It’s hard to write about scary things the day after Halloween. The ghosts and goblins have disappeared, and my pre-coffee reflection scares me more than anything else this morning.
But this week’s topic calls for fear, and fear is something with which I am very familiar.
When I started writing, I feared I would never write well enough for publication.
I wrote anyway.
When I finished each of my manuscripts, I feared that no agent would ever represent them.
I sent out queries.
When my inbox pinged with each of the fifty-two rejections I received, I feared my goals were forever beyond my reach.
I started over, finished another novel and queried again.
On the day my agent signed me as a client, I stood on top of the mountain and breathed the rarefied air of a world with no fear in it.
We went on submission and lo! my fear returned.
After signing a three-book deal, seeing my debut novel available for pre-order, and hearing the soul-warming words of the people who’ve read and enjoyed it, I’d like to tell you my fear has exited the stage, pursued by a bear.*
But I’d be lying.
Fear is an author’s traveling companion. It recedes in the golden moments when people read and enjoy our work, but rushes in again, regular as the tide, when darkness falls and we find ourselves alone. We worry about reviews, about sales, about social media trolls and rain on the cupcakes we brought to hand out at our signings.
We fret over big things and small things – and sometimes over things so distant we laugh at ourselves for our silliness … only to worry anew over all the things we don’t even know if we ought to be worried about.
But that’s when smart authors call in the Worry Marines.
When I find myself ready to chew all my nails to the quick, I reach out to my family, my friends, and the fellow authors who walk beside me on this publishing road. Alone, we are vulnerable to terror. Together we are strong. From my fellow debutantes, to my writing group, and the many authors (published and aspiring) in my circles of acquaintance, I am blessed with a network of support that stretches far and holds me up with a strength I could never manage on my own. They are my Worry Marines, and no terrors my my can summon can stand against them.
The question is not how writers banish fear, but how we manage it.
We must measure success in how well and how quickly we drive fear back to the shadows from whence it came. In one sense, I fear everything – all the possible failures, in all their varied forms – but with my Worry Marines around me, I fear nothing.
I know my friends – my Worry Marines – will keep me strong.
Who are your Worry Marines? Do you have good friends or family who help you through your fears? If you write – have you found an effective way to minimize your fears, or convert them to motivations? I’d love to know!
*Extra points to anyone who recognizes this reference. It’s one of my favorites.
16 Replies to “Deb Susan Calls in the Worry Marines”
A wonderful post – and totally spot on! I am volunteering for Worry Marine Duty!
And I’m glad to have you on duty! My fellow debs are some of the best and strongest worry Marines of all!
I am a worrier. Big time. I’ve had anxiety over my first Amazon review ever since I scored my publishing deal. My Worry Marines are mainly my husband and my mom. I love my dad, but we are too similar, so he totally understands why I’m worrying, which validates my anxiety and makes it worse. My mom, on the other hand, just rolls her eyes at all of my anxiety and disarms my worry. But now I’m lucky enough to have you Debs as part of my Worry Marines, and I couldn’t be happier!
You know, I never thought about how useful my teenage son’s eye rolling and “Mom, seriously?” treatment of my anxieties is … but you’re completely right! Worries DO seem sillier when intelligent people you trust just refuse to give them traction.
Absolutely. I couldn’t survive in this biz without my own Worry Marines–friends, CPs, and fellow writers. It’s too darn scary to be in the publishing woods all by yourself!
Isn’t that the truth! It seems like there’s a bear or a dragon around every corner. I need my friends to bring their rainbows, unicorns and penguins to pull me out!!
Ooh, I love this idea of Worry Marines. I think I have different Worry Marines for each situation – for writing, for CrossFit, for life, but my sweetie is definitely my #1 Worry Marine, and bless him for it.
My husband is my #1 Worry Marine too. I’d like to say he keeps me from fretting, but it’s more like “reminds me that the last time I fretted about this particular subject, it worked out ok, so it will be ok this time too.”
This: “Fear is an author’s traveling companion.” Yes, yes, so very yes. But you’re so wise, Susan – it’s true that we don’t need to banish it, but manage it. Being afraid means you’re doing something risky and if we’re not taking risks, we’re not doing it right.
I have several Marines that I lean on from time to time, but my husband is always my Worry Marine Platoon Captain.
It took me long time to realize that I wasn’t failing at “dispelling fear.” I thought I had to get rid of it completely. Once I realized it would keep coming back, but that it was a matter of management, somehow it all got a lot easier!
What would I do if I didn’t worry? I already watch way too much TV! 😉
Good point! But at least we don’t have to worry alone!
My writer friends are definitely my Worry Marines, because they truly understand the long slog toward publication. At this point, I’ve been in the pre-published trenches for so long that I don’t fear rejection. In fact, the opposite thoughts crop up every once in awhile: What will happen if I land a yearly series deal!??! FEAR!! That would be the ultimate happy thing, yet I’ve had so much time to work on my novels thus far that I fear the yearly deadline. How to write a novel in, say, eight months with a full-time job?
So, basically, I have a fear of success! That’s awful. I imagine I’d get over it quickly enough. 🙂
I’ve always had a public-speaking fear–practically phobic–so that comes into play. My first-ever public reading occurs at the end of the month, and my nails are already bitten to the quick. The fact that I’m willing to face my phobia proves how much I want to get my novels out there, that’s for sure.
Sounds like a job for the worry Marines for sure!
On the positive side, though, you are working to get your novels out there, and that kind of perseverance is always rewarded. Sometimes the only difference between the successful author and the unsuccessful one is exactly the kind of determination you’re showing. It took me almost ten years (and five manuscripts) to get to publication,so I know what it feels like to be in those trenches for what feels like forever. Hang in there – never give up.
I understand the fear of success too – sometimes it seems almost as daunting as the initial query and rejection process. On the one hand, you think it will all be better (and in some ways it is, I won’t deny that!) but then there are tons of OTHER things to worry about!
Glad to hear you have Worry Marines to help you along the road!
Your reply reminds me of overhearing a bunch of successful authors at a conference complaining about their book tours. I’d just roll my eyes–wish I had that stressor. It’s all relative, for sure. Thanks for being supportive!
Isn’t that the truth! I would NEVER complain about getting to talk with people about my books! Especially if those people spent their hard-earned money to buy something I wrote. To me that is, and always will be, something I’m grateful for. It could never be a hardship!!
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