I don’t often struggle much with fear. I don’t have phobias, and I live in a fairly safe place. Usually it’s not too much trouble powering through. And that’s a good thing because my greatest self-contempt is for acts of cowardice.
But publishing was something else. Ancient disregarded scripts raised their ugly heads. “Who are you to think you can write? To think that you belong in that elite group? Wouldn’t it be better to fail quietly? Once it’s published, it’s forever. Later on, you might be ashamed. Better to wait. Show a few more beta readers—make sure you’re not making a huge mistake.”
It was awful. It was so bad, in fact, I couldn’t click the publish button sober. I’m not generally an adherent of liquid courage, but that’s what it took me to get through. I truly hope the next book is easier. I’ve got five of them lined up for next year, in various stages of drafting and revision, and I really can’t afford over five weeks of being a mental basket case.
Fear, unless it concerns a real, present danger, is mostly a mirage. It’s all the negative things that fearful people have dumped into our ears, in a futile attempt to ease their own internal wasteland. Those who seek release in the pain of others are unworthy of consideration.
And knowing all this still didn’t take the fear away. Fear is a primal emotion that reaches deep into our psyche. Fear is powerful.
I’ve spent years being somewhat contemptuous of fear. It’s only fear. Nothing to fear but fear itself. Unfortunately, fear itself can get you to leave the battlefield. You can’t possibly win a fight that you run away from.
So I was frozen, stuck between my deepest desire and the terror of failure.
On the surface, being an almost-published author is a lousy place to be. You’ve been doing this for years. You’ve gotten nothing but rejections. Nobody truly takes your work seriously, at least not at the level of real authors.
But it has a subtle allure. You’re standing at the edge of a cliff wearing a metaphorical hang-gliding rig. You’re still listening to your instructor. No need to jump just yet.
And there’s a lot of good advice about not taking the leap too soon. We need to have the patience to hone our craft, to make our words and stories thrum with power and beauty. That’s not a skill set that’s acquired overnight, or even within a few months of typing the end on your very first manuscript. By all means, polish your words until they shine. Get help. Find beta readers who will nail your fragile writer’s ego to the wall. Treasure them and take their advice.
But also know the day will come and you’ll have to take that leap. I wish you the grace to be able to take it sober, but elegant or awkward, find a way to screw yourself up to it. Don’t let fear win.
Fear might be powerful, but the foe is still unworthy.
Keep writing. And publish.