Into the Dark: The Time a Writer Needs Their Tribe Most

blackThere have been many times on my journey to publication that I’ve needed my tribe. After a grueling day at the keyboard when every sentence misbehaved, when a rejection with a capital R showed up in my inbox (or several), and especially when the self-doubt grew so big it tried to suffocate me.

And now, as I stare down the last week and a half before my debut novel launches into the world, the familiar prickle of fear has turned from an annoyance to PAIN, the kind that needles you until you reach FULL-BLOWN PANIC MODE. I try to shake it, but find myself asking these questions over and over again:

What if they hate my novel?

What if I’m a big fat failure?

What if all that hard work and passion mean NOTHING and I never sell another book?

So despite this amazing gift I’ve been given, despite the beautiful cover and wonderful reviews, it doesn’t change the fact that every story has the DARK MOMENT.

I’m there—there in that dark moment. Holding my breath, waiting for the BIG TURN AROUND when the heroine knows what to do and not only comes out okay, but a better version of herself. NOW is the time I am thankful more than ever, for my tribe—for my friends and family and writer warriors that throw me the life raft and tow me in, no matter how many times I jump ship and begin to drown. Now is the time I must dig deep and BELIEVE—believe in myself, believe that the universe has a plan. Because like any writer, I know this dark moment will pass and the story will go on.


When was your dark moment and how did you find the courage to face it?

Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

21 Replies to “Into the Dark: The Time a Writer Needs Their Tribe Most”

  1. I’m so proud to be a member of this tribe. And honored to have you as part of mine as well.

    I remember the dark days right before my launch, when I felt physically ill from the fear – and I remember that you were there, every day, to talk me out of the trees and back onto stable ground. It all worked out, just like you promised it would – and now I’m making that same promise to you. Hang in there. Breathe. And enjoy the launch – I know you and BECOMING JOSEPHINE will have wonderful success.

    1. Thank you, Susan. I’m blessed to have you as a friend and colleague! I cling to those words– “Breathe. Enjoy the launch”. I must not lose sight of how wonderful this whole experience has been, from one amazing, yet fear-riddled phase to the next.

  2. I’m here!!! Heading into my own dark moment, lol, but here for you all the same. Keep the faith!!! Also – the second the release hoopla dies down enough to give you a few minutes of writing time, get into the next book. That’s the only thing I’ve found that really kills the dark.

    That said – you and your book baby are going to be just fine!!!!

    1. Thank God for you, Kerry. Girl, you make me laugh and who couldn’t use more of those? And it’s so true about the next book–I’m deep in revision mode and I find diving into that world is a fantastic escape–and about the best way to survive all of the pressures. <3

  3. I’m right there with you, huddled in the dark, waiting. The good news is, I’m quite certain that YOU have nothing to fear. I haven’t actually read your fiction, and yet, I’m sure. Funny how that works, eh?

    This is a good reminder that I should be grateful, and that I’m not alone. My tribe is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks for all the times you’ve thrown me a lifeline, Heather!

  4. Oh, honey. Hugs to you! We’re here for you. Also, I hope you take a moment to do something nice for yourself amidst the launch craziness. Even if it’s just a latte and a trip to Target without kids in tow.

  5. It’s going to be amazing! And everyone has already given you some amazing advice, much that you’ve probably already heard, but it’s just so hard to take to heart when it’s something this big and important to you, isn’t it?

    I don’t know if this will help you… It doesn’t help everyone – in fact, my sister thinks I’m crazy – but for some reason it helps me. Whenever I’m facing a moment like this and I begin to panic and my head whirls with all of the crazy possibilities of doom, I actually force myself to sit down and contemplate what the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen would be. For some reason, forcing myself to do this actually calms me because I suddenly realize how ridiculous it is. The worst is NOT going to happen. Whatever happens the world will continue to turn. And I can usually find a grain of wisdom for myself, some sort of epiphany. “Hey! I did it! Regardless of what comes next, no one can take that away from me. I achieved what I set out to do, and that is a gift in and of itself.”

    Like I said, if the idea of doing this feels like it will only make it worse, please disregard. And as everyone has said – Breathe. And force yourself to pause and enjoy the sweetness of the moment.

    All will be well. I promise. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Anna! The words of wisdom and the calm that comes from those of you who have gone there before me have been so comforting.

      Your advice is EXACTLY what I do with myself when my fears reach a fever pitch—I sit down and force myself to face the worst possible scenario and think about how I would deal with it, what my options would be, etc. It really does take some of the power away from the fear. Great minds… 😉

  6. You need to vent, send me an email — we’re all here for you. girl, you’ve totally got it going on, everything from a great book to a wondrous web presence and multitudes of supporters ready to spread the word. I love your Facebook launch party idea. Good reviews and national marketing backing from your publisher. You are SOOOO set. (Can I be a little jealous? :-))

  7. I’m already doing this, and I have far longer than a week and a half to figure out whether or not the worst case scenario is the one we’re going with. Deep breath, email with many exclamation points to the Debs. We’re with you.

  8. Heather, not only are you an amazing writer, but you have shared that gift with others and helped them hone their talent too.

    There’s absolutely no way Becoming Josephine will be anything but a huge success.


  9. I’ve started to experience these dark times as well, though I imagine it’ll get a bit more intense closer the launch date. I’ll echo everyone’s sentiments here: You’re going to be amazing. You got this far for many, many reasons, and I’m confident that on the opposite side of this darkness is a bright, bright shining star of light for you and Becoming Josephine! I can’t wait.

  10. Anne Lamott writes about this very openly. I am sure I will be there, too, when my book goes. And, it’s easier said than done, but the book can’t be about if people like it or not. It’s so cool – and I’d want that also or why do it – but did it change your life in doing it? Are you better because of it? If the answer is yes, than you’re already a success. Of course, also, this comment is so late, you’re probably on the New York Times bestseller list now and you don’t need to take any heed! GOOD LUCK!

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