Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dealing with Fear

What are you afraid of?

Uncomfortable question, isn’t it? There are plenty of things that scare us, mostly involved with damage to or loss of those we love. The world is a scary place. How often have we watched or read or written a piece where someone leaves the house in the morning and never comes back? Fears are a cornerstone of drama.

Yet, there are other fears that hold us back. What, as writers, are we afraid of, that prevents us from being the best we can be at our craft?

Sometimes, we feel like we’re fakes. Like we got away with something, and don’t deserve our good fortune. Actually, we do. Writing a book is hard. A huge percentage of the population claims to want to write a book. Most of them want to have written the book, and then get a lot of adoration and attention for it. Very few of them actually want to put butt in chair and write it. In fact, some of them may try to guilt YOU into writing the book, while they take the credit. Unless they’re paying you a boatload of money -- think twice!

Whenever you look at positive feedback on your writing, or, in the middle of celebrating the new contract, you get that little tug of “I don’t deserve that” -- remember that you DO. You sat down and wrote the darned book. Few people who say they want to write a book start; fewer have the commitment to finish; and even fewer of that group land a contract. You put in the work -- you deserve it.

“Who do you think you are?” Often, it’s subtle, coming from those around you, people who resent that you got a book published and they didn’t. This subtext can come in all kinds of wrappings. Don’t fall in to the trap. The answer to that is, “I’m someone with a story to tell, and I did.” Because, as stated in the above paragraphs, you cared enough to put in the work and write the book.

These digs will often come from people who, again, like the idea of a life in the arts, but, for whatever reason, chose not to pursue it. That’s fine, that’s their choice. However, many people are unhappy with their choices, yet don’t have enough courage to change their situation. They’re in jobs they hate. They resent anyone who is actually paid to do work they love.

Remember: that’s not your problem. That is a result of THEIR choices. Your work is a result of YOUR choices. When they toss a metaphorical cow pattie at you, step back and let it hit the ground between you. You don’t have to take it in the chest.

“What if I don’t have another book in me?” Well, what if that’s the case? Harper Lee may have had many books in her, but TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is the one that came out. It’s wonderful, and people still read it.

However, most of us have many books in us, and, if we can retain the commitment to keep writing them, good for us. We are so lucky as writers -- every single thing we experience, every sensation, every person we pass or overhear in the grocery store -- all of that are seeds of potential stories. We are the luckiest people in the world -- everything and everyone is material!

When we do our jobs properly, the characters that evolve are very different and distinct from the people who inspired them. Yet, most of the people who “see themselves” in a character have nothing to do with our original inspiration. It’s a compliment -- it means we’ve succeeded in making the personal universal and the universal personal.

“I’m a perfectionist.” Honey, get out of your own way. We all want to be good. We want to be the best. We spend time working at both of our art and our craft. “I’m a perfectionist” as a reason to not finish a piece is a combination of fear and ego. It’s great to want it to be as good as possible, but the fear that it’s not “perfect” will derail you.

It’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to be the best you can be at this point in your life. And then you land a contract and get a good editor. Together, you make it better. There will be people who like it and people who don’t. You go back and write your next book, applying what you’ve learned from this one, and it will be better. And so forth and so on.

Remember that you have a unique perspective on the world, and the unique ability to communicate it to the world around you. You deserve your success -- provided you actually write the book! ;)

--Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer publishing under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Her paranormal romantic suspense novel for Champagne is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, combining witchcraft, theatre, and politics. Website:


Anonymous said...

That the next book won't be as good as the last, that my muse has left me, that the giant royalty checks will stop rolling in (the last one was a joke in case ya didn't know).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

January Bain said...

Well said, Annabe!

All your universal themes spoke to me. Fear, perfectionism, ego, the naysayers... right on!!!

I too often wonder how I got here but yes, you are right, I kept working and working and working...

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All true. Another bugaboo is the I-don't-have-enough-time excuse. Then I look at you youngsters with full time jobs, children still needing carpooling and watching, and I am ashamed that I didn't start sooner.

Never would I have expected anyone to write for me, but I have been asked to write for others. Get a simple contract and the money up front when dealing with ghosting. The subject is always a perfectionist!
Don't promise to find a market.

January Bain said...

Julie, that sounds like a horrid deal, write it for a perfectionist and market it for them!!! What happened to the rugged individualism we all so admire.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Annabel- just what I needed to hear! I think it's often fear of success (I wish!) that holds me back sometimes, and that might be partly due to laziness about change and making things happen.