I’ve talked about fear before. For my faithful followers – remember the whole Pitch the Publisher scenario? Now that was scary.
Some causes of fear you’re aware of – they loom before you, clouding your vision, preventing you from acting, perhaps enabling you with superhuman powers of procrastination. Other fears leap up before you, shocking you with their presence and leaving you breathless and a little queasy. I experienced that type of fear this week.
Devoting a year of my life to finding my first glimmer of success as a novelist definitely has its ups and downs. I have some weeks when I feel like I’m so committed, so disciplined, so awesome there’s no way I won’t reach my goals. Then I have those weeks where no matter how much work I do (or how little work) I feel like I’m wasting my time, like I’m not being a contributing member of society (or of my household), or like I just don’t have what it takes. You see I’ve learned something – unless I’m ‘discovered’ this whole making a living as a writer thing involves a lot more than writing. It involves marketing. It involves planning. It involves business knowledge, tech knowledge, tax knowledge, and media and social networking savvy. It involves putting myself out there in ways I know very little about and, frankly, that intimidate me.
So, of course, as I figure out how to squeeze in one necessary piece of the puzzle I inevitably pick up another piece that leaves me flabbergasted or, even worse, I realize the piece I put in a few weeks ago wasn’t in the right spot after all. This week I’ve felt as if I picked up a hand full of pieces, all of which I’ve decided need to be placed now. Of course, there’s just one problem. Where do they go?
In trying to answer that question I’ve had moments of feeling lost and frustrated, moments of excitement and energy, and moments of fear. This gamut of emotions can flow through me in a matter of seconds or linger on for days. One such instance involved getting one of my manuscripts to a place where I felt ready to send it off to beta readers. For those of you who don’t know, beta readers are people novelists find to read their manuscripts in the hopes that they’ll point out things such as gaping plot holes or oh so obvious character flaws the writer just can’t see.
So, after letting this manuscript ‘sit’ for a little over a month I put the file on an eReader app and settled in for my first full read. And I read, and I read, and I loved it! And I thought to myself – this is a book. This is a good book! I made tons of edits of course, changing things here and there, and then I said to myself – it’s time!
I contacted a dozen people I know hoping that at least five or six of them would have the time and interest to help. I was blown away when nine – yes, that’s right, 9 – were willing and able to take on this task for me. How wonderful, how awesome! And then I sent the file along to the first responder. As I hit the button fear took over – my throat tightened, my skin tingled, my whole body felt trapped. Imagine being locked in a dark, cramped closet with no idea when anyone would come with the key. Throw a little nausea in the mix and we’ve got a fairly accurate description.
But you know what? After that horrible moment the feeling passed and I was okay and it reminded me that any time I have moments of fear or apprehension or intimidation that’s all they are – moments – and each one of those moments will pass. I let fear hold me back from so many things. But all the things in life we don’t do, or put off doing, or tell ourselves we don’t have a chance at we just need to do anyways. We need to get past that uncomfortable moment and then the next one and the next and I’m pretty sure 9 times out of 10 we’ll get to a moment that’s oh so worth it.
I had one of those just this morning. In less than 19 hours after I sent the file one of those beta readers got back to me saying she’d finished the manuscript, that she couldn’t put it down. Now that doesn’t mean she won’t still have feedback for areas where the story really needs to improve – and I hope she does – but for any reader or writer out there I’m sure you’ll agree that the not being able to put a book down phenomenon is a very good moment indeed.