I have the impression that writers tend to undersell themselves. I see writers underselling themselves all the time, a habit that comes hand in hand with lack of self confidence and general bambozzlement. I keep coming across this with writers who are asked to talk about their work and writers who are asking for funding. Whether we fear we aren’t worthy, or we fear rejection or we fear what others will think of us, it’s time to unpack it. Sit ourselves down and give ourselves a good talking to.

Perhaps it’s a theatre thing, or an Australian cultural thing or a women thing (most playwrights are women), but playwright’s are backward in coming forward. They would rather be safe than ‘sorry’. What’s so good about the safe zone, anyhow, and what would it benefit you to bust out of your comfort zone?

What writing zone do you most find yourself in?

There is the Comfort Zone: where the writer is satisfied to work at a snug pace, dismissing or maybe just blanking every opportunity that comes knocking because, you know, they’re not going to get that. Why bother? It’s like you are snugged up on the comfy couch with your lap top, content to be perpetually emerging.

Next, there’s the Slightly Stretchy Zone: where the writer entertains low-key out of the box feelings about the mission they’re on, the possibility that this writing project could all go pear-shaped, perhaps vague inklings that you may be discovered as an imposter and any minute someone is going to stand up and announce you clearly are “out of your depth, you should be replaced.” The discomfort is real. You’re sweating it. Maybe you’re just crap? But, you know you’ve got this.

Then, there’s the PANIC Zone: where the writer is a bunny in the headlights. So panicked they cannot speak, but their mind is experiencing critical cascade. Your thought process is something like this…’This is crazy. Don’t even. You’re out of your mind if you think you’re up to this. I’m too small potato; this is big potato. NO! I’m still emerging!! I’ll make a fool of myself, what will people think when I screw up?’ One thing for sure, that comfy couch seems a long way away at this point. Then the magic happens.

Thing is, the Panic Zone is about the only place the writer you will have a chance to grow. Our reluctance to step into the panic zone is absolutely all about our lack of confidence to grow. Of course, we give ourselves reasons to not be ambitious that are perfectly reasonable and perfectly designed to keep us protected from the possibility of rejection and failure.

Get in the zone. Even if there appears to be one hundred reasons to not apply for that grant, or you imagine there will be much worthier applicants, do it. Even when you’ve never worked on this type of script, especially if you have never worked on this type of script, do it. See that director whose work you admire in the theatre foyer—go and introduce yourself! Give them a bit of a pitch about your latest play while you’re at it. Thinking you’ll never get a lit agent? Hey, sure you won’t—if you don’t ask. Be ludicrously ambitious. Feel the panic and do it anyway.

Because on the other side of the Panic Zone, there is a new zone. The confidence zone. And you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

PS: The truth is, we are always emerging writers. We should never stop emerging into the next challenge.

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