive outside of a two-mile radius. For three years, there was no reason why I needed to venture outside of my safety circle. I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote when time allowed. I had my family, my friends, a Kroger, a Super Target, and three Starbucks nearby. All of my needs were met, weren’t they?
Nope. In May 2014, I took the route into self-publishing. A thrilling ride if ever there was one. By Christmas, I was burnt out. Self-doubt wrapped its spindly hands around my creative cup and filled it with loathing. Idiot. You think you’re a writer? Loser. You had to self-publish because no one else wanted you. Phony. You’re so ashamed of your writing; you hide behind a pen name.
Was I really all of those things? My writing friends, who, at the time, were mostly online, would say no. But my increasing uncertainty urged me to find real-life people who also fought in the self-doubt trenches. People who would understand what it’s like to have a brain wired to create and who might know how to conquer crippling fear. But here’s the thing, I run from new people and unknown environments like Wile E. Coyote’s snapping at my tail with metal teeth.
Curious about writing workshops and groups in my zip code, I asked my all-knowing friend Google to find some. A few clicks later, I found Kimberly’s blog. Her post What We Wish For touched me deeply. Here was a lady who spoke my language. The Tinderbox workshops sounded like the safe, creative space I needed. Hallelujah, right? Not so fast. A map search showed me the workshops would take place twenty minutes away from my house. It might as well have been in New York. No way no how could I drive there. I’d need an oxygen tank just to drive past Kroger—a whole 1.7 miles away.
But every few days, I’d browse through the Tinderbox website and then do a virtual drive of the route. I even had my husband drive us there so I could see how busy the roads were. But no matter how easy it seemed, I just couldn’t do it. After a particularly frustrating day where writing words was akin to wrestling adult alligators, I got a rush of the “screw its” and booked the workshop. No matter what it took, I was going.
The night before, I didn’t sleep.
The morning of, I didn’t eat.
I programmed the GPS and set out an hour earlier than needed. Do you think I got lost? Yup. Forty minutes into my drive, I pulled into a gas station in God-knows-where Atlanta. My hands shook so much that a kind trucker, who in my memory looks like Santa Claus, had to pump my gas. Tears filled my eyes, and I wanted to go home. But I stopped myself. If I didn’t make it to Broadwell Cottage, I would never get over my fear of driving, and I would forever hide behind my laptop screen afraid to reveal my true creative self to others.
Eventually, after several more wrong turns and many crumpled tear-filled tissues, I made it. I sat in my car relieved I was there, but terrified about walking through the doors. Again, self-doubt delighted in whispering all of the things I couldn’t do. There was no point going in because I wasn’t a writer. I was a wannabe. The voice of doom and gloom was right. Giving in, I turned the ignition. But then anger kicked my backside and pretty much kicked me out of the car.
I shuffled into the meeting room and sat by the door in case I needed a quick escape. I didn’t. On a beautiful Wednesday morning at the beginning of spring, I met five ladies who welcomed me with open arms and listened to my special kind of cray-cray without judgment. Over the following eight weeks, we cried, we created, we celebrated each other’s work, and we chatted like old friends. Self-doubt and the fear of driving will always be there, it’s who I am, but because I took a chance and went way out of my comfort zone, I reclaimed my creative joy.
My first drive to Tinderbox is very much like the creative journey many of us take. Moving towards your goals will be scary, at times petrifying, and several wrong turns may take you out of the way, but if you persevere, you’ll get there and what’s waiting at the other end will be worth every bump in the road.
tinderbox society blog
Life lived from your Creative Core.