Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Goodbye, Fear

I loved Patti's post on Monday, saying goodbye to poor Fred, who wanted to sabotage her novel. A wolf in sheep's clothing was Fred. Today, I'm saying goodbye to fear, and I have Henrietta Frankensee to thank for it. Henrietta is a regular commentor on our blog, and I always appreciate what she has to say. Her comment on our latest Roundtable discussion inspired this post.

She said, "... one day I'll have the courage to join a writers group ... to find a writers group." And that got me thinking about my own fears, and the effect they've had on me over the years. I think I've shared this story before, but when I was a sophomore in high school -- the year from hell for me -- I attended three different high schools (I attended five high schools altogether). In my history class at the third school of my sophomore year we were to write a short term paper, then give an oral report on the paper. I did my term paper, then came the day I was to give the report. Shortly after class started, I asked my teacher (a male, thankfully, because they never ask questions) if I could use the restroom. He gave me a hall pass, I took my purse, left my books on my desk ... and walked home. And I never did give the report.

So believe me, I could relate to Henrietta's fear of joining -- or even exploring the idea of joining -- a writers group, which I did in the mid-eighties, only because I was invited, then compelled to join the group that a friend of mine attended. I was so nervous about going. All the women were experienced writers -- a couple of them had been published multiple times -- and the group had been together for a number of years. I was the youngest person there, and the newest writer. I was petrified whenever it came my turn to read my writing to them.

I was shy by nature, which I think I demonstrated above, and had never been a self-promoter. So getting past that hurdle of fear was huge for me. Well, I'm happy to say, the benefits were well worth the effort. I learned so much about writing and about the submission process from that group. The lessons were invaluable. Recently, I returned to the group to share my latest novel with them, and my Amazon-publishing experience. Only two were original members, and I recognized myself in the quivering voices of novice writers as they read their work to us, and who looked at me the way I used to look at others -- as if I had all the experience and all the answers.

I'm so glad I pressed beyond my fears all those years ago, and am grateful for the direction and encouragement I received from the Write Bunch. But I'm still plagued with fears. I'm in the process of looking for an agent. Last week I queried a handful of agents I thought might be a fit for my writing style and goals. And with each query, before I even sent it off, I found myself battling fear. I had butterflies in my stomach and a deep reticense to hit the Send key

Why? What was I afraid of? A lot, actually. I was afraid my query wasn't written correctly, afraid it wouldn't generate interest, afraid of rejection. When I stopped to analyze it, I asked myself, What's the worst that could happen? Well, I said, they could turn me down. Really? That's it? While I don't relish the thought, I've been through far worse. Far. Worse. So I put things in perspective and sent my queries. And as I faced down my fear I did it with Henrietta in mind, and anyone else who dreads taking that next big step.

And all those years ago, when I was so afraid of reading my work out loud to my writing peers, what was it that I feared? That they'd laugh me out of town? That they'd point out my flaws? That they'd tell me to retire my pencil for good? Well, they didn't laugh at me, they didn't tell me to hang it up; but they did point out my flaws and gave me sound advice for improvement. Invaluable advice. Invaluable encouragement.

I emailed Henrietta a few days after her comment on the blog, asking her if I could quote her for this post, which she obviously agreed to. Then she said she had contacted a critique group and was meeting with one of the writers with the expectation of joining. Yay, Henrietta! Carpe Annum!

Fear can paralyze us or it can motivate us. As a writer, what are you most afraid of, and how can you turn that fear into a motivation?

12 comments:

Megan Sayer said...

Ha! Sharon you sound so much like me! I managed to avoid every single one of my critiques in the last year of art school...and they were worth 10 percent of my final mark as well. Oh dear.
You know, this was exactly what I neexed to read tonight. It smacked me in the mouth with the truth of what's really happening in my head. Just today I found myself wondering if pursuing publication was really the right idea...maybe not God's plan...maybe I should just stop the idea and go write something else instead...or stop writing...and hang on a minute,that's fear talking! Time to put a stop to that, recognise it for what it is and keep going, trembling feet and all.
Thanks for the encouragement Sharon :-)

Susie Finkbeiner said...

The other day on Facebook, Bonnie brought up self-doubt. That's been on my mind a lot the past few days.
I think that the core of my self-doubt and fear is that I can't really write another novel that people will enjoy. And I'm afraid of the emotional investment of this second novel. But, even with the fear, I'm pushing through.

Thank you for this post, Sharon. Onward and Upward!

Josey Bozzo said...

What am I most afraid of?
That I am wasting my time. That I am not good enough at this to ever do anything with it. I don't have the education, experience, or knowledge needed to write. Even when I do write, I am filled with such self doubt that I fret over every single word.
I often get multiple opinions on things and no matter how many times someone tells me it's good, I don't believe them.
How's that for fear?

Dina Sleiman said...

This really blessed me today. I am currently writing for the first time based on an editor's request and somewhat of a deadline. The fear this has caused me has been almost paralyzing. It is sucking all the fun out of writing and also causing me not to do my best work. I actually found myself thinking the other day, "I really hope I can teach English next fall so I won't have to write." LOL. That is so not me. This post caught me midstream of trying to move past this fear. I think it might mean not meeting my mostly self-imposed deadline, and I think I can deal with that.

I need to remind myself that even if the book is perfect, it still might get turned down. And even if it's not perfect, God can make this happen.

Sharon K Souza said...

Yes, Megan, keep going, trembling feet and all.

Susie, I feel that way every time I finish a novel, and begin a new one. The answer is, we'll never know until we try. So try and try again, my friend. I predict you'll grow and get even better with each novel you write.

Josey, you're reading my mail! Honestly, you could be me.

Dina, I think that's one of my big fears, is that I'll find myself in that position one day. And then I fear I won't. I'm so fickle.

Jennifer Major said...

There is a wonderful Spanish saying "Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias". Which translates to "a life lived in fear is a life half lived".
I say to my writing/website partners "the worst thing that can happen is someone says YES". Rejection is a known to a newb writer, acceptance is not! Being armed and well trained is the only way to survive a battle in which the only opponents I have are the voices in my head that whisper "you are not worthy".

Bonnie Grove said...

I'm reading the comments with interest. I'm writing Friday's post for Novel Matters, and I'll try to address the specific fears mentioned here.

Megan Sayer said...

and Bonnie the fascinating thing about that is that wherever we're up to in our writing journey it appears we're all afraid of something. Perhaps it's a hallmark of writer-personalities : )

Marcia said...

I appreciate your transparency, Sharon, as always.

I don't post very often on here, largely because of fear. I might say something wrong, misspell a word, or generally come off looking like an idiot in front of REAL writers. Worse yet, maybe everyone will ignore me, and then I'll feel like crawling under a rock. :-)

I keep making mental notes to myself to post here more often to help myself get over this fear, but I don't do it. Maybe one of these days I'll find some courage.

I have been blogging through the One Year Bible for 121 days now every day, but I'm loath to advertise it for fear no one will read it!

Anyway, Bonnie, I'll be interested in reading what you have to say about getting over our fears.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

It must be a God thing. Today of all days I met my new critique partner/friend/comrade/kindred spirit. We hit it off right away and I feel new inspiration and joy in writing because of her. I would like to thank all of you for the encouragement you gave toward this meeting! I encouraged her to come to Novelmatters.
We can talk about fear until the cows come home but please Bonnie, are you going to post about the antidote to fear? LOVE. I feel such powerful love with you. Your belief in me and desire to see me vault those fears is the deal-maker.
What was I afraid of? Nothing to do with sentence structure or style. My story is the outpouring of my heart, all my most treasured beliefs and foundational operating platforms...A me that I write about in fiction because it is too raw to survive the breeze of reality. Ack! It hurts to think about! But God has graciously provided a sweet and equally tender spirit to accompany me. God provided, God provided. It cannot be said too many times.
So thank you everyone, especially Sharon today for this post.
PS. in this city of 1 million there is no writers group for Inscribe in my quadrant. Therefore, haven't they asked ME to lead one?! Be careful what you ask for! Talk abut fear! Isn't God sweetly, gently humourous?

Sharon K Souza said...

Marcia, I'm oh so happy to hear from you. We're all in this together. Real writers together. Because you're as real a writer as the rest of us! I'm not sure fear is something we ever fully conquer, but I read something just today that says courage isn't the absence of fear; it's pushing through the fear. And that's what we're all doing -- pushing through the fear. Every victory is HUGE, even if it seems small. So push on, Marcia, and don't be a stranger!

Henrietta, Yay!!!!!!!!!

Cherry Odelberg said...

Sharon, you mean there's no hope? I mean, you are an established writer and all and YOU feel that way? Fearful? And you don't have an agent?
Maybe I am not abnormal after all.
I am so glad you kept writing and I am thankful for this "support group," at Novel Matters.
What am I afraid of? For the past 40 years I have been afraid of embarrassment. For the 18 before that, I was afraid of embarrassing mommy.