Okay, if there is any one subject that most writers are qualified to speak on it is the subject of fears. After all, we deal with them daily with our characters and we deal with them daily with our own personal writing fears. I don't know of any writer who doesn't have at least one fear directly related to their writing and if they tell me they don't then I want to know what kind of medication they are on because I need to go get some. Any time that we as writers put anything out there for others to see we run the risk of rejection, the fear of being rejected... whether it is by a critique partner, an editor, agent, or the general public when our book hits the shelves... we have all experienced that that momentary or monumental element of fear.
Here, I am going to talk about just a couple of the ones that I deal with on a daily basis. There is the fear of failure, that we won't be able to complete the manuscript, or that it will be accepted. There is a fear of success, and for those of you who scoff at this, it is a very real thing. There are many people who have sabotaged their own careers because they were afraid that they would not be able to live up to the expectations presented to them. These are the people who don't believe others when they are told that what they have written is worthy, or they prefer to back away when given the opportunity to present themselves to someone who is projecting interest in them. Let me tell you about a writer who as a rule at times comes across confident and knowledgeable... but one year at the great RWA conference she ran into Suzy Editor in the elevator and, after striking up a friendly, non-confrontational conversation with the editor was just starting to get over her fears of the editor walking in disgust at her very being when IT happened.... (que the gloomy music). Suzy Editor asked the writer what she was working on... and immediately every thought escaped the writers mind. She was left completely blank and worse she found herself responding in a way that sounded as if she wasn't dedicated to what she was doing... something along the lines of "Oh, I'm working on a Romantic Suspense, but it isn't done yet." Arghhhhh! Instead of taking the opportunity to pitch when asked she failed miserably and lost the opportunity. That writer was me! Yup, I was the brainless idiot in the elevator! And the reason that I failed was because every shred of confidence in myself and my writing disappeared when attention was turned to me.
Okay, so how do we combat this? Sometimes, it just takes time. Sometimes, it is nothing more than giving yourself the quiet time to stand back and say to yourself "This is ridiculous. I can't let this get in my way." And sometimes, you need to hear that there others who understand it the way you do. That they have been there just as you have. As you can see from this post, I've been there.
Here are just a few goals that I've used to combat the fears:
- Give yourself permission to feel these things, but not to let them control you.
- Understand that not everyone is looking to tear you apart or reject you and that most times they are just as nervous about meeting and connecting with people as you are.
- Give yourself a goal for pushing through the fear. I will put out 3 queries to an editor.
- I will speak to seven people at conference that I don't know. I will tell four people about my upcoming book.
But most of all, understand that we are all human and if you see me at conference please don't hesitate to say hello. Maybe that way we can both get through the awkwardness.