3.11.2006

Fear Factor

Good Day Miss Snark,

I have a dilemma. As an amateur writer I dream of becoming a published writer except, I am scared. What I fear is that I am not good enough, I am scared of failing, I sometimes sabotage my writing so that I won’t find out the truth. Two years ago I took a huge step and submitted a synopsis for completed manuscript. I was asked for a full. I became frightened and did not send it. I made up all the perfect excuses not to and I got away with it. I got the itch again just a month ago, I completed a manuscript and entered it into a contest and was asked for a full. This time, I don’t have an excuse, except I can’t send it in because…I don’t know why.

My question is, is this a phobia among writers or am I being stupid? What is your advice?
Respectfully,
Fearing failure


You might be surprised how often this happens. I see it at writer's conferences; a good idea then zippo, nada when I ask to see a partial.

Here's what I think will help. You need to remove yourself from this process. Write the query letter. Mail it. Employ a friend, or your mom to assist. Have the SASE addressed to her. When it comes back asking for a full (or whatever) your mom sends it. You don't even need to know.

Or you can just pretend to BE someone else. It's always easier to do things for other people than for ourselves. Heck, you'd leap in front of a speeding car for your kid, let alone stand in line at the mailbox for her.

Failure isn't trying and not achieving. Failure is not trying. Failure is letting your fear rule your actions. Suck it up. Wasting your talent is not ok.

Get your ass in gear or Miss Snark will track you down and introduce you to the motivational efforts of Killer Yapp, fearless poodle.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I am in the same leaky boat as this author, with one very important difference. My fear is so paralyzing just having to write a letter sends me into a kind of panic. I will do my best to keep your words in mind, and, if that doesn't work, feel free to sic Killer Yaap on me.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm not alone...what a comfort LOL!

Thank you, your such a joy,

fearing failure

Brady Westwater said...

Then when your friend gets a million dollar advance offer - she collects and leaves the country. Then when 'your' novel gets published you....

Hey - I think this is a movie pitch!

Beth said...

Take that, all ye who think Miss Snark is a gale-force wind of stiletto destructiveness. She was being SWEET and supportive here!
Ahem, *swipes at tear of joy* on to the comment...


I'm sure I'm speaking for quite a few of us when I say that, yes, fear is the constant companion of just about every aspiring writer. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that published and accomplished authors also fall victim to their insecurities and doubts sometimes.
It's in the nature of writers to be a little paranoid; after all, your words are a part of you, a slice of your soul served up in a 12-point font on paper that was empty until you filled it with your very essence. Sending a ms out can feel like singing in front of a crowd of thousands and having forgotten the lyrics...down to the last letter. All you really want is to run off-stage and never show your face in public again.
Don't be intimidated by fear. As Miss Snark said (so well), there is no failure in trying. Send your stuff out. What's the worst that could happen? A rejection? Oh my God, call in the firing squad! All a rejection means is that THAT particular agent or editor did not want/like/have room for your story. It's nothing personal, and life goes on. There are hundreds upon hundreds of places to send your work to. Don't be discouraged. You'll never know how high you can reach until you stretch yourself to the limits of your endurance.
Good luck!

P.S. Read "The Forest For The Trees", by Betsy Lerner (an editor's take on the world of writing and publication). It'll make you feel all warm and mushy inside and you'll see that you're not alone...:-)

teacher guy said...

What is potentially more paralyzing, anxiety or regret? Could be either. But what is more devestating? Regret, for sure. Send those queries!

Bernita said...

The fear is very real.
Fear that you may be forced to admit to yourself, on the evidence, quite apart from full lists, similars already published - all the possible reasons - that you're not even a good writer; and you have been guilty of one of the worst sins to a rational mind - self-delusion.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

[Stands up at the AA meeting and says:] I, too, have been paralyzed by the act of writing a query letter... My lowest point came two years ago when I had piled up FOUR book length manuscripts in the closet without submitting any of them.
Finding a writers' group helped (mine is three hours' away in Chicago, but worth the trouble). I've since published three stories, attended my first professional conference and won a small prize.
Thanks also for the kind-but-firm advice found here. I would like to second the notion that marketing requires a different personality than creative work. I've been channeling my inner Krusty-the-Klown, who doesn't care if it's good as long as it's in the mail by Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

I have a different approach to the query/sent out the subs process that has made it fear-free for me. Hopefully it will help someone else retrain their fight-or-flight response.

I look at the sub process as the *final* step in a ms's life. It is no longer *my* problem, it is someone else's problem. I get to go work on the next thing, and no longer is that other one staring at me saying "tweak this" and "fix that." I go and try to write something better.

In other words, rejection isn't even on the charts anymore. I just go bother someone else with my story so I don't have to deal with it.

It has helped a lot.

Mark said...

"Failure isn't trying and not achieving"

This is the best advice anyone can get. Not trying is a garuntee of failure. Trying has possibilities.

I may be doing this with jobs though to a point, but there's more at immediate stake with moving, chance of failure after the fact and so on.

Ski said...

I am frequently astonished at some of the things I learn here. Dear Fearing Failure - I really hope that you are able to get a MS to someone and they just light up when they read it. I have a feeling that you are a great writer and probably a bit nutty. What a great combination! I can't wait to read your first published work.

Rgds..........Ski

SherryD said...

You're forgetting something - the submission process is totally anonymous. No one will see you blush or choke if your work is rejected. I'm a published writer - my first book of short fiction was recently published, and yes, it was nerve wracking to submit the collection to twelve different markets simultaneously (two acceptances returned). But where would I be, right now, if I hadn't sent it? Nowhere, except sitting at home wishing I had the guts. (And yes, I'll be searching for an agent when I'm finished with my first novel.)

Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

This Snarkling is nowhere being alone with insecurities. And I agree with Beth that even pubbed authors probably go through their fair share of fears: fear of rejection by their editor or readers.

It may take awhile to toughen your skin against rejection. But stay at it. The rewards are too great!

Anonymous said...

I identify. Eight years ago when I completed my first MS I knew nothing about publishing, query letters or anything concerning 'the business'. I found a market I thought would be interested, wrote a two-page letter to the editor, and sent it off.

Four months later, she requested the full MS and a synopsis. Did I send it? Uh, no. I was paralysed. Thankfully, since then I've been writing and learning. Last year I started querying and now three agents and one editor are reading my full.

The fear remains, but the paralysis is gone. Weird business.

Beth said: "Take that, all ye who think Miss Snark is a gale-force wind of stiletto destructiveness."

Naw, I see through all that snarky bite. I think she's a sweet, kind person.

And I'm going to shake this rat until it's good and dead: Why the moderated comments now? Not that she has to give a reason, or even have one. But I'm the curious type.
C.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous #1:

I know that type of paralysis. A family member has it: "Even letters are difficult".

Unfortunately for me, perfectionism seems to be inherited. I tell myself that all my slow, careful work results in better writing.

Good luck.

Thank you Miss Snark for this post. "Suck it up. Wasting your talent is not ok" is exactly what I needed to read.

L

Anonymous said...

I struggle with this fear every day. What if I'm successful with the first manuscript and then can't produce more? How will I deal with everything required of a published author?

I know I need to submit the first one before any of the rest is a problem, but my mind is a constant whir of paralyzing possibilitizing.

Thanks for your insight, Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

My first visit to Miss Snark, but I just had to respond to this. I too was like Fearing Failure and some of the other posters, not long ago. I was so afraid of taking any steps into the publishing process (having been burned many years before) that I would literally become nauseated when I went into Borders to buy the book listing literary agents. So I sent my husband. Long story short ... five years later and I've had three novels pub'd, two by Farrar Straus, one by Random House. I'm now working on the second book in my R.H. contract and have sold a third to FSG. But here is the point: Fearing, you say that what you think you're afraid of is "success." But just because you pub. doesn't mean you're going to be "successful." Your books probably won't earn out, you'll have to fight to get a paperback contract (that is, if you ever get a hardcover to start with) and you'll continually be teed off at the p.r. people at your pub. house, who will do absolutely nothing for your book because they're far too busy promoting the house's rich and famous authors. If you're really lucky, you'll get good reviews, and nobody will say nasty things about you on Amazon. Meanwhile, you will still get your kids to school, scrub your toilets, work your paying job, and be sneered at by CRMs at Borders ("Farrar Straus -- wait a minute, is that a vanity press? We don't do events for self-published books.")
So my advice to you is ... just write your passion, and carry on with your life.
And best of luck to you and all.

Amie Stuart said...

I like teacher-guy's question about fear vs regret. I feared the failure of not selling much more than the failure that could come after selling, but we're writers and like beth said fear is a constant companion.

The worst that can happen is that you get rejected, and I can assure you that there are many worse rejections to suffer than one from an agent or editor.

Good luck!