by Fae Rowen
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself; nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts.” FDR’s First Inaugural Address
Laura is the queen of quotes–and of not always gentle encouragement, so I’m thanking her at the get-go for making me process my thoughts on a subject that has been a source of many jokes for us here at Writers in the Storm.
She has poked, prodded, cajoled and badgered me to send my work — anywhere. To return the rewrites that were requested. I did the rewrites, but then never sent them off. This one’s for you, Laura. (Click here for her post on “Fear of NOT Succeeding.”)
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
My fear doesn’t push me, as Laura’s does. My fear holds me back. I’ve known this since I was a child, as if my DNA were specially coded with this particular brand of fear.
I had a good lead role in a musical in Los Angeles. It was fun. The director liked me, and expanded my role to include a dance number. The girls in the chorus watched as the choreographer tried to teach me the steps. I had no idea what the words she used meant, and the little chorus girls snickered. My fear of not being perfect roared. I dropped out of the production. That musical was the only thing I ever quit.
That fear of not being able to do something perfectly has kept me from trying many things. It keeps me from sending my writing out.
The first time I sent a partial–on an editor request–I said to myself, “I’m never going to get a rejection letter.” Well, I didn’t. He wanted the whole book. I sent it. Then he wanted a re-write. I did it promptly and returned it. After five months I got my manuscript back with a note saying there just wasn’t a slot for it, but if I had anything else to please send it. Did I? No, I did not. I’d gotten my first rejection notice.
I sent a partial to a couple of agents, again on request. Two more rejection letters. I started a rejection letter folder. It’s gotten a couple of additional letters since.
I decided my work wasn’t perfect. What if I sold and got terrible reviews? What if I sold and got just one terrible review? Ouch!
When I began writing, it was just for myself. I never intended to share my writing with anyone. Then my husband talked to a friend who writes mysteries. He offered to read my book. He told my husband, “Yeh, she could sell that book and get some good royalties.” They discussed dollars and my husband made an appointment with a boat broker to look at a bigger boat. No pressure! Really.
I’ve been working on a lot of old “fear stuff” this summer. Maybe everyone does that before a big birthday. It hasn’t been fun–or easy. But I now understand that everything is impermanent and that tomorrow I’ll know more than I know today and therefore tomorrow’s decisions will probably be a bit better.
Crossover to writing.
We all know that we get better with practice. I learned this early. I took piano lessons, practiced. I played in piano competitions until it got way too serious. How could I do something that subjective over and over and think it was fun when, now, I can’t send off my writing to be judged in the same fashion? Go figure. I played for fun and I write for fun. And the more I write, the better I get.
My career as a mathematician is about perfection and absolutes. I know there will be mistakes and false assumptions along the way. But they won’t be published nationally for all to comment on!
Here’s the link to IQ Matrix for this fear mind-map. Any trigger words there for you?
They have 25 different free downloadable mind maps for different “mind issues” from Self-Sabotage to Overcoming Obstacles to How to Twitter. And they have blogs that explain the maps!
Resistance is the big word for me on that map.
For years I thought I wasn’t afraid of anything. Now I know that I have resisted doing anything that had fear attached to it. Did that mean I lived a “milk toast” life? Not according to the people around me.
The thing is, I do lots of things other people find frightening. But they aren’t scary to me. Because I know I can do them. My resistance comes from doubts and insecurities about my writing being “perfect.” Whatever that is.
In my first futuristic romance my heroine says, “Fear is the mind killer.” Ha! What a surprise that line of dialogue came so easily. So, how am I moving through this fear which paralyzes me from mobilizing to obtain my heart’s desire–getting my stories “out there” for others to enjoy?
- I am working on developing clear intentions, in small steps.
- I am working to understand, in my heart and gut, impermanence. And how impermanence can be a good thing.
- I am working on the willingness to change, again, in small steps.
- I am willing to admit that perfection, particularly in writing, is a subjective thing. I don’t need to be perfect to be a good writer. Heck, I don’t have to be perfect to be a good person.
Some say that the degree of commitment determines the amount of energy directed toward any given desire. I am examining my commitment to publish. Seems these days I’m unwilling to fully commit to anything, but that, too, can change.
Why do I have to commit to publish? Well, there’s another fear. What if I get published? How will my life change? There will be other books expected (I’ve got three finished already) and I’ll have to deliver a book on schedule.
What if there isn’t enough time to get it, uh, perfect? I certainly don’t want to be one of those authors who has a great debut novel and a “not-so-much” second book. And how would scheduled writing time with an honest-to-goodness deadline feel? Remember, I write for fun. I’m not too keen on adding the pressure that can come with publishing to my life. Am I willing to take that on?
So why not hang it up and just write little stories for fun?
Because I have a dream. I do want to see my book on the rack of a bookstore or a grocery store or a gift shop. I do have something I want to share with others.
So I have to hurdle over, climb under, work through my fears. My often nameless, unjustified, paralyzing fears. Doubt about my ability to deliver a story an editor will buy has taken away from what is real and what is true–that I am a good writer. Editors and published best sellers have told me so. But I allow my fear to create doubt, which, in one tradition, is said to bring suffering.
What I’m reading now to help me release my fear: Metta: The Map, The Formula, The Equations, Know Where You Stand And How To Get Where You Want To Be by B. R. Wright, PhD. It’s an amazing book that provides a real map you can grid out on the floor or use on paper to move from frozen fear to commitment and trust. And there really are (very simple) equations and formulas that make a lot of sense. The mathematician in me loves them!
Give me instead freedom, the absence of fear, not being constrained by circumstances in my choices and actions. This is the persona I show the world, but now it’s time to walk the talk.
What’s the worst that can happen? Oh, I have to file another rejection letter. Hmm, maybe I could just throw the next one away. What if I get the call instead?
Okay, Laura, new rule: I will continue to work on releasing my fears about submitting my writing. I will change (read “bump up”) my intentions as my fears dwindle. Before Thanksgiving I will actually send out at least two queries to the agents and editors you’ve found for me. And I will thank you (again) for kicking my rear into gear so I can reach my goal.
And when I sell that book and it goes best-seller, we’ll sit back and laugh about how I waited for years for someone to knock on my front door and ask, “Do you have a book I can buy?”
How do you work through fear? What fears hold back your writing? How can your writing community support you?