Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm Afraid...

Over on the SRW’s private blog, where members can post snippets for critique and writing exercises appear weekly (or bi-weekly), a blitz is in full swing. May Blitz to be exact. Those who wish to participate have set goals for the month and report in (if they can) nightly. I always find if there’s a time period and a challenge, I will write – writing will take priority. It’s the reason I love Book-in-a-Week and why others love the November writing frenzy known as NaNoWriMo. Since my life turned on its head at the end of April, my writing goal will not be met – but that hasn’t stopped me from creating the daily posts that include a motivational quote. And I’m trying my best to keep current with the comments and cheering the blitzers on from the sidelines.

On Day 13, because of the whole triskaidekaphobia, I focused on fear. Here’s the blogpost:

"Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads." Erica Jong
There were so many quotes on conquering the fear that sometimes leaves us immobile. Erica Jong is an amazing writer, so she gets the honor on this our thirteenth day of Blitz. Find your courage and write your story. And in the comments tell us (if you want) what is the one thing you fear most about following your dream.

It occurred to me after I posted that I was asking people admit their fears out loud. Most people are reluctant to share what they fear most, down right ‘afraid’ to verbalize the darkness that lurks behind a dream most friends and family believe is unattainable. I decided that if I wanted people to comment, then I had better step up to the plate. So here’s what I fear most –

I will never finish another manuscript.

Craft issues are bogging me down - creating havoc with my story telling. The daunting task of endless re-writes makes me tired just thinking about them. The hours of research to make sure everything I write is accurate so that no one will accuse me of getting my facts wrong. The wild plots I dream up fizzle when I play them out in my mind and realize they are not believable. And the rejections I’ve received for Lady Bells hurt, so why would I subject myself to that again?

This fear haunts me every time I boot up my laptop. When I pick up a pen to jot down a note or two (as Muse whispers in my ear), this fear mocks me. Discussions about works-in-progress make me cringe with the knowledge that this fear intends to keep them forever works-in-progress. This fear threatens to end my dream of novel writing.

When I decided to make this my blog post for The Chicks (and realized just how powerful my fear had become), I went Googling. Here are some suggestions to help conquer the fear.

Name Your Fear – One of the best ways to move on. Well, I’ve named it. It’s still here!

Do Not Give Fear Power – Henry Ford is credited for the quote "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." I've given it too much.

One Step at a Time – I’ll never finish a manuscript if I don’t write. One sentence leads to one paragraph that leads to one page…

Be Bold – Become the antithesis of your fear. Create a world where your fear does not exist. Act as if that manuscript (or two, or three) are finished. A self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

Create a Support Network – Writers are a wonderful group of supportive, enthusiastic, generous people. I am lucky to have that support network in place. And now that I’ve named my fear, I know those friends will help me overcome it. The same way they accept and cheer me on toward my goal of publication.

I'm ready to conquer my fear. I'm going to kick it to the curb, throw it under the bus - whatever other youth slang fits in this situation. And the first thing I'm going to do is to believe that I can finish another manuscript. No - visualize that finished manuscript!

So, People of Blogland, what do you fear? How does that fear stand in the way of your short-term and long-term goals? Do you think that fear holds us back or is it merely an excuse we pull out when our dreams and aspirations seem to be insurmountable? Stay tuned – next Friday I’ll give equal time to fear’s archenemy – success.

Janet (who refuses to be afraid any more)


Hayley E. Lavik said...

This is a great topic to bring forth Janet, not only because it's valuable to take the time to state the fear, but also because this is a perfect environment to do so in. With so many encouraging and supportive writers going through the same things every day, we can help boost each other up.

As I said on the SRW blog, I fear what happens if I'm putting all my eggs in one basket and they go bad. As I said in Anita's post yesterday, this is the story I want to write, and anything else rattling around in my head expands off it, involving similar characters, places, plotlines that can't take place if this book doesn't happen first. If that concept just doesn't fly, what then?

It's a far-away concern, but it affects the now just as much. If I let this story build into The Thing I want to write, it takes on the qualities of a magnum opus... and then if that magnum opus fails, generates no interest, never sees the light of day... what on earth would I do then? I don't want that prospect to make me hesitant to finish it, and potentially only get pushed aside if it doesn't amount to anything. I could easily see it becoming The Thing I Work On, because as long as it's not done, I'm still perfecting it and then no one can say it was just a draft that didn't work.

It's not a fear of rejection, so much as a fear of getting complacent. All this time working on it, with people asking what I do and not really getting it, I want something to show for it. I don't want it to become that thing I'm always doing while refusing to admit I'm actually just not doing anything, and I don't want it to become that subtle joke, "So, how's the novel coming?"

But talking about it, on the blogs and in person lately, makes me realize how damned driven I am to finish this, and how much I absolutely have to tell this story. It's the thing I need to work on, the story I need to tell. I have to finish it, and I have to get it down. If it doesn't sell, then I'll subject family and friends to years worth of literary stocking stuffers, and it will at least be out of my head and where it belongs. I can deal with what comes next after. For now, I have an argument to finish, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Silver James said...

Great post, Janet. I fear being a "fraud." I've told myself for years and years (and years) that I can write every bit as good as anyone out there who is published (well...90% of them anyway - lol). So now I've sold a book. It will be published sometime in the next year. (Waiting sucks!) And here I am. Is it really good enough? Will people (other than a handful of friends and family) read? If they read it, will they like it? Will I ever sell another?

We writers are an emotional lot, I fear. Right brain/left brain, imagination/reality, creativity/productivity... All we can do is keep putting one word after the other and hope at the end of the day we've written a coherent sentence. And speaking of... *cracks whip* Hayley, finish the MS! I want to read it. And Janet, as soon as life calms down, get back to it! You guys (and everyone else who hangs out here) are much too talented NOT to make it, if that's your dream. But until you finish, polish, and submit, your dream is going to languish. (So says she who whistles in the dark...)

Ban said...

what can i say - Hayley said it all ... well maybe i can add:
my story has always been something that's lived in my head. in there it is safe and mine. i don't have to worry about whether or not it gets done, what people think of it or me or how good i am at telling it. but now, i've decided to finish it and scarier still - i've decided to share it ...
and. i. am. afraid.

Karyn Good said...

One of my more immediate fears was never finishing the 1st rewrite on the first draft. I was sure I'd be working on it forever. May Blitz has helped with that in that my goal was 5 pages a day. I can do 5 pages a day (usually) consistently. So the one step at a time idea is really working for me. A brainstorming session with Janet also helped me see how to get to the end and that lessened the fear of never finishing just a little bit more. It's still there but it possesses less power.

I guess my biggest overall fear is never being good enough to publish anything. Ever. I boot that one to the curb as often as I can!

Erika said...

I fear failure. I fear not being "good enough". I read everyone else's work and think how mine pales in comparison. How I'll never be "that good". I try to remember that everyone has their own style and readers all have their own tastes. How my friend Linda loves J.A. Jance and I really don't care for her stuff. Not that I think it's badly written, but the stories just don't grab me. I try to remember all of those things while the scared little girl in the back of my mind screams at me "You suck at this! Give it up!"

I also fear finishing my first draft and not understanding or being able to make the changes for a first edit, second edit and the polishing stages.

Okay, I feel better, for now. Good post Janet.

Janet said...

I hear you, Hayley. I often wonder if friends and family are getting fed up with my Lady Bells saga. Sometimes, I can't stand myself talking/working on it!

It's hard when you're working on a project that future projects hinge on. It's kind of like branding - if I write medieval, then I should continue in that vein so when the first gets published, I'll be ready with the second. BUT, what if the first doesn't fly? A double edged sword, eh?

And I understand about the 'story to tell'. Lady Bells will see the light of day - it has to. So, keep going, Hayley. You're an amazing writer and I love the story you're telling. And your writer friends understand and will support you :)

Janet said...

Silver - another fear of mine. But I've read your writing - you are going to be great.

I know this isn't the best thing to say, but I'm glad to hear that you have fears. I've heard of authors who have the 'second book syndrome', fear that the second book will be as good as the first.

I'm thinking fear is important - if we embrace it, face it, prove it wrong, then we're moving forward. And moving forward means we're getting closer to our long-term goal. If we let it win, then our dream dies. I'm not ready for that to happen.

Baby steps - we all need to remember baby steps.

Janet said...

ban - you make a valid point. In our head, our stories are just that, stories. Out in the open - the goal verbalized - suddenly people look at us differently, ask us questions we may be uncomfortable answering, force us to move forward with our goals.

As for you sharing - I'm so glad you did. Your writing is wonderful. Besides, if you didn't share, if you kept your writing and YOU hidden away, we would never have met. I include you in my writing family.

And we'll face our fears together :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I'm kind with Silver here. So I've sold a few books to a couple of small publishers. So what? Will I ever make it with a large publisher? Do I even have what it takes to make it in the big time - emotionally, energy-wise, talent-wise?

I'm not afraid of not finishing a manuscript anymore. I know I can do that. The question now is when I do finish it will it be any good? And then the questions after that are will I be able to sell this one, or am I just done? And if I do sell it, will anyone actually read it?

I think you're right Janet. Fear is important if you use it the right way. If we use it to motivate us to write the best work possible, maybe it can be a positive force. We just can't let it paralyze us.


Janet said...

I'm so glad the Blitz is working for you, Karen. How long do they say it takes to create a habit - 3 months? So, if you can do 5 pages everyday - then when life gets rough, you have that knowledge in the back of your mind. And you can continue on. I was hoping to get that done with Blitz - but it's not working out that way.

And do you think we all have that fear of never being good enough? Is it the artist's way as Silver suggested? A creative endeavor is not only solitary, but one that needs to be nurtured carefully before it bears fruit.

One word at a time...

Janet said...

I'm glad you're feeling better, Erika - maybe giving voice to our fear really is the first step in conquering it.

I believe I have that same little girl in my head - she literally laughs hysterically when I think of my name on a book, my royalties, a book tour. I believe her favorite line is "Don't quit your day job!"

I also believe the universe gives you exactly what you need when you need it. So revisions, re-writes - you'll find the information you need at that time.

One word at a time, Erika. And could I also put out there - 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. We can't fail at success with all the work we're doing :)

Janet said...

We are an insecure lot, Jana. I look forward to the day my book is published and I'm ready to sell the next one - but I know I will be forever fearful of that next step. What if this story is not as good? What if no one reads it? What if they do and I need to write another one - will I find a story that is compelling? What if someone reads my book and questions my facts? What if, what if, what if...

I used to have a saying in university, back when I was out looking for jobs and faced with moving away from home, meeting new people, attempting a new career. "What's the worst that can happen?" It helped to relieve some of my anxiety.

My other saying to help with the jitters was "Will it matter when I'm 80?" I know that if I don't pursue my dream, then it will matter. I'll have regret. If nothing comes of it, I'll be able to say I tried.

Silver James said...

Janet, when you're 80, it only matters if you have a tattoo. *gigglesnort*Jana, I'm glad I'm not the only one. And this is a fairly common fear of all published writers, I've discovered. Including some best-selling authors.

I wonder if those little girls masquerade as our Muses sometimes? (Except my negative voice occasionally sounds shrilly like my mother... I'm sure Freud would have a field day with that.)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Janet. Before I tell you of my fear, however, I have to tell you what I don't fear. Maybe then you'll understand...

I don't fear not having my book published. Yeah, it sounds conceited, but I don't see it that way. I write inspirationals and even my non-inspies have an inspirational message. I refuse to take credit for my stories. I believe God has put those stories in my mind and He has someone in mind to read them. It's out of my hands. My stories will be published according to His timing... my job is to write them and get them out there, and to walk in faith that the person who needs the story will eventually get a hold of it.

So, if I don't fear the publishing process, what do I fear?

I fear that something will happen to me (like dying) after my book is sold and before I can hold it in my hands as proof that I did what I had to do. Whoever the story is intended for will still receive it...
... but I want to hold my book ...

And if you think I'm a bit off my rocker, consider this true story:

Janet Edgar, married over 30 yrs, sold her first novel to Steeple Hill after years of being a mbr of RWA and ACFW:

- She died May 17, 2005.

- Her debut Steeple Hill Suspense novel, The Inn at Shadow Lake, was released Dec 2006.

That's my greatest fear. Selfish, huh.

Janet said...

Silver - the tattoo only matters if you're not smart enough to get one that will morph into a wrinkle dog! I'm working on my design so that at 80, my tattoo will draw oohs and ahs from the crowd at the 'home' :)

Erika said...

LMAO! Tattoo rocks at the "home".

Helena said...

An admitted fear is not nearly as daunting as one hidden away from the light of day. So you have initiated a good thing, Janet.

A shared fear is even better. The comments so far indicate that writers have a lot of fears in common. Somehow it's reassuring to hear that our own experience is not that different from all the other writers who are working hard at whatever stage they're at in the process. And, when you hear about the number of submissions it took for some big-name authors to get published, it diminishes our own fear. (Somewhat!)

If I can paraphrase my own words from the SRW blog: one of my biggest fears is that I will not get to write all the things that I would like to, and that I will not be able to achieve the quality of work that I feel I could. This is partly because writing as a serious pursuit has come rather late in my life, so I can't afford a long apprenticeship period. On the other hand, I balance that fear with the knowledge that I can focus on writing as intensively as I wish because I answer only to myself. So I try hard to create the solitude, referred to in the Erica Jong quote, that I need in order to nurture my writing.

(How selfish is that, Anita?)

Janet, I hope you find this exploration invigorating, leading you to renewed enthusiasm for what you have written so far (never give up on what you've achieved) and for all those manuscripts that the rest of us know you have simmering inside. That goes for everybody who has shared a fear or two today.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, you can talk my ear off for years on end about Lady Bells and I'll never get tired. And in return, I'll badger you about Eventide for years on end. Sound good?

Branding is a good point. I think I'd always be writing a similar sort of fantasy (with the exception of possible brief detours into steampunk or something), but I'd prefer to be known for the story that's close to my heart than something I wrote for the sake of it, especially if it took my branding in another direction. Can you imagine me having to 'write another fireball story' every three years to maintain the brand? Noo!

Janet said...

Anita - when I was looking up 'conquering your fear' on the best search engine in the world (I love Google), faith was a major factor in the articles I read. And your faith in why you're writing, what motivates you, is amazing.

I am reminded, reading your comments, of the boy and the boat. Without getting into the actual parable - I always wonder if I'm missing the message. Perhaps this journey isn't about publication, but about another aspect of writing. I guess what I'm trying to say, is keep the eyes open.

And the story of the author who died - very, very sad. So, Anita, take your fear and conquer it - look after your health so that when that book comes off the press, you can hold it in your hands :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Well Janet, I think the message with the boy and the boat is that he was too obstinate. Yes, he waited for God to save him, but he had this preconceived notion as to what God looked like. God offered to save him 3 different times in 3 different forms. But the boy kept waiting for this image of what he thought was God.

I think there could be a message there for writers:
We might think we know the best place to publish our book, but is it?
Or we might think we know the best agent for our work, but what if there's someone better we just don't know about?
We have to remember to keep our eyes open for hidden opportunities which may present themselves without warning.

And even if it's not our dream publisher (like Harlequin for me) or our dream agent, it's still a start - our foot in the door.

Like my submission for TWRP and how it came about because of an anniversary party on a blog of all things.

How's that for an analogy?

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet, I just re-read your comment and saw your last line. Oops - sorry for not paying attention. Kinds preachy today, aren't I- LOL

Janet said...

Helena, I was hoping you would post here today. Your comments on the private blog - and now here - are so appropriate for any writer at any stage. We all have fears with these dreams we hold dear to our hearts - our job is to decide to let them rule us or face them head on, no matter what stage of our career we're in (or how many advanced years we think we have).

Nuturing our dream, our quest, our writing should take precedent - to ignore it would be to end it and, like you, I'm not ready to give up on that.

Thank you for your kind words and support. With a community of writers such as we have here and with SRW how can we not succeed?

Janet said...

Thanks for correcting me on that parable - I always manage to get them mixed up, or try and explain something with the wrong analogy.

As I said earlier, I believe the universe gives us exactly what we need at the point in time we need it. We just have to be smart enough or open enough to receive the message. You, girl, obviously had your eyes open with The Wild Rose Press opportunity.

Captain Hook said...

Chiming in late, guys.

A lot of writer's fears boil down to one thing (in fact every fear listed here except for Anita's fall into this category) - Isuckitis.

My friend Glam does an excellent post in it (

My personal fear falls into Isuckitis too. Lately crits have called my writing amateurish and basic. So, yeah, I worry that my writing isn't good enough to stand up. What if I get published and then trashed by famous authors like Stephanie Meyer did (although if I sold as many books, I think I could handle it)? What if, when I do get published, I don't sell a single book? Because I know my family won't buy them.

Janet said...

Love that, Cap't. And it's good to see you back on The Prairies.

Yes, Isuckitis is a major disease amongst writers and I dare so artists of any kind. I always think of the American Idol try-outs - all those kids whose parents and friends have told them they have talent - then they sing on national TV. I worry that my writing will be just like that - thank goodness there is no American Novelist reality TV show! Bad enough sending partials off to unknown agents and getting the form rejection. At least there I can wallow in the confines of my own house :)

I must get back to Lady Glam's blog - she has some great craft articles if anyone is interested (