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 😀 .
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!!!
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All you need is an internet connection!
Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
A Great Post for Writers of all Types
Another fantastic post Kristen!
You know, I’ve read that book a ton of times, and saw the movie even more often, but it wasn’t until you broke the quote apart that it was like, “yeah, that’s so true.” I think I’m gonna print that quote out and hang it above my desk to remind me what I need to do for myself and to stop freaking out and being afraid of everything…especially “failure.” Work with it and move on. Great reminder.
Again, you’ve hit the nail on the head, Kristen (or hit me right where it hurts – which is probably a good thing). I’m going to push through and stop making excuses because of fear!
Great post! I think we all battle fear. We just have to learn to move forward afraid and not let it paralyze us.
Ha! I memorized that quote too! Great article. Thanks for sharing some of your own inner demons. Helps me feel not quite so alone!
I very thought provoking article. I tweeted this on @bakeandwrite.
Awesome post. Thanks! Time to take stock, look at fear in the face, name it, and try to not let it tell me I suck twenty minutes later.
Reblogged this on Writing and Musing and commented:
Oh boy. This post really hits home for me. Fear stops me from moving forward so often. Sometimes I afraid of not doing a certain plot twist justice that I end up with teeny tiny single sentences of progress in my writing for days on end. The longer I’m in the writing game the bigger the fears get. It’s something I’m fighting to overcome every day.
Oh where do I begin! Afraid that I’m wasting my time pouring my heart and soul into characters and scenes and sentences that may never see the light of day. And then what if they do? What if by some freak accident, I get published and some people don’t like it or don’t like me or write reviews that say the ending sucked? The struggle is real!
Great post! My current fear is… * deep breath * I’m about to publish a big novel out of my usual genres. My current readers may hate it. I may struggle to find new readers – and when I do, they won’t like my existing work. I don’t want to create a new pen name because it will be like starting all over again. It’s scary :-/
Wow, you are all up in my business lately. I spent the last two days booking a seat at a writer’s conference and explaining to my husband why I need to spend the money to go, and now I’m in the swamp of “Why am I even doing this? my stuff isn’t any good. I can’t write humor. My structure is saggy. Why would anybody read it, much less pay me money to write it?”
Also, that movie: Sting in Man Diapers. You can’t ever un-see it. (Had read the book first, as a young teen. The mind-killer lines stuck, but my lizard brain has yet to really accept them as truth.)
You know when you are feeling down, and you’re convinced you are the only one in the world who understands how you’re feeling because it’s so painful and you don’t know what to do next and someone says: “Take the next indicated step” which sounds great if you knew what the heck that step was, then you click on a blog, and someone spells it all out, and then you realize maybe you aren’t the only one who feels this way, and maybe you don’t need to change genres or toss your manuscript down the staircase again? Well, that’s what your blog did. Not the tossing down the stairs part, the “I’m not alone” part. Thank you, Kristen.
I really needed this. Thanks Kristen.
Kristen, I needed to hear this now because I am always beset by fears (like, I’ve been deluding myself thinking I have a chance at this thing, when I know I have the writing chops and tenacity. But, am I great, or just good? That is the question). So, I’ve indie published 2 works of fiction (in 2013, after one round with an agent that taught me a lot about writing but never moved to the submission process). Now I have a new agent, a wonderful advocate, who is subbing my YA novel out and giving me excellent feedback. I’m working on a 2nd book. Anyway, as I go through the sub process, and learn a lot, fears do crop up, and agent John Cusick’s post about being good, not great, not only reflected what I’m experiencing but also motivated me. Which may sound weird, considering the fact being to be better than you are isn’t always a recipe for happiness. But I am weirdly happy knowing both my strengths and how far I need to go. (Cusick’s post here: https://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/publishers-dont-want-good-books/) What I appreciate about your words is your honesty and authenticity about the second guessing process and the fact that often, when we are led by passion and hard work to produce something, usually there is a reason that work of art must be out in the world. Delay is not necessarily denial, and there are other paths. Are you willing to learn and grow? I’m working at finding my reasons for writing this new book while also learning what I can about plot structure. Grow, grow, grow. I also have my eye on your social media/branding workshops. Thanks!
Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense.
Thanks for the great post, Kristen.
What am I afraid of?
Work: I afraid of being uncovered as a fraud. Yep, huge case of imposter syndrome. One day people will look at me and realise I don’t actually know anything and I haven’t done anything worth doing, and they’ll feel sorry for me because I’ve wasted my life on this.
Blogging: I’m afraid I’ll run out of interesting things to say, and the people who said lovely things about previous posts will realise how badly my blog is going downhill and will shake their heads and silently unfollow while judging me for my audacity to try blogging in the first place.
Fiction writing: I honestly can’t think of anything here. At the worst I’ll write and publish a sucky book and no one will read it. I’m not scared of that.
Thank you for the opportunity to share. 🙂
I am also a huge Dune fan. The words, “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me” have served me well countless times and allowed me to take that first step past fear. Thank you for the reminder.
my fear – that I’m wasting my time writing and self-publishing when I could be helping people and making the world a better place in so many other ways . . . sigh!
So, so true. Which is why my mantra for the year is NO FEAR THIS YEAR and my word is dauntless. Yes, I do mean Dauntless, as in jumping off trains and buildings and facing every single fear thrown at me.
It means finishing this women’s fiction revision and shipping it. And getting the proposal written for the nonfiction book I’m going to be pitching to agents and publishers at a conference this summer. Yep. Scary stuff.
But I’m Dauntless. Hear me roar!
This reminds me of what Steven Pressfield said in the War of Art. Great post!
Now THAT is a compliment 😀 .
Been following for a few months, most of 2016 actually…wow time flies! First (or second?) time commenting, though. First of all, I wanted to say thanks. I’m most of the way through Rise of the Machines, and it has already done wonders for adjusting my approach to social media. Still trying to get the hang of blogging, but your advice gave me lots to think about.
I loved your use of the Dune quote and application to writing. Never actually read the books or watched the movie, but the snippets always make them look promising. This isn’t the first time you’ve written along this vein, but I enjoy seeing these kinds of posts! They’re so motivating and help keep my spirits up.
Here’s hoping the new year brings new courage in the face of fear!
And apologies for my computer messing up the name portion of that comment…Not sure how to edit that out.
I love Sharon’s No Fear This Year! What a great way to approach my really scary New Year’s resolution to get my book out there this year. I’m going to take your class, Kristen, as soon as I get through this last edit–due at the end of April. I hope you’ll be offering the classes on social media and blogging then too. Thanks for all you do!
Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
Fear not, and go for it!
I am the lion in his lair;
I am the fear that frightens me;
I am the desert of despair
And the nights of agony.
Night or day, whate’er befall,
I must walk that desert land,
Until I dare my fear and call
The lion out to lick my hand.
(James Stephens, not me.)
I’m reaching the point where having a published book is morphing from a dream into a practical future reality, and I’m afraid that everyone will read it and think I’m a talentless booby and an idiot to boot.
There’s only one thing for it – here, kitty, kitty…
That quote has always stuck with me too. It’s so true and it is my biggest problem. But I’m working on it! Thanks for keeping us honest, Kristen.
I fear that what I say really does matter, but no one will ever hear it.
The sentence that zinged me, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing X in spite of the fear,” gives me the direction I need, that I can repeat when the dishes seem more important. I have to revamp the beginning chapters, and doing a paste as insert here and there from rest of book (2nd draft finished) scares me silly. The dishes will here me mumbling my new mantra. Thank you.
It’s like you wrote this about me! My husband’s biggest complaint about my writing is that I don’t finish things. I do actually finish writing them, but revising them is another story. I saw myself in every one of those fear symptoms, and after thinking about it, I’m not sure which actually scares me more – failure or success.
2016 was the year I officially outlived my mom, and it was rough. There were so many things I thought I had to accomplish by now because I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it out of my thirties alive, and I really haven’t done any of them. I spent most of the year just sort of going through the motions and, for the first time I can remember, I hardly wrote a thing. All year.
But this is a new year, and I’ve adjusted to the idea that I don’t have to have done all the things. Maybe. At any rate, I want 2017 to be the year I kick fear in its ugly face, the year I push all the doubts that have filled me for the last twelve months aside and do something.
Love this post. Thank you for the inspiring words. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I needed this. It’s really helped motivate me. I struggle with confidence about my book. I’ve had mixed feedback from beta readers and it’s hard to know which voices to heed.
That quote from Dune has been at the back of my mind for years because it not only defines fear, it also defines /courage/. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂
Hi, this is such a great post, and has given me so much to think about.. I’m currently writing a self help book, on “how to recover from serious mental illness,” from somebody who has lived through it. I’ve been working on it for about a year now, and am hoping I can get it finished in the next six months, and start sending off to Agents then. So flicking through your blog is a massive encouragement! You are living my dream! I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it every day, but you really are. I’ve always said, I don’t care about getting huge or making loads of money; I just want to get my book published, and maybe help out a couple of people. Plus, just holding my published book in my hands would be the most amazing achievement! Thanks for replying- I’m just gonna check out a couple more of your posts!
Kristen, I know we all go through these emotions. But please, take it from someone who saves all of your posts, someone who’s narrowed down the different sites that offer meaningful help…you’re always on point. After five years and fourteen books, I still feel as though I am learning, evolving. And I truly absorb all you say. Please know you really do make a difference! Hugs, A
This is me, dead on.
Awesome post, Kristen! You’ve hit the nail on the head once again! 🙂
Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru and commented:
Fear is a great emotion for our characters to have… and our readers. While we may not want fear in our lives, they say to scare our hearts once a day is a good thing. We should be scared while we write then our readers will be too. What scares you and how do you overcome it?
Kristen, THANK YOU. I read your article again and again, then I took a deep breath and I named my fear.
An eagle-eye proofreader friend had a list of typos for me from the proof copy of my book. In my mind I just knew it would be miles long. I kept putting it off, not wanting to even look at that list. I had lots of excuses…
Yesterday, thanks to you, I admitted my fear, opened my manuscript, opened the list … and sat back, astonished. Seven errors, that’s all there were. In 130k words, there were SEVEN. I had been dreading a raging lion, but it turned out to be a kitty cat.
Today I’ve been hunting up other tasks, things I did not know how to do–like making mobi copies of my e-books. BAM, done. I even figured out how to email them to my Kindle. BAM, there they are. I had two promotional articles to write today. BAM, finished.
Fear destroys momentum. Tell you what, it feels great to have a swing in my step today. Thanks!
This is such a great article. Thank you, Kristen! Your advice continues to help us out.
Oh yes, this. I suffer from all of these symptoms and it feels like battling quicksand- like Indiana Jones in the Crystal Skull movie, and part of my brain throws me a snake to hang on to and I’m like, “and that helps, how exactly?” Sigh. Every day I look for ways to pull myself out 🙂
This post was amazing. I don’t have much of a network of writers or friends to bounce ideas off of, so it’s so nice to know I’m not alone.
‘Complaining alone is a BIG RED FLAG something is wrong.” Need to remember that!
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Is fear controlling our life? Kristen Lamb has published a phenomenal blog post on this subject. Thank you so much Kristen.
Love your articles. I am 3/4 of the way through Rise of the Machines and love it. I have also been reading about WANA and have just joined and have been approved. My mother once asked me if I was afraid of success because it seemed that when I would get a few steps ahead in the industry, I would stall, procrastinate and at times, not even respond. This article his at the perfect time. Thanks for your time. Kolin
Faith is the opposite of fear and what you believe in is more important than yourself. Fear doesn’t coexist with faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for, the evidence of things not seen. Our hearts are beyond finding out and no man can tame it. We are a New Creation and are being made new in this new image everyday. The old man of fear and doubt and self serving and self love has died and is passing away. In the New Creation mans hearts are being renewed. With our new hearts we have inner joy and peace and love and faith and kindness and gentleness and patience beyond human understanding and of course we have self-control in all areas. Its an inward transformation of a new heart that will be with a person forever. Nothing a person does outwardly can accomplish inwardly permanent renewal and all ones attempts at a successful and full joyful life are external and fleeting. Mankind is made of the flesh which consists of mind and body and soul. All people are born from their mothers womb. In order to walk in the NEW Creation with a changed heart that no man or woman can accomplish on their own, one has to be spiritually born again. This is the mystery that was hidden long ago from all mankind. The way that one receives this new birth and becomes part of this wonderful New Creation is by Faith. So I will remind you again what is Faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for, the evidence of things not seen. Believe on the name of THE PRINCE OF PEACE and you will be made new inwardly permanently. After your spiritual birth, you will be lead by the spirit and your old self will be changed and renewed. With faith we invite THE PRINCE OF PEACE to come into our hearts and into our life. Simply say to THE PRINCE OF PEACE that you invite him to come into your heart and to make you new. He will come. THE PRINCE OF PEACE is already here for the good things that have already come. He gives an abundant life and protection and everlasting life for all that believe in him. This is his promise upon your life. Complete utterly and permanent confidence and a hopeful life. Restoration and deliverance from all sickness of mind and body and a renewed heart and spirit and soul. This external world cannot compare with what THE PRINCE OF PEACE has waiting for you. mysterywithinbog
Fear of old age health decline and where I will wind up is very real for me. I fear for the safety of my children and grandchildren. Jesus won’t be paying the bills even if we invite Him as suggested above comment. .
An interesting read. Timeless in its relevance! I addressed issues regarding the ” FEAR-MIND” in my recently published book : RIGHT FOOT FIRST…[A practical guide to self-safety, wellness, awareness, and keeping fit for life]. I will certainly look out for your future posts on this and other topics. Cheers