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?