Writers are afraid of many things. So, it is crucially important for us to come to terms with our fears and to determine what they are. For instance, are you afraid of sending out manuscripts for fear of rejection? Do you believe that your skills as a writer are not good enough to be a successful writer? Do you compare yourself to others all the time and believe that you are not as good a writer as your colleagues or friends?
Become aware of as many of your fears as possible and write them down. This will help you to be able to do something concrete about eradicating them and to come to terms with them. Also, by writing them down, you will become aware of what you are really afraid of over and over again. It is very important for writers to develop this type of self-awareness.
One of the best ways to approach your fears is as a story. Allow yourself to envision different conclusions. Don’t just focus on one particular outcome. For instance, if pitching is a real fear of yours, write down your fears with different endings, such as:
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will get rejected;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will be asked to submit more of my work so that they could assess whether or not they really want to see me as a potential author for them;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will be interviewed by the editor. I don’t know what I will do then.
But also write the story down with positive possible outcomes such as:
• If I pitch to X publisher, I may have to get my manuscript ready on a timeline;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I may finally break into that market;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will develop the courage to start submitting my work to other publishers;
• If I keep pitching, I will get used to pitching my work.
By changing your worse fears into positive story lines, you can minimize your paralysis of the fear.
Three Tricks to Stamp-Out Fear
Some introverts are afraid of doing anything public. Even creating a platform or promoting our work from the comfort of our offices is not something that we do without fear and trembling. For extroverts, they may be afraid of other things, such as measuring up with other writers. Extroverts seem to be notorious for comparing themselves to others all the time.
Here are three tricks that you could try to stamp-out your fears.
Trick #1: What if I wasn’t afraid?
Let’s try a thought experiment. Ask yourself: What if I wasn’t afraid? Then once you ask this question, rewrite your story. Here is one way you may want to proceed:
• Name one of your worries;
• Imagine yourself moving to the opposite side of this fear, behind it, around it, watching like a third-party, disconnected.
• Then answer the questions, What if I wasn’t afraid? Use a complete sentence to echo it, and to put your dilemma into perspective. For instance, try saying…
If I wasn’t afraid of rejection, I’d…….
The sky just opened up, didn’t it? It feels so liberating to think this way. Follow this scheme for all of your fears.
Trick #2: After this is over…I will?
Say you’re up to your ears in deadlines, and frustrated over editorial demands. You just don’t know if you can keep on going. But you are so close to the end of your revisions, you could taste it. One way to continue on and not let your negative self-talk take control is to visualize yourself at the finish line. Then choose a reward that you would enjoy, and plan to make it happen when you complete your revisions.
For instance, you could decide to go out to lunch with your girlfriends after you complete a re-draft of your manuscript and send it to your editor. Or, you could take a mini-vacation to a favourite destination. Whatever it is, just plan to do something really nice when you finish. That will immediately put a smile on your face and encourage you to keep plugging onwards.
One caveat is in order at this stage though. Don’t change your mind about how you were going to reward yourself after you complete your revisions–don’t worry about cost or anything else. You deserve it! Go and enjoy. Then next time you have to stick to your goals and things really get hard, you could have another reward to look forward to. This will help you move past your fear and focus on something positive.
Trick #3: Realize that you really are okay, despite your fears
Many of us consider ourselves to be damaged if we experience fears. But that is not the case. It is natural to be afraid of many things. But we have to make sure that our fears don’t negatively impact how we feel about ourselves as writers because then our self-esteem will be damaged. I have heard of some pretty successful writers who are consistently petrified when they sit down to write–so you are in good company.
Okay, let’s try another thought experiment. Try imagining the worse that could happen to you. For instance, if you are afraid to pitch your idea to a potential publisher, what is the worst that can happen?
Well, say you’re afraid that your idea will get rejected. So, send off your query right away. Don’t hesitate. Create a list of other potential publishers for the manuscript. Then forget about the manuscript you sent out. Then start working on another manuscript. If you do this consistently, you will realize that despite the fear of what might happen in the future to your manuscript right now, you’re okay! You have a roof over your head, your computer is ready to turn on, your house hasn’t burned down, your health is okay…and so on. So, focus on that and forget about your fear. This will help you cope with the fear and its possible paralyzing effects, refocusing your attention on this moment.
By taking these steps, you will be dealing with your fears proactively. And you will be a much more productive and fulfilled writer too when you’re not crippled by your fears.
So, as you can see, you don’t have to be defined by your fears. Instead, you could problem-solve around your fears and resolve to be the best writer that you can be one step at a time. Just determine your worse fear, and then work from there. In other words, work through your fears to eradicate them. By dealing with your fears directly, you will be taking steps to lessen their negative impact on you and in the process you will be taking control of these negative mindsets.
Until next time!
Irene S. Roth