Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: fear of failure

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

Permission. This might seem an odd word to discuss when it comes to success, but we need to hash out some dos and don’ts before January 1st. New Year’s resolutions are often more about taking freedoms away instead of permitting new ones. In my opinion, this is why a lot of well-intended changes fail to stick, but that’s for another post ūüėČ .

I’m a HUGE fan of discipline, though admittedly, I’m definitely a work in progress. I confess that, in my drive to be disciplined, I can become rigid, legalistic, and ridiculously hard on myself if I’m not careful.

The trick (as in most endeavors) is finding balance. Balance is and can only be achieved with granting ourselves the right kinds of permission. These permissions are especially vital if we hope to achieve success as authors.

Permission to Be New

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

Last post we discussed the writers’ journey from newbie to mastery. This ‘permission to be new’ might seem like an easy one. Do NOT be fooled. This permission might very well be the toughest of all. Why? Because our world has a perception problem.

From a novel, to a movie to an HBO series, the audience is ALWAYS witnessing the final product. They’re enjoying the cumulation of countless hours (or years) of work and the efforts of more than one person.

Even with a novel, audiences don’t stop to think that 99% of authors are not, in fact, publishing their first draft. They also don’t realize that FINAL draft came to fruition with outside assistance (editors & proofreaders).

Yes, there are novelists who claim they publish their first drafts, but (aside perhaps from some anomalous savant) they don’t. Not really. Often this I-only-publish-first-draft-novelist writes an excruciatingly detailed outline which they slash, correct, rearrange, etc. THEN they write the novel. Thus, technically, the¬†outline was draft 1-50.

Also there are writers like Dean Koontz. He writes X amount of pages a day and never revises. But, Koontz wrote a gazillion books using many methods until he was so well-trained he could do this ‘magic.’ Remember, though, that even the great Dean Koontz was once new.

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

Thus expect the world won’t understand why you’re not richer than J.K. Rowling a month after you finish the first draft of your first novel. They’re outsiders who don’t ‘get’ our craft, that it IS a craft with an actual learning curve like um…learning to play an instrument.

People generally don’t appreciate that even J.K. Rowling was a single mother on welfare rejected by more than a dozen publishers. Even her first (reluctant) publisher actively encouraged her to get a ‘real’ job.

Permission to ‘Suck’

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

This permission goes hand-in-hand with being new, but permission to ‘suck’ is one we’re wise to keep our entire career. Getting words on the page is the most important part of the job. No ‘great idea’ for a book ever became a New York Times best-seller. I cannot recall any half-finished ‘perfect’ manuscript ever becoming a runaway success, but plenty ‘meh’ finished ones have.

And no, I can’t explain it either. There are more than fifty shades of why audience tastes are vastly unpredictable. Suffice to say, the world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards finishers.

Also, be aware that sometimes we’re not the best judge of our own work. We could be tired, have a hormone out of place, woke up too early to the cat puking on the carpet SIX INCHES FROM TILE and we’re hypercritical. Everything word is dreadful, tedious, and pure tripe. Our characters are one-dimensional tropes and a hamster with a traumatic head injury could’ve concocted a better plot.

Face it. We’re loathsome poseur hacks who don’t deserve access to Word…or even to live.

Um, eat a Snickers and take a nap. Then keep writing and resist the urge to edit. There are GOOD REASONS WHY this is a dangerous time to edit.

Odds are you’ll look back in revisions and realize you were being a drama queen. Imperfection is where the true beauty of story resides.

Even if the WIP does need to be ‘fixed’ you’re more likely to fix it, not SMITE it. You’ll actually edit and revise instead of going all Old Testament burning to ash, poisoning wells, then salting the earth….after characters wiped out by Backspace Death.

Permission to Write

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

First of all, it is perfectly acceptable to write as a hobby and for fun and not to be paid. I crochet. Additionally, I kind of suck at crocheting, but I enjoy it and it relaxes me. My scarves are pretty enough *shrugs*. I’ve ‘mastered’ ONE stitch in four years. Be assured, you will never see my creations for sale for big bucks or any bucks on Etsy because it’s a hobby.

I don’t desire to crochet products consumers would pay money to wear. This means I can put it off until I¬†feel¬†like crocheting. I also can be more laissez-faire with what the final product looks like, because crocheting is NOT my profession.

If, however, we desire to make a living as an author, then this ‘writing thing’ is our job/profession.

Being an author might be a second or even third job, but it IS a job—a ‘real’ one. Writing isn’t our hobby or our ‘little thing’ and it merits serious priority. Laundry, toilets, and figuring out how to get gummy worms out of the XBox can wait or be delegated.

For more on this, I strongly recommend you read one of my older posts¬†Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers (applies to Nice Guys, too, btw).

Permission to Fail

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

Show me a person who’s never failed and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything interesting. Afraid to fail? Good, welcome to being human. In my vast experience, only talentless hacks steeped in self-delusion believe all they write is gold.

There’s a balance. Simpering, spineless slackers are as useless as narcissistic, unteachable, know-it-alls. Our goal is to find a happy place in the middle of this bell curve. We should be open to criticism, suggestions and growth while simultaneously being confident and knowledgable enough to know when to stand our ground (lest we end up with a book-by committee).

Humans are wired to learn by failing. Our brains are literally designed to learn by trial and error, which is why I’m adamantly opposed to chastising kids for failing.

I firmly believe our culture’s over fascination with the ‘born genius’ and ‘naturally gifted/talented’ is TOXIC. Kids mistakenly believe if they don’t do whatever ‘perfectly’ the first time or at least super quickly, then there’s something wrong with them. This then carries into adulthood.

Failure shaming, in my POV, generates underachievement (afraid to even try, low self-image) or neurotic perfectionism (hiding oopses, overworking, septic overachievement, terror regarding asking for help). I know because I was reared to be terrified of failing.

This is why as an adult and a MOM, I make sure that failure is embraced and celebrated in our home. Failure is an event, not an identity. I want my son to understand mistakes are stepping stones on the road of progress.

Another reason we’re wise to grant ourselves permission to fail, is a that ‘failure’ isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, failure can actually be a happy accident in disguise.

Two words: Ivory Soap.

Permission to Succeed

permission for success, success, writing success, fear of failure, fear of success, Kristen Lamb, how to become a published author, mastering New Year's resolutions

To succeed, strangely we must give ourselves permission to win. Bizarre, right? Mmmmmm, not so much.

Fear of failure and fear of success are frequently linked and this paradox could be a blog (or book) on its own. It seems stupid for people to fear success. Yet, many do and for a multitude of reasons. First, humans generally dislike change. Success means massive change. We might feel we are ill-prepared to traverse such unknown territory. We fear what we don’t¬†know and places we’ve never¬†been.

We could also worry that, if we succeed, we might not be able to duplicate whatever it was that brought us ‘success’ in the first place. That we’re a fake, a fraud and never actually ‘earned’ the win.

Perhaps now it’s a tad clearer why fear of success and failure are linked.

There’s another reason many of us fear success, one I haven’t seen discussed much. This manifestation is most common for those brought up in a dysfunctional home/background. We are afraid to be happy and our fear of success is linked to a version of PTSD. Always waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’ so to speak.

For folks who’ve been through trauma, our brains often cannot discern healthy excitement/arousal felt when experiencing success from the anxiety/arousal before ‘the bad thing’ to come. Our brain believes all ‘arousal’ is bad, thus super scary and to be avoided at all costs. This means when we get close to ‘winning’ we might self-sabotage to alleviate the nerve-shredding anxiety.

It takes some retraining of the old gray matter, but it’s worth it. Yes, give permission to succeed. I know I’m not the only one out there who’s self-sabotaged, procrastinated, or up and quit because I was wracked with fear I couldn’t explain. Trust me, I was as mystified as everyone around me until I understood what was causing this behavior.

It’s okay. Being messed up generally makes for better writers ūüėõ .

What Are Your Thoughts?

As long as I’ve been at this, I still struggle to some degree with all five of these. Permission to write and to succeed are still the biggies. I struggle with guilt that I’m writing when there is so much laundry to do and drawers to sort and on and on. Additionally, I still procrastinate when I¬†might just succeed because I already admitted I’m messed up and that writing is cheaper than therapy ūüėõ

What about you guys? Gonna ‘fess up and be brave? Are you too hard on yourself? Self-sabotage? Petrified of failing? Ashamed of being new? It’s okay, we are all in the same boat here ūüėÄ .

Hey, there are goodies involved for being bold…

I love hearing from you and am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of DECEMBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ALSO, NEW CLASS! 

The Art of Character: How to Craft Dimensional ‘People’ in Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD (Only $36 with discount)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: January 4th, 2018¬†7:00 P.M. EST—9:00 P.M. EST

No matter what genre we write, the key to writing unforgettable stories always rests with character. How do we create intriguing characters who hook readers and never let them go? What makes a character unforgettable? How do we write stories that endure?

It is easy to fall into tropes and caricatures if we lack a fundamental understanding of human nature and how this plays out in the dramatic narrative. This class will delve into how to add depth to our characters which will, in turn add, resonance with our plot.

This class will cover:

  • Discovering Wounds;
  • Understanding Coping Mechanisms;
  • How Wounds Collide to Increase Dramatic Tension
  • How to Create Dimensional Characters
  • Using Character to Plot

***A FREE recording is included with purchase.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Noemi Galera.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Noemi Galera.

The single greatest challenge you will face in trying to accomplish anything great is FEAR. FEAR is nothing to be underestimated and we need to learn to manage it if we want to succeed. I remember being a kid and¬†Dune was one of my favorite movies. At the age of ten I memorized Paul Atreides’ mantra:

‚ÄúI must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.‚ÄĚ

At the time I just thought it was a seriously cool movie line. It was only when I grew older that I began to truly understand how powerful these words were.

Fear IS the mind-killer. Remember last time we talked about how vital it is to make sure we have our heads in the right spot. Where the mind goes, the man follows and if we are scope-locked on all the stuff that overwhelms and terrifies us? We are doomed before we start. Our head is not in the game.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I find it so fascinating that Frank Herbert called it the “little-death” but isn’t it? Fear is not real. Fear is the work of imaginations and yet those small cracks are what can bring everything crashing down.

I will face my fear.

Words have tremendous power and we as writers are wise to appreciate this. We might be sinking into despair. We are anxious and can’t sleep. We can’t focus and so we say things like, “I am tired” or “I’m depressed” but by using these blanket statement copouts we are only feeding the very thing feeding on us. We need to face it. NAME IT.

It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to give that fear a name because until we know what it IS, we can’t fight back. What is the first thing any doctor does when we come into the ER? He finds the thing’s NAME. Sure our chest hurts and we are sweaty and dizzy and our blood pressure is wrong but that could be anything from cardiac arrest to a panic attack. NAMING what is going on is vital for any kind of treatment.

Do we really want a doctor cracking open our chest because we are having a panic attack? Conversely do we want the doctor to recommend yoga when we have a blocked artery?

I will permit my fear to pass over me and through me.

Feel the emotion. Don’t stuff it. No I don’t need a sandwich, a drink, a nap, a trip to the mall, or yet another pass through Facebook. I need to¬†feel what is going on instead of self-medicating or avoiding it. It’s like a squall line. Just let it pass over and beyond.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Here is the deal, fear isn’t (often) real and even when it is? It isn’t permanent unless we permit it to stay. We will still be here.

So why do I talk about all of this? Because we have to face and conquer fear every single day and maybe you are experiencing symptoms of fear but you aren’t aware of it. Time to peer down that dark alley of the soul…

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commonse, via Pedro Rebeiro Simoes
Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commonse, via Pedro Rebeiro Simoes

You Don’t Finish

I can raise my hand and attest I am guilty. I have too many things that I start and I don’t finish. Is this because I am lazy? Hardly. Is it because I don’t love what I do? Not at all. If I get really, really honest and make a list of all the things I have left undone, I can often see fear staring back at me.

A quick story to illustrate…

I remember being SO confident when I scored my mega-agent out of New York. He thought I was brilliant and fresh and my book was sheer genius. I was on CLOUD NINE and bulletproof. I was so sure that I’d have a book deal instantly because Russ was¬†that powerful of an agent.

I remember when I signed with him talking on the phone and he said, “Okay, here is how it is going to go down. Once I get your proposal I am going to make a few calls and then things are going to happen very fast. Are you ready for this?”

GOD YES! Put me IN Coach!

So a month passes, then two, then six and all this time my confidence is leaking out like air from an overfilled balloon *Kristen’s ego makes long farting sound*. After a year and a half?

Nothing.

I had avoided talking to my agent because I just couldn’t bear being a failure. Finally, I had to do something so I emailed and he gave me the news I knew was coming but had avoided. NY didn’t want a social media book. They believed my teachings were the tip of the spear and were afraid of it.

And I know all of this sounds seriously weird because every publisher at the time was requiring social media for all of its authors. I had many long and grueling conversations with authors who are household names who’d come to me vexed out of their minds because their publishers wanted to know why they didn’t have a million FB fans. They were desperate for help.

But these same publishers that were requiring social media, didn’t want the manual.

*head desk*

I was crushed. I didn’t want to be self-published. I wanted to be¬†legit.¬†I wanted to be a Random Penguin but it wasn’t in the cards. So, I gathered what was left of my ego and self-published¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World because my ego was not as important as you guys’ futures.

But how long did I sit on that book?

Too long. Too long would be the answer.

I was terrified of failing. I was terrified of being grouped in as “one of those self-published hacks” even though I knew (in my mind) that self-publishing was just as viable as legacy and in many ways MORE viable. My head and my heart just could not get on the same page because I was afraid.

So fast-forward a couple more years and I have finished this AMAZING romantic suspense. I send it to an agent friend and she loved it‚Ķbut didn’t rep the genre. She told me the book was awesome and to just query publishers direct and she would handle the contract. I got rejected. Then a publisher accepted (then they were no longer financially solvent so I didn’t feel good about signing). Then another rejected. So about this point I am batting 500. 50% love the book and 50% don’t want it.

I couldn’t leave the book unpublished any longer even though it was tempting. All the voices were there.

You teach writing, so if your book sucks you are FINISHEEEEEED.

Why can’t you get a real publisher?

Maybe you should stick with social media.

And what did I do? Again, I sat on a great book…because I was afraid. I was afraid of failure, of you guys tossing digital tomatoes at my work. Even though I know there is NO way to write a perfect book. I have read reviews for every book I adored and thought was perfect and someone else hated it. I knew this. I know this. But I was still scared sh….. witless.

But I have learned that when I feel fear that 1) it is often BS and nothing to really be afraid of and 2) it is generally a good sign I am going in the right direction. So I made some more connections and now my book is with a new and amazing publisher who I think is a great fit. Maybe the book flops. I dunno. I won’t know until I put it out there.

I was afraid of failure but also afraid of success.

What if it does well and it is the only book in me? And I can’t do it AGAIN?

Yeah well we will cross that bridge when we get there.

So if you have things you are NOT finishing, ask yourself WHY? What are you afraid of? Then do it anyway.

You Fixate on What You Can’t Control

I can always tell when I am operating in a place of fear when I pay attention to what is on my mind. What am I constantly complaining about?

***Which first of all, ditch complaining. Complaining alone is a BIG RED FLAG something is wrong.

Often we will fixate on the things we can’t control at the expense of things we can because it offers us a handy excuse if everything craps the bed. If I spent my time moaning about how unfair it was NY didn’t want my book instead of hustling and figuring out how to unleash my book onto the world?

I’d still be complaining. Then, when I never published the book and my career as an expert withered and dried up, I would have someone to blame other than myself. I sure wouldn’t have the single most popular book on branding for authors.

Same with the fiction. I had a choice. Whine about the rejections and shelve the book and hide as a blogger or suck it up and step it up.

Well, I would have been a huge deal if only someone else had done X.

NOT TODAY!

You Can’t Make a Decision

Here’s the deal. No decision is still a decision. But often when we are scared we hem and we haw and we fail to ever decide because deep down we know if we put it off long enough? Someone else WILL decide for us. Then, if it goes badly, we have an out.

Early in my writing journey I bounced from genre to genre to genre. Maybe I was a romance writer, no a thriller writer, no science fiction. Notice how this looks a lot like never finishing. Decide and commit. Do it afraid.

There are a lot more symptoms of fear but these are the three BIGGIES. Remember that nothing great is ever going to happen in your comfort zone. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is doing X in spite of fear.

This business is really really hard and it requires us being so vulnerable and it is super easy to get kicked in the confidence. Rejection sucks. It hurts. But failure isn’t permanent. Neither is success. All of this will pass over us and through us and…

ONLY WE WILL REMAIN.

A huge way to combat fear is like I said, we gotta name it. Then we need to make a decision and if it still scares us? Get help. If you are afraid your book is crap? Hire a pro to look at it, be honest and tell you how to fix it. Heck, email me kristen at wana intl dot com. If branding scares you? Take a class. Got a bunch listed below and anyone who has taken my classes will tell you I move heaven and earth to help you. I can be that big badass sister you need to help you sleep at night.

Get a mentor to guide you.

I have a handful of things on the business side of publishing that are freaking me out right now. Why? Because I don’t yet UNDERSTAND them. Bookbub? How does it work? So what did I do? I called in favors from people on-line, people I have served and asked, “Hey I am freaked out. Can you help a Sistah OUT?”

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

What are your thoughts? I have been struggling with confidence lately. Off my game, out of my groove. I know it is because I am doing and trying new things in new areas where I am NOT the sole reigning diva and that scares me. But I am here. We are here. We have each other.

Do you succumb to your fear too easily? Maybe spend too much time with distractions? Or complain and whine about stuff you can’t change? Hey we ALL do it. No shame here, my kiddos. Write down what you fear. Here, in the comments and we can bond.

I fear that none of what I do matters. That I am really not making a difference and I really didn’t earn any of my success. It was all a fluke or an accident and one day people are going to wake up and see I have no idea what I am doing.

There, got you started ūüėÄ .

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!¬†

All you need is an internet connection!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!!¬†

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class¬†The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors¬†February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

Image courtesy of Laura Hadden via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image courtesy of Laura Hadden via Flickr Creative Commons.

We’ve been working on an Author Acrostic for Victory. V for¬†voluntarily submit.¬†I for¬†identify problem areas and defects.¬†Today we are at C for change your mind.¬†Most of us know where we need to try harder, come up higher. Yet, sometimes the simplest things to do are the hardest.

I lived my 20s like a Mountain Dew commercial. I taught Ju-Jitsu during the week and then camped, hiked, kayaked, and mountain biked on the weekends. I was the only girl on an all-male college Roller Hockey Team. If it was guaranteed to be dangerous and stupid? Sign me UP!

I’d grown up with two parents terrified of making decisions. Terrified to try and fail. In making no decisions they still made a decision. I fell into that same pattern as an adult, but thankfully was able to see that bad habit. I pushed myself to do what scared me.

Learning to Fly

I’d always wanted to go skydiving. In 1996, my boyfriend dumped me and I figured, “Why not?”

Skydiving is an interesting sport. There are only two categories—Grand Champion and Stuff On a Rock. The first time I jumped, I chose to go tandem because I wanted to do the jump from 16,000 feet without focusing on an altimeter or pulling a chute. I yearned for the free fall.

Be careful what you wish for ;).

So I get in the plane and all the sudden I’m buckled in and the plane is taking off. OMG. WHAT AM I DOING? And I had a good half hour to contemplate being Stuff On a Rock. I, of course, was not the first person to jump. I sat and watched with ever-ratcheting terror as seasoned divers did backflips and cannon balls out the small airplane’s door.

Finally‚Ķ.my turn. Though it was the middle of a typically scorching Texas summer, the air up that high is freezing. Also, the world disappears. You’re too high to make out anything other than a patchwork below.

My instructor says to me. “All right. We are going now. Remember. Let go. Trust me, and kick your butt.”

“Kick my BUTT?”

“If you don’t kick your butt we will lose control and can die.”

AAAAGHHHHHH!

Mentally and analytically, I knew what he meant. If I spread my legs instead of tightening into a ball, then we wouldn’t be aerodynamic. In my gut, all I heard was AAAAGHHHHHH!

Trust me, when you jump out of a perfectly good airplane, the first step is the hardest, but man there is nothing to compare to the ride down. Free-falling over a minute, facing death, facing mortality and then POOF! the shoot opens and it is like the very hand of God just gently scoops you up to enjoy that last part of the journey you were so terrified to take only minutes before.

Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.

We glided down, the air becoming steadily warmer on my face. I laughed with abandon I hadn’t felt since I was a little kid. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life because I had the courage to fall.

I knew I had a control issue. I had a problem letting go. I had problems simply DECIDING. Still do.

But what a great lesson this can be for all of us. Let go. Trust. Kick your own butt.

We have all this training about success, and that’s great. I blog about it, too. But, we can’t become good at success until we get really good at failure. When we step out and dare to dream, to write a book or query or blog or freelance or do anything remarkable, we have to LET GO. We can’t have the glorious experience if others can’t scrape us off the door.

Let go of one thing for a possibly BETTER thing.

It’s okay to be afraid, but become good at letting go. Let go of ego and doubt and fear. Let go of toxic relationships. Risk being metaphorical Stuff On a Rock. Thus, today I hope to strip away your illusions. You will make far more wrong decisions than right ones. So will I! Own it.

We learn to make good decisions by making bad ones and learning and then living to tell the tale. And sure I want to motivate you. Let go. We can’t control everything and often the best experiences come with raw abandon. Um, falling in love?

But the other side of that is KICK YOUR OWN BUTT. You can’t make me write and I can’t make you write. I have to kick my own butt to finish what I start. To recognize when I’ve let things slip. Give permission for mistakes, but then Writer UP.

We have to decide to change and KICK OUR OWN BUTT. Don’t analyze problems and patty-cake with them and talk about them. Just do the hard stuff. Recognize the problem, make a plan then act. If that plan doesn’t work, revise and do it differently. Fail spectacularly.

Yes, when I jumped out of that plane, maybe my chute wouldn’t have opened and I would have ended up a SPLAT on some poor cattle rancher’s property. But what a way to go :D. And I’m not pushing anyone to be reckless, but be fearless.

Live a life worth dying for.

What are your thoughts? Do you have things you¬†know you need to change but you simply aren’t stepping out? I know I am guilty. Are you afraid? Afraid of failure? Are you learning to embrace your failures as learning experiences? Are you balancing grace with some kicking your own butt?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

If you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

ALSO, Remember WANA has a KILLER Class on Dialogue Coming Up:

Need More Help With Dialogue?

Check out my book How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer‚Äôs Guide. In it you’ll learn how to format your dialogue, how to add variety to your dialogue so it’s not always “on the nose,” when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t, how to convey information through dialogue without falling prey to As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome, how to write dialogue unique to each of your characters, how to add tension to your dialogue, whether it’s ever okay to start a chapter with dialogue, ways to handle contractions (or the lack thereof) in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, and much more!

If you prefer live teaching, I’m running a webinar called Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine this Saturday, May 17th.

This 1.5 hour live webinar will…

* cover the seven most common mistakes when it comes to dialogue and how to fix them,
* explain how to ensure your dialogue makes your story stronger,
* show you how to create dialogue unique to your characters, and
* answer some of the most frustrating questions about dialogue such as how to handle dialect, should we use contractions in historical novels, science fiction, and fantasy, and is it okay to begin a book with dialogue.

As a bonus, all registrants receive an ebook copy of my book How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide.

The webinar will be recorded and made available to registrants, so even if you can’t make it at the scheduled time, you can sign up and listen later at your convenience.

Click here to sign up for Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine.

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography
This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

Fear is a funny thing. We all experience it. Fear can be positive. It can keep us out of danger. It can stop us from making a super dumb decision, like getting in a car with a driver who’s been drinking too much. Fear can drive us to change for the better. At the same time, fear can cripple and, in extreme cases, can be deadly (I.e. suicide). Fear kills more dreams than failure ever has.

Fear is something we have to understand and respect. It’s a feeling and feelings do lie. Are feelings useful? Of course. But they can be affected by so many outside influences we are foolish to solely rely on them for guidance.¬†Feelings can be affected by weather, diet, lack of exercise, a flat tire, a pile of unopened mail, stress, and on and on and on. Same thing with fear.

Fear of Heredity—Am I My Father’s Daughter?

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.
Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

My father was genius smart. He probably had an IQ off the charts. Yet, when he passed away at the young age of 50, he was working for minimum wage repairing bicycles. Though a fun, kind and generous man, he had no friends and lived a very lonely life. The only thing he left me of value was an antique bed that wasn’t even his. It was my great-grandmother’s.

Shortly after the funeral, we had to clean out his home. It looked like a bad episode of¬†Hoarders.¬†When I opened the front door, I broke down crying. Not just because of my father’s sudden death. The daunting task of sorting through endless piles to see if anything could be saved was enough to make me short-circuit. Almost everything he owned was set out on a curb for the trash.

That was the sum of his life.

Though he was a prolific and talented writer, I never managed to find any of his writing in all the days sorting through mounds of clothes, gadgets, books, papers, and trash. The only work I have of his are the ones I memorized and a handful of notebooks with unfinished stories or poems.

In the case of my father’s passing, fear became a double-edged sword. Fear I’d end up like him was stronger than fear of failure or being mocked by others to pursue being a writer. It saddened me that someone of so much talent left nothing. He never focused, never finished, never believed in the dream enough to take it seriously. Bluntly, he did more whining than working.

This fear drove me to examine where he went wrong and make corrections in my character. I was a lot like him both in good ways and in bad.

The good? He was intelligent, generous, kind, loved to read and he was the most fun person anyone could know. Neighborhood kids who friend me on Facebook tell stories of my father dropping everything to fix their bikes because their families were to poor to replace the shot gears or the trashed tires. Thirty years later these kids (now adults) still remember my father fondly.

My dad’s passion for reading and writing was passed to me at a VERY young age. While other kids were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Tolkien. I was published the first time at age eight in a popular children’s magazine.

My father was also very humble and fun and rarely serious. It was NOT uncommon for me to come home from college only to be attacked from the bushes with a long-range high-powered water gun. Here’s this 49 year-old man who was goofy enough to ambush his daughter with a toy.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.
Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

The bad?

My father wanted to please his family more than he wanted to be a writer. He wilted in the face of any criticism. In wanting to please everyone, he pleased no one, including himself and the consequences were steep. He feared failure so much he never tried, thus sealing he would fail anyway.

I was doing the same thing. I was in a job I hated because “it paid great money” and had lots of perks and made my family¬†Oh so proud. Let’s just ignore that¬†I had to pull over to puke on the side of the road every day because of the stress, because I hated my job with every fiber of my being. It was a¬†fabulous job‚Ķfor someone else.

I was paralyzed by the fear of failure to the point I was willing to work a job the world believed was “acceptable.” I crumbled at any hint of criticism. I lived my life by committee and was a wreck because of it.

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons
Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The fear of ending up like my dad served its purpose for a time. It helped me stand up to family when I decided to leave the corporate world to become an author. I studied my father’s missteps then did the opposite. Where he retreated, I plunged ahead. My father was all about escape—music, books, books, books, TV. Ignore the real world and get lost in a fantasy. He neglected his writing, his home, his dog, his life to be‚Ķelsewhere. Like the grasshopper and all play no work.

This drove me to become self-directed, self-motivated, disciplined…and neurotic.

While it’s good to examine what we fear, we risk going to the other extreme. Fear, in many ways, is like a family dog. Trained properly it can defend us and keep us from harm. Yet, if we don’t keep it leashed and make it “heel,” it will chew on our souls and pee on our dreams.

Fear of Ourselves

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons
Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

When I examined my father’s strengths and weaknesses I witnessed my own. Yes, I was blessed with a sharp mind and talent. But, I let others have too much sway in my life. Why? The only one who’d face the consequences was ME. It’s hard to share this, but I was lazy. I believed more in luck and opportunity than hard work. My locus of focus was external. I blamed people and circumstances for where I was or wasn’t.

If I had a computer then I could write.

If I didn’t have to work a day job then I could finish the novel.

If others would take me seriously, then I’d be more “inspired.”

I relied too much on inspiration and underestimated the power of perspiration. I wanted the “Seal of Approval” from the outside world before I could do anything.

Lately, I have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. I’ve realized that fear has chewed through its leash and gutted my couch¬†self-esteem. I can accomplish a hundred things in a day, yet have come to see I’m only noticing the ten I missed. Self-examination has shifted to self-deprecation.

And this¬†will happen. It’s natural. But why I’m blogging about this is I want you (and even me) to be alert. Watch for the read flags that good fear has turned on us.

My family had the Autumn from Hell in 2013. Two family members with MAJOR surgeries. My mom had a hernia so bad they almost thought they couldn’t repair it. My sister-in-law nearly went blind and had to undergo one of the most horrific and painful surgeries anyone could endure to repair her detached retinas. My grandmother passed away. I’d just about come up for air and then something else would knock me to my knees.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

At the beginning of the year, we thought we’d be able to recuperate. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. The big trucks where my husband works all went down at the same time. No trucks? The company goes under and the company has only one mechanic.

My husband is trained in diesel engines. He’s worked 60-70 hours a week for the past month with one day off, meaning I’ve had¬†one day off.¬†Since Hubby’s gone most of the time, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping on top of running a business and writing‚Ķwith virtually NO break from The Spawn.

To add a new layer of difficulty the washer died. Hubby can repair it, but he doesn’t have time. This has left me lugging loads and loads of laundry to a nearby laundromat. Also, a few days ago, my other grandmother was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening and unknown infection. The stress has been crushing (part of why I added in vigorous exercise).

I’ve been working my tail off. Any time I sit down for five minutes, I hear the voices.¬†You’re just not trying hard enough. That ten minutes you sat down? You could have been cleaning, working, writing,¬†coming up with a cure for cancer.

I recognize that one of my early character flaws was laziness. But in the past couple days, I’ve come to recognize that I’m teetering on the other extreme. It’s great to be a hard worker, to be disciplined. But rest and play are vital to maintain balance, mental health and joy.

Fear Will Drag Us To Extremes If We Permit It

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Fear is a riptide. Swim with it or allow it to drag us under. I can be so afraid of being lazy I become a workaholic. So afraid of being irresponsible I become over-responsible and even controlling. Fear can drive kids of obese parents to eating disorders, children of abusive parents to being far too permissive, offspring of broke parents to be obsessed with accumulation of money and on and on.

The trick is to face what we fear and see it for what it IS. Almost all of us fear failure, but failure is the tuition we pay for success. We can fear criticism, but criticism is a fact of life. Fear of criticism can lead to perfectionism or passivity. Conversely, criticism can help us toughen up or even become stronger, better or more resolved.

What’s the answer? First, be self-aware. Many of us bee-bop through life going through the motions without inspecting the¬†why behind our choices.¬†This is dangerous. Fear is both good and bad. What changes the nature of fear is how we are using it. Are we using fear to be proactive or are we being reactive? When we’re proactive, we’re acknowledging fear and taking positive steps. We hold the leash. When we are¬†reactive? Fear has a leash on¬†us.

Fear is a feeling, which means it¬†can lie. F.E.A.R. can be False Evidence Appearing Real. Evidence requires examination. Do we hold onto it or dismiss it? I feared ending up like my dad. That I would value pleasing others so much I’d live an empty life.

We¬†cannot¬†live the dreams of others and be fulfilled. This was¬†positive¬†fear. The evidence of my father’s choices¬†showed¬†me the truth of what happens to someone too afraid to fail. That¬†evidence¬†was real and worth holding onto. I also had to examine what he did¬†right and grab hold.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.
WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

Unexamined fear can become The Hamster Wheel of Doom. The HWOD tells me I suck because I’m not a fitness model with an immaculate Martha-Stewart-decorated-home, twenty best-selling books, a mansion and I’ve failed to travel¬†to Africa twice a year to feed the starving children.

That’s¬†false fear.¬†

"Meet Spiffy the Hamster." He's DEAD. Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons
“Meet Spiffy the Hamster.” He’s DEAD.
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

If I asked any of you right now to take out a piece of paper and write down all that’s wrong with you, I’d wager most would have twenty pages. But what if I asked what’s¬†right with you? Bet you’re stumped, too.

We all struggle. Struggle can be good. Resistance is what makes us grow. But if we only focus on what’s wrong with us, we’ll just get more. We are what we focus on.

In racing, part of how they train drivers to win is teaching the driver to acknowledge the wall, but never look at it. The car goes where the driver looks. Look at the wall and you’ll hit the wall. Focus on the finish line.

All of us have our “wall.” Mine is laziness, people-pleasing, blind loyalty, procrastination, and I could list even more. I recognize them. I respect them. But I must focus on the positive. I am also disciplined, kind, generous and passionate and these qualities deserve my attention. If we focus enough on developing the positive, it will eventually crowd out the negative.

We also must learn to focus on the realistic. I am human. It’s okay to take a nap, play some video games, or read a book. There will always be more laundry, more dishes. But at the end of my days will I remember the clean dishes or the hour I spent running through the house with The Spawn with NERF guns “hunting zombies”? I can focus on the negative legacy my father left, but that might cost me the¬†positive legacy he gave me.

I will never be too old to enjoy a bounce house.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a "serious" business after all.
I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a “serious” business after all.

What are your thoughts? Who has the leash? You or your fears? Do you find yourself being reactive? Too hard on yourself? Do you struggle to list what’s good about who you are? Is it hard to have fun? Do you feel guilty for rest? Is it tough to cut yourself slack? Do you find yourself maybe going to extremes because you fear being like a parent or other adult influence? Or maybe you’ve made positive changes and you’re afraid if you take one day off you’ll slip back into what you worked so hard to change?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). 

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book¬†Rise of the Machines‚ÄďHuman Authors in a Digital World.¬†

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Image from Flikr Creative Commons via Luke Hayfield Photography

There are days I feel so enlightened, so mature…and then I think back *head desk*. Have you ever wanted to take a DeLorean back in time to kick your own @$$? Sometimes it’s nice to realize how much I’ve grown, but then I remember how much dumb stuff I’ve done…

…and I just want to use Space-Time White-Out.

I think about how poorly I reacted to certain trials, how I acted like a total jerk, how I could only see what I wanted. Yet, as much as I’d love to go back in time and change things, I know the only reason I’m better is I did a LOT of stuff wrong.

I like to blog about writing, namely because I want writers (especially the newbies) to know you are not alone. We all make a lot of the same mistakes. We all think adverbs and flashbacks are AWESOME in the beginning. The oopses are part of the learning curve.

Fear of Failure

I recall as early as four years ago being SO terrified of failure, of making a mistake. I thought I had to be perfect at everything. Yet, the weird thing is that as long as I thought I had to be perfect, I engaged in activities that assured I “never made a mistake.” I stayed in the comfort zone where I could “look good.”

But I stagnated. For the record, anything that stagnates, eventually rots and stinks.

Life In Forward Gear

One thing many of us struggle with is we can only see where we went wrong. Ask any of us to name our faults, and we can answer in essay form. But ask us what we are good at? Where we shine? It takes a minute…or a few days.

We can fall into this nasty habit of nitpicking and only looking at where we screwed up, or where we could have done better. The danger of this is that life¬†moves forward.¬†If we try to live a life that moves forward being guided by a rearview mirror, it’s only a matter of time until we crash.

We can’t¬†accurately see ahead (our future) if we’re always looking back.

Be Careful Where You Focus

I’ve talked about this example before, but it’s a powerful one. My first fiction project involved a story set in Monte Carlo at the Formula One. To do research, I became friends with a lot of people in Ferrarri Racing.

One of the strangest lessons I ever heard was that drivers, who are going at mind-blowing speeds around twisting, winding roads, are always in danger of hitting the wall. But, to avoid hitting the wall, they must train themselves to NEVER LOOK at the wall. Why? Because the car goes where they eyes go.

If all we look at is where we fall short, what mistakes we’ve made, we shouldn’t be shocked when we just do the same dumb stuff over and over. We’re far wiser to make a list of what we do correctly, what we do well¬†and focus on that, instead.

Gain a Habit of ALWAYS Phrasing Things in the Positive

The human mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie. Just this morning, I caught myself saying, “Oh, Kristen, you are just so disorganized.” I stopped myself and said, “Kristen, you aren’t where you want to be, but look how far you’ve come. You are getting better organized each and every day.”

Instead of:

I just know I’m going to forget my keys.

I say:

Kristen, remember you put your keys here.

I find I do MUCH better when I speak in positive terms. Much of our growth will come when we change our relationship with failure and mistakes. In fact, yesterday, it hit me:

Mistakes can refine us or define us.

I will be the first to admit I have done a lot of things wrong. And, unless I pay for cryogenic stasis, odds are I will do even more stuff wrong so all of you have been forewarned :D. But my attitude is, if we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.

There was a time when all I could see was the high school drop out (yes, I dropped out TWICE), the person who lost her keys, who didn’t balance her checkbook, who didn’t have this or do that. But that’s wasted energy.

I goof. We all do.

And screwing up is one of life’s greatest teachers. I learned to ride a bike by falling off a BUNCH of times. This doesn’t change in life.

Sure, I’d be tempted to go back in time if I could and change some things, but then again?

Nah. I’m good.

What about you? Do you find you beat yourself up too much? Do you struggle with fear of failure? Is it hard for you to admit what you do correctly? Are you quicker to point out your flaws than your strengths? Do you think about what life might have been like if you’d “done things right”? Would you go back and change things if you could?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!