Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 28, 2011

Choose Your Fear -- Fear of Success

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?

0 comments on “Choose Your Fear -- Fear of Success”

  1. Wow, Fae, I may have started you thinking, but you really went deep! I'll bet a lot of writers will relate to your fear.

    I'll be here for you girlfriend - gently nudging you (HEY FAE! Didja send anything TODAY?!!!)
    toward the publication you richly deserve. I can't wait to see your huge smile, when you're signing your book for a fan! Visualize it!

  2. WOWZEE!

    Fae - Your blog is as award-winning as it is genuine and deep and smart and inspirational.

    How many rejections did Stephen King accrue? Something like 230?

    I just zipped over to my friend Theresa Rizzo's web site, to get a link to share with you. Here's why -- in Theresa's words. It's two paragraphs.

    I've been writing for almost 13 years now and though I've accumulated over 400 rejections and spent a lot of money, I am still unpublished. But it hasn't been time and money wasted. I've recently had an epiphany that success truly is the journey - not the destination. Cliche as that might seem, it's true for me.

    So I made this video to celebrate my writer's journey. It's tempting to dwell on the negatives when trying to get published, however there are so many blessings.


    Theresa's video is at the bottom of the page. Please go to her web site and click on her video.

    Trust me, it's worth the click. 😉

    FAE -- Since you attended an Immersion class, I know your writing. Your writing is strong. I trust that you will get published. And . . . enjoy your glorious journey.

    1. Thanks, Margie. The video was a wonderful tribute to Theresa's support group and did an inspiring job at showing her understanding of her journey. Thanks so much for sharing the link.
      And thank you so much.
      Love, Fae

    2. Thanks for the link to Theresa's video, Margie! I started a playlist called "I Can Do This" a few months ago after I bought the Hannah Montana soundtrack and right now it just has Miley Cyrus's "The Climb", which Theresa used, and her "Dream" from the same album. They make me happy when I listen to them. I think I might have to make a gratitude video, too! What a great idea!

  3. " What if I get published? How will my life change? There will be other books expected 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?"

    You are SO my peeps! This is exactly what runs through my head. That, and I know if I get published I will somehow be outted as a fraud...even though that doesn't make any sense!

    Thank you so much for this post, Fae, it's comforting to know that even authors who have written several books have this fear.

    1. Kate,

      Multi-pubbed authors tell me it only gets worse with each book. Which means all us unpubs have to get used to these feelings and contain them. Thank you soooo much for your comment!

      1. Jenny, that's exactly what caused me to get too nervous to send stuff out when my life was chaotic. "What if someone says yes and I have to say, I don't have time right now but I'll get back to you in a couple months?" LOL! I feel far less pressure and almost no fear now that I'm self-publishing - I'm in control of the deadlines. 🙂

        Love your post, Fae! 🙂

    2. It's good to know I'm not the only one chained to the oar on the fear ship, Kate. I know in my heart the fears mean nothing, but my brain usually has a strangle-hold on my fear. Working on letting that go. It doesn't serve me.

  4. I work through fear, and most emotions, by writing and talking -- although writing tends to be most medicinal. When fear pops up as an instinct, however, I LISTEN to it big-time. 😉 I'm planning to post on this type of fear soon...

    Remember, the "what ifs" are evidence of your creativity. Just need to channel them appropriately and, as you know, keep on keeping on. Best of luck!

  5. Fae, you hit more than one nail on the head! Great blog! Fear of not having everything absolutely perfect is one of my faults too! I just can't stand the thought that someone might giggle and point a finger. I'll join you on getting over that one. 🙂 Shar

  6. I am my biggest critic. An aspiring author's nightmare. Fears have dominated my thoughts this past year. Is my writing style inadequate? Will anyone want to read my manuscript? Do my ideas lack creativity? All of these harmful questions had created me into nail-biting worrier. Until a few months ago. I dug into edits and found my voice! What a great feeling. Fear hasn't vanished but I feel much more confident now.

    Thanks for this post, Fae. Showing your vulnerability takes courage. Certainly nice to see that I'm not the alone. 🙂

    1. And you know the truth, Joy? It just takes that one editor who loves your work. That one person who isn't taking a chance on you, but knows you'll succeed. Congratulations on digging into your edits and finding your voice. What a wonderful way to deal with the fear nightmare. Let's hang in there together.

      1. Moral support definitely helps to alleviate my fears, Fae. That's why I love FF&P and my RWA chapter. I truly owe my quest for my voice to my critique partner.

        Currently, I'm in the midst of finishing edits on my first novel, Secrets of Kalkia. But I've stepped away from it for the time being as the book has become painful. I started writing in response to my past wounds and based Secrets of Kalkia on the scars I endured.

        Happy to say, I'm moving on. Someday, I will find true healing.

        I certainly will continue with edits on Secrets of Kalkia at some point. For now, I'm writing a more upbeat historical/paranormal Romance, Taming A Mershiftress.

        My effort to release my fears has been a process. That's why I'm using my blog over the next 2 months to reach other abuse survivors like me. Some counselors and survivors have e-mailed me thanking me for speaking out.

        Offering others hopes has helped me in my own healing process. No longer will fear control my life.

        Joy Shaw

  7. Tell me Fae, who told you you could walk inside my head 🙂 Laura is a great a@@ kicker. I followed your journey and thought maybe we had been down that road together. With some courage and a little luck, maybe we'll make it all the way this time. Thanks !!

    1. Oh, as a sci fi freak I love the mind meld thing! Who knows, maybe we have been down this road together in a parallel universe. I keep telling myself it's the journey, not the destination, but I'd like to make it all the way this time and see you there, too. Thanks for peeking inside my head and not screaming!

  8. Hi Fae, I can relate. This is a great post. Thank you so much for sharing with and inspiring others. I will checkout the method you suggested. You might be interested in a little book, published back in the 80's by a piano teacher, Eloise Ristad. It's called "A Soprano On Her Head". I read it while studying opera but I think it applies to writing as well. It's a fast read but has some precious jewels of wisdom. Good luck to you!

    1. OMG, Kara! I'm going to have to get Eloise's book. I took Italian for a year when I took voice lessons for opera! Talk about a parallel path. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  9. By the way, Fae, I LOVE all your math references! I have to go follow those links! I got into an accounting/finance career because it was the one place in a chaotic world where there was one right answer, one right way of doing things. (Of course, then I worked for some companies who did "creative" accounting... LOL!)

    1. I think it's the most ironic trick of the universe that now I write. As an undergrad and in grad school I tested out of my English composition requirements because I couldn't stand to write essays. One of my favorite equations in the METTA book is Gratitude divided by Greed equals Quality of Life. Talk about one right answer!

  10. F-E-A-R.
    Wow! Just reading those four little letters can bring up a strong emotional response deep within. Fear plays an important role in our everyday lives, and can be a positive or negative. Fear can keep us safe by preventing us from doing things that are dangerous such as jumping off a cliff; but fear can also hinder us from achieving our dreams and living up to our true potential, particularly when they are hidden just beneath the surface.

    I have found what helps me the most in dealing with my fears is to journal about the fear and ask myself exactly what it is that scares me or is keeping me stuck. The process involves going through an inner dialogue to help identify and address it directly. I wrote about the process at http://rechelleowens.com/overcoming-hidden-fears/.

    The good news is that once you can coax your fear out of hiding and identify it, you will often find that it tends to lessen remarkably quickly.

    1. All of the above. Sometimes at the same time and sometimes serially. But luckily, there are those moments I ask, "What's the truth?" And the truth is that change could be better. That's what keeps me in the chair. Thanks for reading and commenting--and bringing me back to this.

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