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Facing Our Fears

Have you ever driven in a rain storm? During a recent nine hour van ride to West Virginia to visit my mom, we had to drive about half of it in heavy rain.

At one point, we were speeding along at 55 mph with the rain pounding against the windshield, and even though we had our wipers on full blast, they couldn’t clear away the rivulets of water fast enough. The spray from the semi in front of us added to the blinding mist that enveloped our van.

I dug my fingers into my seat, leaned forward, every muscle in my body tense. “This is crazy,” I muttered. We couldn’t see two feet in front of us, and yet there we were flying full speed down the highway.

I couldn’t help thinking we should pull off until the storm was over, that we were fools to keep driving when we didn’t know what was coming.

Fear drenched me . . . fear as hard, cold, and sharp as the rain.

I realized that during my journey toward publication, I’ve often had a very similar sensation—that I’m racing forward but don’t know what’s ahead of me. Will all my efforts be worth it? Am I really good enough to have a book published? What if I don’t earn back my advance? How will I manage to find time for everything I need to do?

I’m driving through storms and fear hits me.

There are so many unknowns on the road to publication. No matter where we’re at, we all have those muscle-tensing moments when we just don’t know what’s coming next. Can we finish an entire manuscript? Will the agent like our story? What if the publication committee doesn’t accept our book? What if we’re going to all this work and it doesn’t pay off?

We’re flying ahead at full speed, but we can’t see what’s coming.

What should we do? How do we deal with our fears? I don’t like platitudes, and so I’m not going to give any to you. There are no easy answers to help us face our writerly fears. But here are a few ideas:

1. Surround ourselves with people who believe in us. We need traveling companions who share our vision. These are the kind of people who can see beyond the driving rain to where we’re headed. I have several people in my life like this.

One is my web designer, Kelli Standish of PulsePoint Design. As I’ve worked with Kelli over the past months, every time I talk with her, she has the vision for where God is taking me. She sees it, hones in on it, encourages me. We all need people like that who can see beyond the storms and give us their wisdom.

2. Persevere through the storms. And yes, the storms will come. I haven’t met a writer yet who hasn’t had to face difficulty. Some run into thunderstorms and others tornadoes. Expect them. But don’t let them detour us from writing.

Those who write because they’re passionate about writing won’t stop when the goal of publication isn’t within sight anymore. The journey toward publication might take a long time, but they keep going anyway, not because of the destination, but because they love the journey.

3. Know when to pull off or slow down. I’ve had periods (sometimes very long ones) when I’ve pulled to the side of the writing highway. I took some time off when my children were young, during the baby years. The time away enriched my life, so that when I started writing again, I could approach it with a wisdom and maturity I’d previously lacked.

We’ll all face times of personal heartache and hardship. And sometimes we just have to slow down before we end up crashing and burning. During those times we should give ourselves permission to soak in the emotions, live in the moment, and burn them into our memories and hearts. Later, when we hit the road again, those are the kinds of experiences we can draw from to add depth to our writing.

What do you fear? What storms are you heading through right now? What are some things you do that help you face your fears?

52 comments:

  1. My whole life seems like a storm some days :)

    I have driven through the abuse of my past, written a memoir, overcome my fears of pitching to agents, received requests, submitted work and now I am waiting... yeah, I am scared. But I would rather do life afraid than not at all. :)

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  2. Timely post for me, since I sort of feel like I'm in a storm right now as I write this rough draft. Like I can't see where I'm going, but I keep driving right ahead, trusting that I just need to get the rough draft written. I remind myself that I always feel a bit oof-balance when I write my first drafts. It happens every single time.

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  3. During meditation, I once tried to imagine what it might be like to be a tiny bird. And I realized I would never even try to learn how to fly because I would be too afraid of falling.

    Which is what writing and trying to get published often feels like for me. You try, and you fail. And you try some more, and some more, and you do your exercises, and maybe, *maybe* you'll end up with both your wings in the air and no ground beneath your feet anymore.

    I am trying to be a brave little writing bird.

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  4. Jody...there are several fears. Is my book good enough to merit publication? Will the readers like the story/book? Will the first print run get sold?
    I try to be brave and surround myself with positive people who not only believe in me, but also encourage me at all times.

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  5. Jody, it's not easy to push fears aside. But I have watched many people live by fear and it usually stifles their opportunities. I am by no means fearless in life. When it comes to writing, however, I truly feel open for the ride. Whether I've gotten a rejection or tough critiques, I just focus on why I'm writing in the first place. I do it for enjoyment and it's my goal to maintain a positive outlook about the publishing process. I think if you come from a positive place, you are prepared for anything- negative or not. For me, it's important to be writing for the right reasons. Surrounding yourself with supportive people is also important. I feel very fortunate to be writing. If something great happens, so be it. If not, so be it, too. It won't define me or change who I am.

    Thanks for a great post!
    Marissa

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  6. Fear is there for a reason, but sometimes we let it paralyze and delay our actions.

    I hate personal storms. I like to think I learn from them, but I would rather not.

    But, from a writer's perspective, fear is good tool.

    Teresa

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  7. So ironic that you mention fear...

    During this desert season of my life (which has nothing to do with my writing and has yet nearly consumed me), one of the things God specifically told me to work on was fear. And my goodness...has He ever provided opportunity for growth on that!

    Found out yesterday my book will be ready in 3 or so weeks, and THAT brought on a level of fear too, mixed with excitement of course. But even in that fear, I know I will be okay...just like I've been okay through each of the other storms. He is good!

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  8. I'm not so much dealing with the life or death not knowing what's ahead, but the contemplation about what's ahead.

    More like not knowing which outfit to wear. ;)

    With clothing decisions, with the bigger finger gripping the seat decisions I find my way with prayer.
    ~ Wendy

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  9. Storms and curbs...indeed, Jody, our posts are complementary today!

    I've been facing the fear of starting my YA novel. I took the bull by the horns and applied to attend a YA workshop in the fall. I just received word I mad it in! I think this is the kick in the pants I've been needing. I will be in a small but concentrated group of about 10 others and I know that having the good writing energy around me and being in a new environment is going to help. Plus, it demands I have some of it and and outline written beforehand. So, it's all good. I've been in those literal storms before too and they are white-knuckle experiences to be sure. Glad you made it safely to the other side. :)

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  10. I actually fear the pulling off to the side of the road part. When I feel there's so much momentum moving me forward and then suddenly there's a rainstorm and a large semi blinding my path - it urks me to think of pulling over. And sometimes, I think I SHOULD pull over and I don't ... sigh. That's my biggest fear. Taking a break and suddenly falling 1000 miles behind the pack. :(

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  11. Big sigh! I've had a lot of fears in my life. Now, not so much. Except one--I just turned 61 and it took me 10 years to write and bring my memoir to publication. If it takes me that long with my next project, I'll be 71 and I'm afraid I won't have the energy to do what it would take to get it published. If I had to do it now, I'm not sure I'd have the energy. Trying to focus on now, one day at a time, rather than projecting into the future.
    Karen

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  12. Oh, I know that real life fear of driving in storsm. We also have snow storms here that blind you. Add to that the freezing temps, and we're in real peril. Your post is excellent and does go well with Roxane's. My fear is if I'm even on the right road. Hey, God, send me a roadmap! Thanks, Jody.

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  13. I have often feared that starting down the publishing hiway so late in life (55) would leave me little time to actually go through the timeline of learning, growing, writing and publishing. Let alone selling and marketing. But it's in God's hands and I have to just keep doing what Im doing.

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  14. Fear does come to each of us. Probably the biggest fear for me would be failure. Thanks for the great posts. :O)

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  15. What a poignant post!
    LOVE the point about surrounding yourself with folks who believe in you.

    SOOO key.

    I guess I have more of a concern, not fear, of what to leave in, what to leave out. There simply are not hours in the day...
    Prioritizing, with God's help. Sometimes I charge ahead without consulting him, and I fear the consequences.
    (There. I used the word!!!)

    Love this place!
    P

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  16. Sound advice, Jody, from someone who's living it. Thank you.

    I've been there, driving through the storm. Here I am. I made it.

    I have to remember that.

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  17. I just started a story that I'm genuinely afraid of not being able to write. Normally I just figure that I'm too lazy to follow through with a story but this one is going to be much more emotionally challenging.

    My main plan is to just plug away at it and do the best I can with it knowing that this will give me something better than if I just ignore what I think could be a very good story.

    After all, second drafts are where you make a book good, right?

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  18. Knowing when to pull over is tricky business, but oh so important. Great analogy! And WV is beautiful, even with the rain. :)

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  19. Jody -

    I'm currently working on an outline for a novel and have hit a point where I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to connect two different plot points. My initial reaction resembles fear because I have different thoughts race through my head such as: "should I delete this scene or that one?", "should I scrap the whole project all together because I can't make it work?", etc.

    It very much resembles driving in heavy rain and not being able to see two feet in front of you.

    For me, simply resting a day or two and not look at the outline seems to help give me new perspectives on what I'm working on. Nine times out of ten I come back with insights and ideas about how to bridge the gaps.

    Great post as always.

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  20. In real rain storms and driving, I slow down to like 25 mph. Too afraid of hydroplaning. But in writing - I deal more with discouragement than fear. And that's when I take time to read, knowing it will pass.

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  21. Thanks for another great post, Jody. You tapped into one of my biggest challenges as a writer.

    I deal with fear on a regular basis. Is my writing good enough? Is my plot strong enough? Are my characters likable enough? Is there enough tension? Enough motivation? Enough sensory detail?

    Because of my fears, I tend to tweak a story to death. There finally comes a day when I have to say "Enough!" and let it go.

    God has blessed me with many wonderful people who encourage and support me. They speak truth when I need to hear it and give me a hand to help me from the murky depths of doubt and discouragement. I'm so blessed to have them in my life.

    I did pull to the side at one point on my journey. After I finaled in the Golden Heart in 2008, I experienced a confidence crisis that lasted a year. I knew my stories weren't publishable and felt my GH finals were a fluke. I used the year to study craft, connect with my new cyber pals, and establish a critique partner relationship with a fellow GH finalist. And I prayed for God's timing.

    He blessed my time away from writing, and when I reentered the contest circuit with work I felt showed promise, I met with more success than I'd ever dreamed. If I'd not been willing to take that break, I wouldn't be where I am today.

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  22. Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can also spur us into action.

    In the writing world, when I try to remember what I do and don't have control over, I realize that most of the things that manifest themselves as fear are things that I have no control over. I try to concentrate on what I do have control over. I know that often this is easier said than done,lol. But I see it as part of the practice of living. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about making friends with your fear. I like his approach, that fear is something to be greeted, not avoided. Thanks for reminding of this.

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  23. Not fear, necessarily, but more of a "don't look down" sensation when you're climbing. There's so much work to writing a book. It's better to keep your eyes on the finish rather than looking down at all the work that it will take to do it. That dizzying view can paralyze you! Just keep moving up.

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  24. The drive sounds like it was NOT fun. I'm glad you made it to WV safely.

    I like your point about surrounding ourselves with people who believe in us and our writing. That's great advice.

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  25. Oh, Jody, how I've missed your posts! I'm sorry to be awol lately. The new house and start of summer seem to be sucking up much of my blogging time. I have a similar post up today, and so does Stephanie at Hatshepsut.

    I rely on my blogging buddies and CP's to keep my head above water. My husband and one special friend are my real-life support, but as we hear so often from each other, people outside this journey don't truly understand it's hardships.

    Thanks for another wonderful post! I've missed you. :-)

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  26. My fear is giving up. Not finishing and having to say, I nearly wrote a novel. This fear keeps me moving forward towards my goal.

    I will write this novel. :)

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  27. Like I said, each time i need to hear or be reminded of something...there's Jody's blog. lol

    Thanks for the post, girl.

    I want to sit under my computer and WRITE so bad, but I fear the piece I'm writing.

    It's way over my head, and I feel completely inadequate.

    I'm driving so blindly.

    Thanks for the encouragment.

    It makes me want to forge ahead with God as my very capable headlights :D

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  28. I sometimes battle feeling like I don't know enough to write. Overall, though, I know this is my calling (not to sound arrogant) so I know God will equip me for the journey. The rainstorms hit and I keep going forward, sometimes more slowly than others:) Thanks for the encouragement.

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  29. My greatest fear is failure, and my greatest tool is my fear of failure. By trumping all other fears, it has helped me overcome them. Terrific, honest, helpful post.

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  30. Thank you. This post comes at just the right moment for me. It's hard to push forward when the road is so uncertain, but it must be done. I agree 100% about having a support team--without the people who believe in what I'm doing, I would never be able to push forward.

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  31. The fear never stops, does it?? I know I will always be afraid that I won't have a new idea...or it will be stupid. I'll be afraid that no one will like what I put out there. I'm afraid that I'll never get where I want to get.

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  32. I'm going through a confidence crisis right now like Keli mentioned. My novel finaled in the Genesis last year. It was good enough for my wonderful agent to offer representation, and now it's in the hands of the editor who requested the full. Yet, I wonder if it's good enough for publication.

    I should've had my second book written by now, but I'm paralyzed by fear of not being good enough. It's quite disheartening and something I'm working hard to overcome. In the meantime, I am surrounded by a wonderful group of friends who lift me in prayer and encourage me every step of the way. I'm blessed to have them.

    Thanks for a great post, Jody. No wonder your followers numbers keep climbing!! You're doing great, girl!

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  33. Hoo boy, I have fears to be sure. Most of them center on bad things happening to people I love (husband, kids, parents), but lately I'm bogged down by the fear of failure (in conjunction with your last post!) in the writing world.

    You hit the nail on the head with your suggestions. If I didn't have the people in my life that I have or the faith in God that I have, I would've given up on my dream months ago! :)

    Great post! :)

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  34. Thanks for the post. I needed it this morning. My entire life right now feels like I'm in a storm and I don't know where I'm going or what I'm going to do when I get there.

    When it comes to writing, one of my biggest fears is that I'm not good enough to get a book published. But when this starts to paralyze me, as it often does, God gently reminds me that if he wants my book to get published he'll make it happen. That's his job. My job is just to write.

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  35. Living in Kansas, I'm pretty used to storms, and I even like them when I'm safe indoors. I am querying agents right now. My biggest fear is that no one will ever respond to me, or give me any reason why they aren't.

    The thing that helps me most is the writing community and realizing that so many others feel the way I do. I also have to try to be patient and let things happen in God's time, not on my schedule.

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  36. Such a timely post for me right now but this past year the Lord has had me face to face with my biggest fears and you know what? With Him besides me I'm weathering them one at a time. Not one problem. I'm so thankful for His strength. I honestly don't know how people survive without Jesus.

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  37. I think the main fear that many of us have on a fairly regular basis is 'is my book good enough' or 'am I good enough'. Yes, friends and family may say that they love our writing, but when push comes to shove, what really matters is 'do the publishing professionals think it's good enough'. Currently I have a full MS in the hands of an agent and every time I check my e-mail, I do it squinting through my fingers in fear. So far no news is no news, but sooner or later, I'm going to hear something. Yikes.

    Part of my fear, or at least discomfort is not feeling comfortable with the 'author hat' yet. Jen the scientist, that's been my role for almost two decades. Jen the author... that's still kind of new. But when I put the hat on, I somehow manage to brazen my way through (although most of the time I'm not sure how) -- meeting with the District Attorney and top homicide detective in Salem for research on my novel, cold calling historic locations and asking for personal tours of private areas that are off limits to the public or approaching the above agent at a writers conference and successfully pitching the novel. I'm not sure who the gal is who's doing all of that, but I sure hope she sticks around for a while!

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  38. I remember a trip to the beach where the rain was so bad we were travling five miles an hour (and trust me that was fast for the weather).

    The biggest storm I've faced is realizing that even with a work that placed in a contest, it wasn't good enough to be published and that to find a way to up the tension. I totally rewrote my opening and have taken new approaches with my other WIP.

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  39. My fear is that my writing will be used to line a rabbit cage. So, I head out with and big red umbrella to brave the storm.

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  40. Boy, did I need this blog today. My editor called and said they may have to bump the release of my book back.

    Your post reminds me to just be grateful, take things in stride and wait for the storm to pass.

    Thanks!

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  41. I love your analogy, especially since I recently drove through a storm like that. I'm glad you included slowing down in your list -- often we just force ourselves to keep going, no matter what, when we just need to pause and breathe.

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  42. Hi Jody -

    Wow! You expressed what so many of us feel.

    I've had to pull over several times since I started on this journey. My husband's illness and passing and my own challenges reached hurricane proportions.

    Through it all, scripture has kept me grounded and safe from the lightning strikes.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  43. Thanks for breaking down ways to face fears. I've been frozen in fear, but have learned if I just keep stepping forward, keep driving even in the storm, eventually the path will clear again. Trusting the process isn't easy, but staying still is harder.
    Great post!

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  44. That was lovely, Jody. Right now I fell like I'm afraid of everything. I'm scared of the submission wait. I fear that even after coming so far the answer still might be no, and I will never be published. And I'm terrified that I'll never be able to finish another project that I can feel good about. But at least I have some control over that one!

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  45. This is just what I needed today after another rejection. God bless you! :)

    Cyndi
    ctefft.blogspot.com

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  46. I fear I'm not hearing God's calling -- that I think my call is to write, but that perhaps I'm not hearing right at all. It's tough. Sometimes I wish He would speak a lot more clearly. Or at least more loudly.

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  47. Oh man, such a good, relatable post. I HATE driving in rain soooo much. I had to do it yesterday and I just told the boys we needed to pray that God would keep us safe.
    With writing, well, I'm querying so that's such a mix of storms and sunshine. :-)
    When I'm afraid I try to focus on what really matters, those "heavenly" things the Bible's always telling us about. *grin*

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  48. My biggest fear used to be those times when the words got stuck. You know those days - when even your best intentions won't get you to your wordcount. Those days made me feel fraudulent - of course I'd never be published - I'm not really a write if I can't write on demand!

    I've learned that those times when the words feel stuck happen for a reason. I'm not being lazy, I'm not a failure, I'm not even a bad person. Deep down in my writer's soul I'm letting the pieces fall into place. These moments have to happen and have to be embraced.

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  49. LOL! I'm also not really a writer if I can't catch type-o's before I click 'publish your comment'!

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  50. This is a wonderful post. I love the comparison of traveling and fears that come up. You've encouraged me--since I've basically just begun writing, but also motherhood...so unfortunately, I don't have time to do it was much as I'd like. Thank you!

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  51. Nice post. Great blog. Thanks for the share.

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