Question: What does most damage to a writer’s career?
Answer: The simple answer to that is FEAR.
In my experience the biggest boulder in my writing career path – and probably yours too – has been FEAR. I write the world bold and in solid caps because that’s how it arrives in my psyche. Pulsing as well and emitting a ratchet sound.
What is the most common source of this very unpleasant experience? FEAR that I don’t know what I’m doing. My story isn’t good enough. My writing isn’t good enough. I’m not good enough.
I have plenty of voices among my memory circuits ready and eager to echo the sentiment. “Alice you’re just not good enough!” First soloist in my personal negativity chorus is my mother. You can fill in the blank with yours.
I generally keep on working despite those voices because I love to write. This is your best defense against FEAR in all its forms. Immerse yourself in the work. Get lost in the words and the fun of coming up with them. Pull the wonder of the writing experience over your head like a blanket. Stuff it in your ears. Reduce the negative nigglings in your head and gut by remembering We Write for the Joy of It.
The FEAR of not-good-enough rises to an even more powerful decibel level when it’s time to submit our work to an agent or editor. Or for us Indies – to upload onto Amazon. Each of these is a terrifying leap. We’re delivering our precious creations and our tender psyches to the world. The response could very well be yet another “You’re just not good enough.” In a deafening and debilitating roar this time.
This is what I call a Do It Anyway Situation. I shall illustrate with an anecdote. Way back when there were only hardcopy manuscripts I was building a collection of my own. Partial manuscripts to be exact – every one just short of long enough to constitute a submission which of course I never made.
My collection grew to such volume my husband was forced to build shelves for it across the walls not far from the ceiling on both sides of a long hallway in our apartment. My partials sat there gathering dust and turning yellow until a therapist friend of mine asked a dreadful question.
“What are you planning to do with those?”
She listened almost patiently while I recited my litany. I’d abandoned each project because a better one came to mind. The characters weren’t whomever. The plots weren’t whatever. The market had shifted. The cats ate my mailing labels. In other words I was too frightened to make the leap or – even more scarily – to take the risk of venturing into judgement territory.
After I’d laid my lengthy litany on her my friend said simply this. “You have two choices. Pick the best manuscript and submit it. Or ask Jonathan to build another shelf.”
The image engulfed me. Shelf after shelf of brittle yellow pages from ceiling to floor until the hallway was filled. Then along the walls of every room in turn until we were entombed by my not-good-enough work. The absurdity of that vision – like something in a New Yorker cartoon – triggered the kickstart mechanism in me. I began to submit. I was eventually published. I’ve been published many times since.
Overcoming fear. Relegating it to non-bold lower case. That is a Do It Anyway Situation. Period. End of commentary – almost. If you’d like a Do It Anyway! reminder sign to tape to your computer or staple to your forehead. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to send you one. Or several if you prefer.
Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.
A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my work – including Books 2 and 3 – are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/