February 13th, 2017

Have Courage, Writers! Use the “Theory of the Duck”

Tasha Seegmiller

If you are like me, when you started this writing journey, you probably didn’t realize how much it would force you out of your personal box of comfort. You might have imagined sitting in a comfortable room that is almost too small for anything but you, your computer, a comfy chair, a desk of your choice, and bookshelves.

And there, you and your words and your ideas would embark on a synergistic journey of creative importance, you would have had poignant moments of learning about yourself and your characters, and then people would read your book and it’d be lovely and you’d repeat the process, mingling in times when you would meet with the people who you’d inspired and hear how your words impacted their life.

Then it happened. You went to send your words into the world only to hear about “agents” and “pitches” and “queries” and “conferences”. Networking and platform building may have bleeped across your radar and suddenly, all the work that you did to create the thing of beauty would be stuck unless you did one of three very scary things:

  1. Keep your writing to yourself.
  2. Publish the book yourself and persuade people to buy it.
  3. Try to entice an agent to love your book as much as you do so they can persuade someone to buy it.

Whichever option you may have selected, it’s scary. Not boogie man scary – this is more terrifying. This scary is putting yourself out there. This scary is putting your work out there. This scary is hoping with all hope that people will like your work. This is the kind of scary that, regardless of the path you choose, requires you to ask people to spend money on your work, to spend money on you.

Brené Brown said, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

And if you are reading this blog, I bet you’ve had some conversations with yourself. These are certain to be deeply personal, and they probably involve a bit of self-arguing. But if you are reading this blog, I’m guessing that you are exploring either option two or option three. And you might be working really hard to convince yourself that you are good enough, that you are brave enough, that you are deserving enough to have your work go out into the world.

When these kinds of situations occur in my life, I like to reference what I call The Theory of the Duck. It came to me a few years ago when I was helping high school students (and my own kids) try something they wanted to do, but found their want and their doubt were equally matched.

The theory of the duck is this: imagine a duck swimming across a pond. From far away to up close, the ducks motions are calm, smooth, seemingly intentional. But if you look under the water? The pace of the feet moving the duck across the water are going much faster that you’d assume looking on the surface.

When you are facing a thing that is challenging all your courage, the words you write, the pitches or queries that you send need to convey calm, certain, unflappable. If you are to engage in a scary conversation live? Your face is the duck, it is what you are conveying to the world around you. But under the surface? You can absolutely be freaking out, having your mind race through scenarios, anticipate reactions, or whatever you and your mind like to do in your own time. No one is going to see that part.

Some say that this is just “fake it till you make it”, and that may be true, but I see it more as the chance to allow you to learn to believe in yourself through seeing how others believe in you.

Because even the most accomplished people still have moments of imposter syndrome, but they have developed the habit of courage, have allowed it to stand in front of comfort as a means to advance through the struggles of a creative pursuit and to embrace a more fulfilled life.

How have you negotiated situations when your courage and your comfort are not in agreement? Have you struggled with imposter syndrome?

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About Tasha

Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.


She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @TashaSeegmiller

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