Fear is my word of the day.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear to finish my novel. Fear not to finish my novel.
Write blog posts. Hide. Produce articles. Give them away free. Read writing tips. Edit my friend’s books. Teach. Lead critique groups. Devour writing books. Build up Facebook likes. Share. Tweet. Pin.
Single-spaced, at 8-point font, my Stay Busy list could fill this page and probably the next.
I’ve discovered the secret to avoid the rocks piling in my stomach at the thought of querying and receiving rebuff upon rebuff. Rewrite forever. Draw it out. That way, I’ll never have to send my manuscript to anyone. And I’ll never have to deal with the heart-drop-to-the-floor, breath-cut-off gut punch that is rejection.
Yesterday, the little part inside of me not held hostage by fear cornered me and asked, “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life wondering what if?”
What if my book isn’t awful? What if an agent likes it? What if that agent sells it? What if I sat on this story forever and never knew its potential? What if it actually has potential? What if I do too?
I have three manuscripts from the early 90’s taking up space on my closet floor, back when we printed everything hard copy and queried through the US Postal Service. Three novels in a series begging for edits on my current hard drive, and five working ideas rattling my head, screaming for release.
I am the not-so-proud owner of two agent rejections to match two of my novels—one from 1993 and one from now.
The first rejection came from John Grisham’s agent for my very first book, Midnight’s Darkest Shadows, a historical romance. The agent’s comment? Here’s the recap. “You have potential. Add more sex. Send it back.”
Hmm. I’m not really a take-you-behind-closed-doors kind of author, so I pinned that to my wall, got pregnant—look at the irony in that—and quit writing. For twenty years.
The second rejection came from an up-and-coming agent in New York with a well-established agency. The recap of what she said? “There’s so much I love about this book, but it sounds similar to one I just sold and another sitting on my desk. Do you have anything else?”
What did I do with that? Cried a little. Okay. A lot. Filed it under rejections in my email. And started rewriting the book. Again. This will be my fourth time. Because I let one negative comment override the twenty encouragements I received the week before.
Sounds like hiding, doesn’t it? My husband and thirty-seven of my closest friends and critique buddies would agree.
Can you relate? Do you hide to avoid rejection?
How can we be okay with failure? One baby step at a time.
Here are some ways to jump the hurdle of fear and move forward.
1. Stop dwelling on new authors you know who are being published.
Not forever, just until you’re ready to take that step forward yourself. There is a difference between celebrating with your friends and having an anxiety attack that you aren’t standing on the awards platform next to them.
2. Quit comparing your journey to another author’s path to publication.
Like faith, our walks are personal and unique. And that’ s okay.
3. Realize building a career takes time, effort, and an inordinate amount of patience.
Are you in this thing, or not? Decide and refuse to turn back.
4. Believe you have something to offer.
Trust your talent. You’ve taken time to do the work, now show it off. Don’t hold back. The worst that can happen…is rejection.
5. Fuel your passion to succeed with the emotions that rejection brings.
Instead of hiding in the closet, hand on your piled-up manuscripts, get excited. Take whatever insight you receive and do better next time. One more rejection is a step closer to seeing your name on the cover of a book.
Stop hiding. Get moving. And don’t wait twenty years like I did.
Where do you struggle with fear of rejection and what do you hide behind?