One day before the new year fires up a fresh start. Actually, if you have read all the previous posts about goals, you should be thinking that the beginning of every week fires up a fresh start. Keep everything always starting over, remember, that way when you miss, you just start over and all is fresh, with a short term goal for that week.
And then those goals add right up by the end of the year. Got all that figured, right? Read all the previous posts on goals? Do so before going any farther on this one, otherwise this will sound very confusing at times. Much more confusing than I normally sound.
So, right to the big elephant sitting in the room:
Yup, fear is a huge monster sitting in your office, between your ears, and will make you do really, really stupid things unless you can clear it out every so often and think clearly.
So where does fear come into writing and publishing and aiming at your long term dreams? Simply everywhere.
Fear has the focused goal to stop you. And it will, all the time, in many, many ways.
No real logical place to start talking about fear in writing, since it is in all aspects of writing and the business, so I’m just going to toss out examples using Heinlein’s Rules as a guide and see where this all leads.
Example: You are excited about your book or story idea, have spent a few weeks being successful at your goals of getting to your writing, and then one day you wake up and the book seems like crap, you are convinced you are wasting your time, and that you should start something fresh.
Fear got you.
Fear of trusting your writing, fear of finishing something, fear of failure, fear of ridicule when someone reads it, and so on.
Fear comes out like this: “You’re not good enough. What makes you think you could ever write at a national level? Or even finish something as big as a novel?”
Bam, you’re going to find reasons to miss a session, miss your weekly goal, and at that point months will go by because you let the fear voice win.
You can’t even get past Heinlein’s Rule #1. You must write. But this fear has stopped you and at the end of 2010 you will be very disappointed with yourself.
On to another example.
Example: You stop on a project because it’s garbage and start another one, and then again and again. You’re hitting all your weekly page goals, but never finishing anything and mailing it. Why? Fear.
On this one, Heinlein’s Rule #2 plays big. You have this deep fear of being laughed at, that your writing isn’t good enough, that people will stop you and your writing, so it’s just easier to stop yourself.
Want another example? There are thousands.
Example: You get past the fear in the last two examples all right, and finish a novel. Great. It’s an event, right, it’s important because it took you a lot of time to write it, right? Nope, it’s just a story, but you need, you MUST rewrite it, polish it, make it PERFECT. Right?
Why? Because of fear, that’s why. The rewriting myth is just fear based and that’s why it’s so deep.
Heinlein’s Rule #3 is that you should only rewrite to editorial demand. So, you have to have the courage, the trust in your own ability to mail it to an editor. You spell check it, give it to a first reader, only fix what they say needs fixing, and then mail it to editors.
Fear comes smashing in for many of you with me just saying those words. But let me look at what you are afraid of.
— Fear: Death of some sort. Nope. No editor will come to your house and shoot you if you don’t give them a perfect book that is perfect for their line and has every word perfect. Nope, never happens, no matter what beginning writers think.
—Fear: Blacklisting for bad writing. An editor will see your horrid writing and remember you and blacklist you forever. The ugly truth is that editors can barely remember all the writers’ names they buy from, let alone the thousands of books they glance at and don’t take. No one remembers out there unless you do something stupid like insult them. You act like a professional, send them a book, and if it doesn’t fit what they are looking for, they will reject it and that’s it. They won’t remember you or even think about you. Nothing all to be afraid of because you have it on many other editor’s desks, remember? One of them will show good taste and buy it eventually.
The fear that everything you write must be perfect is a killer. No story is perfect, no book is perfect. Doesn’t happen. And who would be the person to say it was perfect anyway? A book I love by an author I love to read is hated by my friends who think it’s the worst thing written. Nothing is ever perfect, folks. Sorry to break that bubble.
So Heinlein’s Rule #3 shouts directly at this fear. I dare you, spend a year not rewriting to death everything you do and just mail the stories after fixing details a first reader finds. You might be stunned at the results. You are a ton better writer than you are a rewriter and I can say that without even knowing most of you out there. It’s just the way it works.
Oh, oh, another example.
Example: Book is done, sitting on your desk, you’re pounding along on a new one, meeting your page goals just fine and dandy, and months go by and the first book sits there. I personally know of writers who have up to a dozen books just sitting, not in the mail to anyone. Why? Yup, you guessed it. Fear.
This breaking of Heinlein’s Rule #4 comes about like this: I don’t have the time right now to mail it, I need to do “market research” before I can mail it, I don’t feel that good about that book, and so on and so on. I’ve heard them all and said a bunch of them myself.
This is the place that I fall down at times. I tend to write stories and novels and then not mail them. Now, granted, every novel I have finished is now in the mail to editors in one form or another. But not every short story. In fact, I would guess I have a good dozen new stories that have never been mailed, or only mailed once or twice. That’s getting fixed with my new challenge to myself. In fact, in the last week I have mailed eight stories, a number brand new, a couple never out before. But why do I do that? Why do other writers do that? Fear, plain and simple. I have no issue with Heinlein’s first three rules, but rule #4 and #5 are where my focus sometimes fails.
How does it come about in my head, this fear? It has a simple phrase: “What’s the point. It’s too weird, no one is going to buy it.”
Of course, I don’t know that unless I mail it.
The other night, sitting around a wonderful dinner with four other professional writers, I made a comment about how hard Heinlein’s Rules are to follow and my wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, turned to me and said simply, “I have always followed them and still do.”
And, of course, she was the most successful writer sitting at the table. Damn, how many times do I have to shove back this fear issue for myself and climb back into the game? It seems, all the time.
So watch for the fear in these goals. It will stop you at one stage or another, or maybe at a bunch of places along the way through the year. It comes in sideways, it’s triggered sometimes by friends and family, but most of the time it is just a simple twisting in the stomach that makes you stop doing what you know is right and do something else, often without thinking about it.
And I have a hunch that just reading this post twisted a lot of stomachs out there, not because the writing sucked, but because I said something that hit home and that you don’t agree with it. Fine to not agree with these rantings, fine to do something else with your writing. No problem by me. But make sure you are acting from a clear reason that works for you, not from simple fear.
Fear. It really is the elephant in the room that you have to eat one bite at a time.