The Paralytic Properties of Fear

As a writer, nothing terrifies me more than the prospect of editing/revising my own work. The mere thought of chopping off pieces of my baby, despite the fact that it’s for her own good, is enough to paralyze me into inaction. This fear is debilitating enough when I’m faced with revising a piece of less than 3,000 words, but when faced with one of my 90,000 plus word manuscripts, I don’t merely stop, but go 100 miles per hour in reverse.

People who have been published may experience this same emotional productivity killer, but because they’ve already proven their marketability, they have editors, publishers and even agents who are more than happy to give them the necessary kick in the pants which will shake them out of the safety of their tree house and get them back on track, if only because others are depending on them for a paycheck.

For those of us who must still qualify our status by ascribing ‘aspiring’ to our ‘author’ title, we are quite often left to our own devices, to muddle through as best we can, or fade into oblivion, never having actually completed a single published work. Unless, of course, we have someone in our lives whose opinion we respect, and who forces us to face those fears whether we like it or not. I am happy to report that one of the first people to ever hear me promise to share the fruits of my imagination with the world has no trouble reminding me of my 50-year-old promise, nor does she hesitate to point out what should be obvious or tell me quite pointedly to get over myself and get on with it already.

Praise to the Butt-Kickers, Without Whom Many Insecure Artists Would Wither and Die on the Vine

Those of us who are creative with a hefty side of analytical, find the editing process is twice as difficult. But when our butt-kickers force us to face our fears, we use the time between editing sessions to roll those fears around, tasting them, smelling them and doing our best to reformat them, which is about as easily done as editing our babies. Fortunately, I have learned many lessons since I began my blog over six years ago. One of the most valuable is that facing and conquering my fears is as simple as writing about them.

Even as I sat down today to edit the first chapter of Sasha’s Journey (quite successfully, I might add) I found myself fighting the paralysis of fear, and trying desperately to put a name to what I was so afraid of. In the end, I determined that at least part of that fear lay in the fact that once I finished the latest revision, I was going to have to really put some effort into finding the right people to do an impartial edit and offer suggestions to make it truly a marketable work. Then I was going to have to come up with things like cover art, a summary blurb, and, most frightening of all, either pitch it to someone or embark upon that peril fraught road called ‘Self-Publishing’.

Suddenly, lights began flashing, bells began ringing and confetti came down like a brightly colored snowstorm. Once again, I was putting too many things in the way of getting the job done. I was looking at a clutter-filled house and trying to get it clean all at once. It just can’t be done. Just as I cannot edit a 90,000 word book in a week, neither can I line up all of the publishing ducks. All I can do is take it one step at a time. It’s no different than life, than raising kids, than clearing clutter. Reach out, pick up the first piece, set it straight, then pick up another. It’s so incredibly simple that one wonders why we don’t just see that in the first place rather than blind ourselves with overwhelm at the magnitude of the entire job.

Moving Forward One Baby Step at a Time

Thanks to the wisdom and directness of my mentor, I have completed a much better Chapter 1, and it’s one I feel pretty good about. A lot of words hit the proverbial cutting room floor along the way, and will be followed by thousands more before I’m done, but that encouragement combined with things I’ve learned as I write, critique, read and simply talk to other writers is proving invaluable. I truly believe, at least right now, that Sasha’s Journey will one day soon find its way onto bookshelves and tablets, maybe in spite of my own misgivings, maybe with a bit more confidence in my abilities, but find it’s way, it must. For that, I have to thank my childhood friend who believes in my now as she did then. I hope all creatives are similarly blessed.