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:
“I 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.”
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…
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?
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.
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…but 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.
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 😀 .
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