Cages

A pig face looking frankly at you and telling you that you don’t belong in a cage!

How often have you experienced the kind of overwhelm that comes from feeling that there are so many things you “should” be doing, and that list is so long, you end up paralyzed and end up doing nothing?

I recently finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She talks about how the cages that society creates for us leave us trapped and stifled, often trying to live definitions of ourselves that come from outside of ourselves. (This is definitely paraphrasing. Go read the book yourself to see what I’m trying to get at. )

Anyway, today after reading something from a friend who’s definitely feeling that overwhelm, it made me think: how many of those cages, especially as writers, are we creating for ourselves?

I mean, yes, there are definitely things that we have to do as writers – write books or write something for other people to read being, likely, the number one thing. But other than that, it feels like so many of the definitions of things we “must” and “should” do is a proscribed list that if we actually obeyed it, we’d have no time whatsoever for a life outside of work… and probably no time to write either.

I do wonder if this is perhaps worse among female author-preneurs, or if it’s prevalent everywhere, but if you’re a writer looking to publish and sell your books, you’ve probably heard of some of the things I mean.

  • You have to be on every social media account that has and will ever be (come on, aren’t you signed up yet for the one that won’t exist until 2023??)
  • You should be active on all of those social media accounts too (but be fresh! Just be you! Keep it real… as you force yourself to follow all of this advice.)
  • You must be constantly building relationships with every person out there (forget actual relationships … or, like, family. Nope. No time for that if you’re doing what you “should” be doing.)
  • Make sure you’re making ads for all of those social media accounts, sell, sell, sell, … but gentle sell, not spam sell.
  • Plus make sure you’ve got ads running on all the platforms (because if you’re making less than $2k a month, you’re a failure!)
  • Have you spent thousands of dollars on classes that promise you THIS is the right answer to make you a millionaire and selling millions of a books a day? (Come on, you didn’t think you actually had time to do things, like, write, did you? And wave to your family through your office doors… if you still have one.)

On and on it goes, and you know what? I’m going to stop, because it’s stressing me out.

And it’s driving me nuts. All of it. And I know it’s driving lots of other authors nuts too.

You want to know the real secret?

There is NO secret.

Nope. Sad, isn’t it? Yep, I was looking for it too… along with possibly the drafting or editing fairies that help get books done when things aren’t going well. But, they don’t exist any more than the perfect formula to sell all those books – no matter how much that workshop costs. Game the system? Sure, you can follow those examples, buy up case loads of your own book and “buy” your way onto the lists. You CAN do a lot of things. But what works for Lizzy P. Author may not work the same for you.

You’re not her.

You’re YOU.

And yes, let me pause and insert here that not all advice is bad advice. Do I take workshops, try to keep learning, try to keep improving in both my writing craft and the business side of my career? Absolutely. Is there lots of great advice and information out there? Yep. That too. Are there many things we can do to tweak our marketing / get better at the business / get better at our craft? Yes, indeed, and there are a few specific ones on my list all the time.

My objection comes when all that advice, when all the things you “should do” stretch into the bars of a cage. When you’re so hemmed in by all those “shoulds” that you feel like you can’t breathe, let alone write the next word, the next sentence, or hardest of all, the next book.

I’ve been there. I fall into that cage every so often. Was there yesterday, as a matter a fact, when all my emails seemed to be screaming at me to “just do this to double your sales” or “just keep up this to guarantee search engine results” and so on. These were legit blogs I follow too, because I usually appreciate their advice. It got me so depressed, I did the bare minimum of words, but tried nothing else, too exhausted by all the “shoulds” that I had to focus on the “could.”

That’s what I usually come back to. What could or CAN I do? What do I WANT to do? And what do I really NEED?

Yesterday, I needed to recharge so I don’t get burned out. I needed to remember there is more to my life than writing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes we get terrific advice, but we need to be wise enough to recognize when it isn’t the right advice for us. Perhaps it won’t ever be right, perhaps it just isn’t right because of where we are financially / personally / emotionally / whatever. But it’s up to you to stand up for YOU. To recognize that feeling when your chest tightens, your shoulders tense, and the whole world is demanding more and more, or something is telling you that it just isn’t right for you… just tell that advice “no.” (You’re welcome to use stronger language and swears. Swears are fun. πŸ™‚ I’m just trying to be polite.) πŸ˜‰

Sometimes maybe you’ll need to sit with that feeling for a little while, think about where that resistance to the advice or next “should” is coming from. Maybe it’s child-you deep inside that’s stubbornly insisting “No, I don’t wanna!” And sometimes you need to tell child-you inside that it’s okay, we can still do scary things that will just make us stronger. So sometimes you try some of those things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

But you pick and choose which of those things you try. Ignore the others. Cut down on the blogs and other input you take in that feeds into that stress and fills your head with Shoulds. Connect with people in your field and outside of it, people who care about you, that can help pull you back from the madness of trying to do all the things all the time. You don’t let the Should-Army flatten you down and stop you from doing what you need to do.

And if you’re a writer, you need to write.

You’ll do that too at your own pace, in your own way. You’ll find ways to reclaim and hold tight to the joy of pure creation that is the work, that is writing, because there are days when it won’t feel that way. But you, you will write.

Because you are a writer. And you are free.

Release Day: Coping, Celebrating, & Cheering

Tomorrow my first book will officially have it’s book birthday, and go out into the big old world. It’s a tremendously exciting moment, one I’ve worked toward for years, really since I wrote my first novel back in junior high (yes, really, and no, I don’t think I’ll mention just how long ago that was.) πŸ˜‰ And while I, like you, might be releasing that first book and there are so many wonderful things about that moment, let’s admit: it can also be pretty darned terrifying, and I don’t think it’s just me feeling that way. 

I *could* go over all the ways it’s terrifying, but that wouldn’t be very nice, would it? Especially if either of us suggest something the other hadn’t thought of yet. πŸ˜‰ Instead, I wanted to share what I’m doing to celebrate and bring some of the love back to my own book release in hopes that maybe some of those things will work for you, too. 

1) Choice of release date. The first thing I did was plan my book release on my youngest daughter’s birthday, or for another large, personal event. I know, many people (including my husband) have said it was crazy to do so, but I actually did it very intentionally. I have a lot of wonderful and wise friends who have released their books before mine, and I’ve heard about the stress and less-than-wonderful feelings that can sometimes accompany a book release, so I wondered how I might try to avoid some of that. My solution was to try and be busy. It’s my daughter’s second birthday: I HAVE to help her celebrate. I don’t have to stress endlessly about what’s happening (or not happening) to my book. πŸ™‚ I also chose to release my book on a Wednesday, rather than the Tuesday when most traditional houses release their books. And selected October, when I hoped most of my target audience might be have started to settle into routine and be ready for a fun read. 

2) Return the love. Most people look forward to signing their books. For me, I chose to have the proof copy of my first book signed by all the people who have loved and supported me along the journey to first publication. Granted, this page is missing some significant signatures, like my wonderful CP who is miles away, and the amazing Dreamweavers, my group of 2014 Golden Heart sisters. But when I look at those signatures, it reminds me of my family who have believed in me, who have helped me along the way, and it brings some of that love back to a physical copy of my book. It reminds me that my book is made of more than just words and the hard work that went into it – that love is there too. 

3) Remember to Celebrate. Yes, there are a thousand-and-one things I could (and perhaps should) do to promote my work, boos tit out in the world. But amidst that, I also want to take the time to celebrate what I have accomplished with this milestone. See the comment above about planning it on my daughter’s birthday? I’d hoped this would give me further reason to go out and celebrate that day. My daughter and I will both be celebrating a special birthday, and at the very least, I think that deserves a nice lunch out together, don’t you? I think sometimes we’re always looking so far ahead at what we need to do, what we want to accomplish, it’s easy to forget the moment we’re in, to cherish and celebrate that moment. And on release day, after all that it takes to get to that moment, isn’t it worth celebrating it too? I think so. 

4) Borrow some confidence. Feeling kind of shaky about the reception your book will find out in the big ol’ world? Me, too. The world is a big, wonderful place, and there are lots of terrific differences between all of us which contribute to making that world a more interesting place, which means not everyone will love my work, not everyone is my ideal reader, and that’s okay. So on the days when I’m feeling most nervous, my confidence shaken, those are the days to cling to the words of people who ARE excited about your work, who do want to see more. Because inside, I’m pretty sure you (like I) know you’ve got a lot to offer and that this is just the beginning. But when it’s hard to see past the fear, borrow some of that confidence others have in you until your own makes a roaring come-back. πŸ™‚ 

5) Write the next book. Yes, I want to celebrate this book heading out into the world. But you know what will help this book and me? Giving that book some siblings to keep it company out there! So, it’s time to work on not just pushing this one book, but also building my career – and that means more than one book! Alas, while I wish I could work on so many different projects at once (and of course, get them all done faster), I have to content myself right now with writing one book at human-speed for now. Which is what I’m doing. And you know what? I’m even more excited about this next book in the series than I was about the first, which makes me more excited to get book one out into the world. After all, readers should find that one first, right? 

So that’s what I’m going to be doing and reminding myself of tomorrow on release day. What about you? Any tips or advice? Need a bit of confidence / a cheer to keep you going? Comment below, and I’m happy to give you one. πŸ™‚ 

Otherwise, thanks for stopping by and reading. And remember: there’s always magic in the world if you look hard enough. 

Control What You Can, Release the Rest

There’s a massive wildfire burning in my province right now that has forced the evacuation of the entire town of Fort McMurray, the largest evacuation in our province’s history. Yesterday, it was expected that the fire was almost under control. And then today, winds turned unexpectedly, and the fire spread faster and hotter. It’s already consumed homes of people forced to leave on short notice, watching flames licking higher than the trees in what’s being described as an apocalyptic horror. Tomorrow is expected to be an even more severe day for the fire. 

And it’s a drastic reminder of in some ways, how life can change in the blink of an eye. Just when we think we have things figured out, just when we figure out how to best balance our life and career / maneuver through the publishing industry / just get through the day with some measure of control, the game changes.

I’ve been feeling lately how easy is to slide into an overwhelmed state where the sometimes crazy-making nature of the publishing industry gets me down. My writing career is always finding the balance between my personal life and my writing life – a particular challenge when writing and my stories are such a part of me, it can be difficult to set them aside or balance them with other needs in my life. There’s also the other balance between the creative side of the job (ie: the brainstorming, writing, and playing with words) balanced with the business side of the job (promoting / selling my work, social media awareness for my career, deadlines, etc).

So I tried to make the equation simple for me, because I am nothing if not eager to simplify anything that could be construed as math. πŸ˜‰ 

What I can’t control? 

Lots. More than I can possibly list. And trying to consider it all? That’s crazy-making. I can no more control how an agent or editor reacts or feels about my work than I can control or predict the path of a wildfire. Yes, there’s some I can do, like write the best book I can, keep improving, and sometimes get out of the way. But for the most part? I have to learn to live with what I can’t control. 

What I can control? 

My writing, and the design of my latest teapot. Those I know I have control over.

This is a survival requirement for me. Because if I started thinking about all the factors I can’t control, it will paralyze me with fear. 

Just like if I started thinking about the possibility of our heavily forested area catching fire, and potentially having to face the possibility of leaving my dream home behind. If I worried about this all time, or let it consume me just as I could thinking about the publishing industry all the time, I’d be a nervous, paralyzed wreck!

Because what matters is how you survive. Whether that means bringing things down to a simple equation of what you can control, and releasing all that you can’t, or remembering that even if you did have to abandon your home, if you have your family with you, your lives and the very great of you, you can move forward no matter what happens. 

My thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the Fort MacMurray wildfire. And if this isn’t familiar to you, here’s an article where you can find more information and which was in my thoughts while writing this post. Article for information: Wildfire in Alberta’s energy heartland forces thousands to flee.

And to you: thanks for stopping by! Wishing you a week where you focus on what you can control, leave the rest behind, and remember what’s really important.  

 

Doubt, Fear, And Dark Days

I am tired. Tired of winter and long dark days, outside and in. Tired of waiting for good news, and receiving rejections. Tired of trying to believe in possibilities and forcing optimism.

And of course, when you’re tired, it leaves the door wide open for those buggers doubt and fear. It lets them sneak up on you and seep like grease stains into all aspects of your life. One rejection becomes a rejection from the world. Which is ridiculous, the logical part of my brain knows, and yet it’s the reptilian part, all that doubt and fear taking control, that whispers bad things.

It would be easy, ever so easy to just step away. To say I’m “taking a break” and slowly, without quite realizing it, just stop writing. It would start with one skipped day – you know, the kind you can “catch up on.” Then it would be another, because you need to be kind to yourself. And then a week or two missed. And then a month. And suddenly, you’d find you hadn’t been writing anymore. That it had all dried up.

And so, on days like that, on days like THIS, it is even more important to sit down in front of that computer, to put the fingers to the keyboard and ignore all those nasty whispers, and just write. Write if you are tired, write BECAUSE you are tired. But just keep writing, words in the dark, words to yourself, words to prove those whispers and the reptilian brain wrong.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a brighter week with melting snow and hopes of spring. πŸ™‚

Fight the Self-Doubt and Fear

Last night I considered how since becoming a mother, I think I may be becoming a better human being … but a more neurotic writer. And I think I know why.

See, I’ve found the the truth in the notion that you don’t truly understand fear until you become a parent. At this point, if I started worrying thinking about it, I could get sucked into a vortex of mind-shattering “what-if” terrors about the kidlet. The many things I can’t protect her from. The even more perhaps I shouldn’t. What I do right, what I do wrong, etc, etc.

But I can’t go down that path, because that’s the road to crazy town.

And yet, some residue of that fear, of those worries remains, unattached and orphaned energy looking for a home … like, say my writing. And so before, where I prided myself on productivity and rarely found myself ever close to dreaded writers’ block, now it has become a real danger. I worry about how much – or how little – I’m producing. The quality. If I’m improving. If I’m doing the right things to promote my work, to keep growing, if I can ever truly achieve my potential, or if I will be left a dreamer without a dream.

And then you look up and realize, wow! Looks a lot like crazy town anyway, doesn’t it?

Perhaps you are one of those writers or artists who isn’t plagued by self-doubt. If you are, I congratulate you – and seriously urge you to write a “how to” manual for the rest of us out there! Because from what I’ve seen and heard, that self-doubt comes with the job. I suspect it’s because we’re largely self-driven, and the product we produce is so personal that judgment and reception of it is likewise so subjective, how can one ever say for certain what is “good” or “bad”? We’re left to ourselves to create that assessment of our own work. Perhaps too it’s because we’re so used to playing with “what if” that naturally it attacks us when we’re not looking. What if the badguys are just behind the hero … or what if I’ve wasted a year on this manuscript that will never amount to anything?

Good news: I have a couple of solutions for you to rid yourself of those dreaded twins, self-doubt and fear. They’re not perfect, and I assure you, I’m working on these methods myself. Consider it a work in progress.

  1. Ignore the buggers until they wither away. Yes, not easy. Especially when you hear exactly the wrong thing as you’re hip deep in the latest work that “will never sell” because “it’s out.” But the more energy we give fear especially, the stronger it becomes, and potentially, the more paralyzing.
  2. Let fear feed you, instead of eat you. Fear can destroy us because of its internal nature. And not all fear is bad – fearing jumping in front of a semi-truck is a healthy reaction likely to keep me less road-pizza-like. But sometimes, perhaps the solution is to embrace the fear, and attack it. Especially when it comes to our art. Is there something you want to say / create / write? Is it too personal / too hard / too damned scary? Then maybe it’s exactly what you need to say, because if it resonates that deeply with you, isn’t it likely to resonate with someone else?
  3. Improve the positive nature of your self-talk. The clue to self-doubt is in the name: it originates with ourselves, and therein lies the cure, too. Please believe me when I assure you I’m not being facetious, nor do I wish to trivialize what is a serious concern for some people. And yes, sometimes we need help with our self-doubt. But at least part of that needs to come from inside, from editing that nasty little voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough. My favorite advice is that we never tell ourselves anything we wouldn’t say to our best friend. So indeed, perhaps we need to improve – but there’s a better and more constructive way to phrase that other than “you suck,” don’t you think? πŸ˜‰
  4. Hear that worried voice in your head, consider, then dismiss. Sometimes we worry for a reason. But, if you’re a “worrier” like me, than there are lots of times that we just worry cause, well, I’m not sure really. Boredom? A desire to feel miserable? But even I know that worrying never did anyone any good. Instead, get up and make a plan to combat that worry. DO something, since just worrying about isn’t doing anything.

So, that’s my two cents for the week. πŸ˜‰ What do you do to combat fear and self-doubt?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a great week free of self-doubt and fear. πŸ™‚

Zombies – Arggggh!

I hate zombies. I do not watch zombie movies. I do not read zombie books. And when my husband watches his beloved “Walking Dead,” I leave the room.

Know what my next book contains? Yep. Zombies.

Now, it is true that in some ways I may be a bit of a masochist. But I’ve been thinking about how we need to dig deep, and seeing as I despise zombies, it seemed suitable to examine it closely, and maybe have a bit of fun. I was considering why I think zombies are so scary, and why I dislike them so much.

  • because zombies seem plausible. Not necessarily the classic voodoo type of zombie (the origin of the term), but the scary what-if where apocalypse comes because someone / some government was arrogant enough to think they could control a terrifying super-virus or “bad guy prevention” plan, and instead, it destroys humanity.
  • the humanity of zombies. They are human, perhaps more so than other paranormal creatures like vampires or werewolves. While potentially those conditions could be passed on as well, you could have a separate species. No matter how you look at it, zombies start out human, and it leads me to wonder how much of their humanity remains. What if they are our friends? Our family? ARE they still that person? Is there anything left? How would you confront this?
  • ease of transmission of the condition. Yes, the few zombie films I have seen have probably convinced me of this, but also the fact that while myΒ  husband coughs once, and he’s done, I am thereafter sick for two weeks. Therefore, I’m likely to be one of the first zombies.
  • loss of control over self and body. What happens to the person you were? Are you still trapped inside a rapidly rotting corpse? Usually the only sure way to kill zombies (never mind a host of other species), is to destroy the brain. Well, if the brain is in a human body, than the consciousness inhabiting that brain must still be the original person, right? How much awareness is there? Is it like a comatose person unable to act? Or perhaps the most ruthless, aggressive form of humanity we fight to hide beneath a veneer of civility?
  • the senseless and vicious destructive nature of zombies. Whether they’re after converting other humans or the stereo-typical brains, most zombies aren’t easily stopped, and keep coming and coming and coming. There is something terrifying about an enemy that is without any fear to exploit. No matter the size of our weapons, non-zombies will run and eventually fail because they are afraid. The zombies will just keep attacking.
  • they remain a walking reminder of our own mortality – and potentially, our own inevitable fate. While in modern times we prefer to distance ourselves from death and sterilize mortality, zombies are a walking (and vicious) reminder of our own potential, and perhaps, what we too will become, whether simply the dead, or undead, depending on the manner of transmission.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Do zombies scare you? What have I missed? Love to hear from you. πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a terrific week. πŸ™‚

Writing Past Fear, Past Exhaustion, Past Excuses

I write this Friday night as I’m trying once again to be one top of things. We’ll see if it last until Wednesday. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I’ve been reading a few great blogs recently about fear, carpe diem, the things that can hold writers back and the things we need to remember so it doesn’t.Β  And I’ve been considering writing and fear.

Pop on over and read:

Kait Nolan’s post of a video about the Masks Writers Wear

A Challenge to Ride: Live to Ride, Ride to Live by Laura Drake at Writers in the Storm

Not Today … by Cristian Mihai

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this post, I’ve been working through the longest rewrites I’ve ever experienced that have now tipped on past the one year mark. This book has certainly forced me to grow in my craft and as a writer, but I certainly never want such a horrible rewrite again! And, it’s also taught me more about the fear involved in writing than I’ve experienced before.

I have never feared the blank page before, but embraced it. Yet suddenly I found myself worrying if this book will ever be done. If I’ve actually made it better. If I’ve made a serious mistake by sticking with this rewrite despite it all instead of just moving onto something new. I worry that I won’t be able to start something new, or will take too long to figure out whatever that “something new” will be. And I’m terrified of ending up in a never-ending-rewrite like this one again.

The result of all this fear?

The rewrite has gone even slower. I’ve second and third guessed myself so many times, I can no longer tell which way is up. It is only some days, that I am able to look up and beyond the fear and know I am almost done. Yes, it is better. Yes, this was worth it for the growth it’s given me. And yes, I hope this is the best book I’ve ever written … and I want to make sure the next book is even better.

It would be easier to be able to identify where this clarity comes from, and to do that, I have to go back to a clear time I felt terrified. To something I’m still terrified of.

When I was just eighteen, a few weeks after graduation, I took out my vehicle with my brother and my cousin, and scarcely a block or two from home, I miscalculated a turn. The small truck rolled, us with it. I don’t remember much of the actual happening, but I do remember the ambulances coming to take each of us away separately, my brother the most seriously injured to the highest care possible at the university. My mom ran from home to the accident scene, that’s how close we were. I remember wishing it had been me – I was responsible, I was driving, of course. And I gave my parents my driver’s license and never wanted to pick it up again. I didn’t deserve to.

And then as I tried to decide what I needed to do with the rest of my life, I got a job and to get there, I’d have to drive. When I wanted to volunteer and eventually work as a costumed historical interpreter, I had to drive. My parents weren’t going to taxi me around.

So I started driving again. Comfortable for a long time only in my dad’s truck because it was big, and I figured I’d probably live when the worst happened again (and yes, I did believe that). I had near panic-attacks when I had to drive an unfamiliar car, and worse, a stick-shift and got stuck in traffic and had to not only coordinate my shifting but also navigate into aggressive rush-hour traffic around the stalled vehicle and get myself home – in the same intersection I’d had my accident. And I survived, and I did my best to be a good driver … then I got married and didn’t have to drive for a few years.

Until I moved out of the city, and if I didn’t want to be trapped there 24/7, I needed to drive. Then I had a child, and now I was responsible for not just me, but for this dependent, fragile creature too, in my vehicle. And you know what? Every time I get behind that wheel, I have to push the fear aside and do what’s necessary, because for me, it is necessary. The fear can’t win.

And writing is the same way.

Yes, you can acknowledge the fear. You can – and should! – be proud of yourself for each time you overcome the urge to give in to that fear, to believe the insidious voice that whispers terrible things in your head, that knows your worst nightmares. Give yourself a little pat and assure yourself it will be okay, you are okay.

Then tell the fear to leave you the heck alone, because you have more important things to do, more important things to be. Because that’s the only path forward.

What about you? Have you had to overcome fear? How do you move past it? What motivates you?

Thanks for reading. And wishing you a terrific week. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog? Have a good one. πŸ™‚

Beware the Bad Habits: Or, How Do You Hold Yourself Back?

I think we all have bad habits; part of the human condition and all that. For writing, I think we have a whole separate set of bad habits. Some of the ones that drive me bananas usually have to do with using the muse as scapegoat, and giving into writers’ block, or crumbling beneath fear. I think (hope) I’m pretty good at avoiding the first two (I control my muse, not the other way around … and I generally try to take care of him, and I’m not a huge believer in complete writers’ block but do believe in fatigue).

Which leaves fear … that stinky little guy who sneaks up on you and leaves you quivering and terrified, convinced that everything you do is terrible, that only rejections await in the mailbox, that nothing good will ever happen to you.

And indeed, we can look at statements like those above and think, “yeah, right, that’s not me, I’d never believe nonsense like that” … except when we’re locked into that cycle and trap of fear and we think exactly ridiculous things like that.Β  This becomes a bad habit if first, you give in to it rather than just recognizing it for what it is and moving on, and second, if you try to ignore it until it sneaks up and gets you anyway.

TheΒ  latter is my bad habit. I try to ignore the fact that sending out countless queries, etc and getting back plenty of rejections (along with the actually-worse non-responses) isn’t a big deal. That it doesn’t eat at me a little every time, making me wonder is it me? Is it the work? What am I doing wrong? Instead of sometimes looking at the fact that usually the answer is a bit more complicated than personal failing (it’s the “usually” that gets me).

Anyway, this kind of fear response can end up holding you back, not writing, and altogether, becoming completely useless, since it could lead to a bout of depression and feeling down on yourself all around. I know better, and yet I seem to come back to this cycle again and again anyway. It’s predictable that at first, I’ll love my story. When it’s finally ready to send out (and after coming to hate it through revision), I simultaneously start submitting that story and writing a new one. The next step is that I love the new story … and feel that it’s so much better than the one that’s being submitted, clearly this is why I get poor response.

So that’s my bad habit, what’s yours? Can you recognize it? And better yet, can you prevent it?

Thanks for reading – have a great week!

Fear: Are You Holding Yourself Back?

Let’s face it: very few of us are fearless individuals leaping without thought into whatever the world sets before us. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us are afraid of lots of things – and I’m not just talking actual phobias. I mean the kind of fears that keep you up at night and which are intrinsically connected with your responsibilities, duties, and loved ones. Will you be able to pay the bills this month? What if something happens to you or a loved one? How will you protect your children?

I’m a worrier, and I think I probably come by it naturally – my grandmothers were / are both worriers, as is my mother. And a certain amount of fear is probably all right, so long as it doesn’t paralyze you. But therein is the problem: there is a line after which the fear is no longer protecting you, but insulating you – even from good things.

Writers certainly don’t have a monopoly on fear, but we do seem to be pretty familiar with it – maybe it’s playing with “what if” all the time that creeps into our everyday thoughts. Whatever the case, if you actually want to make money as a writer – or succeed at most anything, really – there will come a time when you have to face at least some of your fears. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, and perhaps even fear of success.

Fear of success? Doesn’t seem to fit up there, does it? And yet, I have met writers who seem to be afraid of success. Some too who have given up just a smidgen too soon – as though afraid of the success which lay ahead of them.

Now, like I said, I’m a worrier by nature. But I also know that a little fear may be healthy, and too much fear is suffocating. If you start spending all your time worrying about the “what ifs” of rejection, criticism, critique, success, fame, failure, and whatever else could be ahead, you’ll stop short and never go anywhere. Here’s the thing: you will be rejected. You will receive criticism, and not everyone will like you or your work. BUT, some will. And most importantly, YOU need to believe in and like your work. It is worth fighting for. It is worth trying to get right, even if it takes oodles and caboodles of edits and rewrites and you just want to burn the whole thing and never even look at another word again.

So, by all means, set yourself some limits and rules to keep you safe … but make sure you haven’t built yourself a cage. Because you were meant to soar, and you can only do that if every so often, you shake off the fears weighing you down, spread your wings, and take to the sky.

Is fear protecting you, or smothering you? How do we recognize that line?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Decision Paralysis: Or, You’re Allowed to Screw-up

I’ve been getting ready for the big RWA conference in Anaheim in July, and recently had to make my picks for the “pitch sessions”: one agent appointment, one editor appointment. I’ve done pitches before with a fair degree of success, and in fact, I like doing them. But this year, just the idea of choosing who I should try and make an appointment with made me queasy. Which agent do I pitch to? Which editor? Do I forgo the possibility of pitching to an editor altogether and just stay with the agent? What if I pick the wrong one? What if I’ve made the wrong decision?

What if I screw up everything?

Because there’s the rub: it’s a relatively small decision in the grand scheme of things (ie: I’m only pitching to this agent / editor, I’m not signing a contract instantly on the spot … although that would be both terrifying and wonderful). But, in deciding who I choose to pitch, which agents I query, what I query them with, these are decisions that are steps in my writing career. And, being a perfectionist, I desperately want to make the right ones.What if I overlook the agent who is really the right match for me, and it’s another year or more before we make contact? What if the editor I choose hates my style of writing? What if, what if, what if …

All of which, my clever husband reminds me, is impossible to know. And, you’ll hear from most authors – even the most successful – that they have not always made the best decisions, that they have screwed up … but they’re also still here to talk about it.

Maybe that’s something we can all learn from. Sure, we try to make the best decision we can based on the information we have at the time … even if it turns out to have been a mistake.Β  Only hindsight and time will tell (barring psychic powers – maybe that’s why I like paranormals.)

The important part of whatever decision we make, whatever action we take, is that we TOOK it.

I could, at this point, probably trot out some quotes about trust in faith / destiny, the importance of moving forward, how we only grow if we act fearlessly, that sort of thing. But I won’t – ’cause you’ve probably heard them, too. And I would love to claim that I’m fearless, but I’m not. I just try and act despite my fear. I’ve made mistakes in the past, and being human, I’m probably pretty likely to make them in the future; hopefully I won’t continue to make the same mistakes. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for.

So, what do you think? Is there a better way? Is action in the face of fear just stupid, or necessary?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and happy writing.