Writers: Stop living in fear.

Carnival of Souls

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I could make a lot of theories as to why it’s the case, but for whatever reason you want to believe – hypersensitivity, upbringing, a constant sense of humility, perfectionism, etc. – writers live in a state of fear. They’re scared of what people think about their work, scared they’re not good enough, and most importantly, scared of rejection. There’s nothing more destructive to a writer than the fear of rejection, of putting something you put time and effort and soul into off to the side because you don’t want to know how bad it really is; or worse, not even trying.

Think of it this way: you have all the ingredients for a lovely, delicious cake. Some will keep, and some will spoil, even after being baked. You stall for a while, and finally decided to put together the cake, though some of the ingredients aren’t fresh. With love and care, you bake. You take the cake out, let it cool, trim it, frost it, and then take a small slice for yourself. You love it. It’s delicious – not everything it could have been, but only bakers and food critics would notice. That night, you’re having friends over. But you’re so scared they’ll find flaws and mistakes in your baking, so scared their reaction won’t be what you hope it to be, that you stick the cake in the back of the fridge and cover it up. It goes forgotten, goes uneaten, and goes to waste, having only been tasted by its baker.

What a waste of good food, right? And yet writers waste good writing (and their skills) all the time.

I see this fear in a few lights myself as I go on from day to day. Some of my writing acquaintances will find the “perfect” job for themselves, a long term writing assignment that fits their interest and expertise, but don’t even make the step to apply. I see writers who have “the manuscript” sitting, waiting – it’s done, but they look through a million publishers to never find “the right one” – without even sending it in for submission.  I see writers find open submission markets, try one article, get rejected, and vow never to return. This last one doesn’t sound like fear, does it – until you realize they go back to a safe place, one that won’t reject them even though it offers less money, less benefit, less recognition.

There’s also this concept of the editor as evil, some anti-thesis of a writer who sits in a dusty ugly office full of red pens, a cranky man or woman who rejects everything except some rare piece once in a while that reflects the smidgen of soul they have left inside. In fact, most editors are also writers, and they are being given the grueling task of doing what most writers don’t do – being critical of their own work. This past week, I read a great blog piece from a fellow writer who has joined the ranks of editors, who gives some insight into the review and rejection process, and is a great piece to read for any of you (especially if you’re thinking of writing novels.)

So how do you grab that wriggling fear inside of you and pluck it out? To be honest, you’ll likely never be rid of that fear – and if you do get rid of it, you’ve done a great thing that many others will never do. I still have my fear, too – who takes the form often of various people in my life who put me down and said I wasn’t good enough. Over time, however, I have adopted a motto that has allowed me to grow as a writer, to take the risks my brain panics over. It’s not “The worst that can happen is they say no.” It’s a good one, but sometimes the heart is too scared of that “no” and sees “no” as the worst thing that can happen, not the least.

My motto is this: Do it anyway.

Whatever I’m scared or nervous of doing, whenever I’m afraid I won’t be good enough, won’t be what they’re looking for, anything like that – I do it anyway. Job I’m not qualified for but love? I’ll apply anyway. Big client? I’ll apply anyway. Never made contact with a big press contact? I’ll reach out anyway. I don’t let myself get daunted. My fear still yells at me, but I just shrug at it, look forward, and say “I’ll do it anyway.”

It’s not easy to jump from fearful writer to having the courage and confidence to knock on bigger doors. It took me time, and a lot of stress and encouragement. Now, however, I have the confidence to stand on my own, to press on, to take the risks whether rejection is on its way or not. I do it anyway.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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9 Responses to Writers: Stop living in fear.

  1. Faith Draper says:

    Oh my goodness I know you had to have written this just for me – I am guilty of letting fear stop me or at least delay my work. I am feeling much better after reading this article – as always, thank you.

  2. I can totally relate to this. My book is coming out in a few days and I am filled with fear of what other people think good post.

    Sierra Michaels
    author of Intimate Encounters

  3. Excellent article! I would not have done probably half the things I have without the support of you and the rest of our tribe. Thank you excellently put!!!

  4. Melody Jones says:

    Jaime, did you take a look in my brain when I wasn’t watching? Because this is EXACTLY the way it is for me. Time to pass fear in the fast lane and ignore it in the rearview mirror. It has no control over me!

    • Jaime says:

      No, no secret brain technology! I have known maybe one or two writers in my lifetime that have never shown fear when it comes to “getting out there.” But yes, leave that fear behind! Be proud of the steps you’re taking and don’t look back!

  5. Sara Broers says:

    Great article~ kind of goes back to the old saying, “The worst word you will hear is NO.” Thanks for the encouragement to get writing,writing,writing!

  6. Excellent article, Jaime. 🙂 It’s especially easy to succumb to fear when you are just starting out and feel that you “know nothing” but we need experience to learn the right way…even if rejection and the fear of is hard to swallow, the lessons learned will be worth it in the long run. (or so I tell myself!)

  7. karensanders says:

    I fluctuate between being the person who will “do it anyway” and the person who is too scared to act. With article writing I will give almost anything a try. But I have a novel lurking in my computer that is still unfinished because I keep thinking that it will never get published anyway, so what’s the point? Perhaps I should re-adjust my thought process again!

    Great work, Jaime 😀

  8. This is so my life right now, but you are right…I need to just do it. Fear & rejection be damned!

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