Face the Fear … But do it Anyway!

Fear. It’s a funny thing. An estimated 10 million people in the UK alone have phobias. That’s about 1 in 6 of us. Claustrophobia and its opposite, agoraphobia, are amongst the ten most common phobias. Fear of flying (aerophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia) are in there too. No surprises there. Not in the top ten list but coulrophobia is quite common and at least one of our Write Romantics has it … fear of clowns. Having seen Stephen King’s ‘It’, I’m not surprised!

But there are some strange phobias out there too. Did you know that alliumphobia is the fear of garlic, Dutchphobia is the very un-PC fear of the Dutch (why?!) or that geniophobia is the fear of chins (yeah, not sure I get that one either). And I have two absolute classics for you here – hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the fear of the number 666 and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words. Oh the irony that someone suffering from this can’t tell anyone what they’re suffering from because the word itself would fill them with fear!

Have you ever heard of novelrejectionphobia though? No? Well, that’s probably because I’ve just made it up but it’s a very real affliction that I’m facing right now. And I don’t like it.

I thought of the idea for my novel in 2002 and first put fingers to keyboard in 2003 so this year signals the culmination of a decade of work during which time I’ve learned so much about writing. I’ve written and re-written my novel (especially the start) more times than I care to remember. I’ve received several positive beta-reader reviews and two great NWS reports. So, armed with a box of freshly-printed business cards, a folder of synopsis print-outs for Novel 1 and the remaining two in the trilogy, and a handful of CDs containing Novel 1 should any agents of publishers ask for the whole thing, I attended my first RNA conference with a positive attitude that I was about to take my next step on the road to becoming published.

But things didn’t quite work out as my imagination had planned. I didn’t ‘fall naturally into conversation’ with any agents or publishers in the dinner queue and the two editors I met in my booked sessions didn’t throw their arms round me squealing, “I loved it. I MUST have the whole MS. NOW! And here’s fifty grand to secure the publishing deal!” I came home with all the business cards, print-outs and CDs still intact.

Don’t get me wrong; the two editors I saw really liked my MS. They were really positive about my voice and my style and the plot but one wanted the story to start at a slightly earlier point with some more action (both my NWS reports had said to start it later) and the other just wanted to make sure certain points came out in the MS. To be fair, they did, but a conversation with her gave me an epiphany on making a change to the start that would give my protagonist a really strong reason for seeking The One which would also provide the action the other editor sought.

All I needed to do was one more edit then get it sent off to agents. That wouldn’t take long.

Except it has.

Schools go back next week which means summer is over. Which means six weeks has passed. Six weeks during which I have been unemployed, having lost my job in late July so, in theory, have had all the time in the world to write. OK, so I spent a week on holiday and we had a weekend camping, I decorated the lounge, I cleared out the garage, I had a major clear-out of my daughter’s toys, books and clothes (which took several days) and I’ve had various appointments like doctor, dentist, hygienist etc. Not to mention actually spending time with my six-year-old and taking her out on a handful of day-trips. But there have been ‘spare’ days. Days where she’s gone to her Nana’s. Days where I’ve had cooking and cleaning to do but where I could have done it quickly and dug out my manuscript.

Yet something has stopped me. Yes, novelrejectionphobia has reached out its inky paws and slapped me about with a copy of Jane Wenham-Jones’s ‘Wannabe a Writer?’ “Yes,” I’ve cried, “Yes I do! But what if I’m not good enough …?” And so we get to the crux of the problem. Sending a previous incarnation of my MS to a few friends and family members last year was a little bit scary … but they were never going to be brutal about the feedback (I hoped) and, if they did, I’d be able to convince myself it wasn’t their genre/it wasn’t quite ready/they’re not experts or whatever excuse I decided made me feel better. Sending it to the NWS was also a slightly nerve-wracking moment … but all I was going to get back was a critique which would make me feel good about some parts (I hoped) and give me some constructive guidance on improving other parts. Even sending the first 6,000 words to a Harper Collins/Marie Claire competition has only made me feel mild apprehension … because I’ll probably read an article in a couple of months announcing the winner and realize I wasn’t short-listed because I’m assuming there will be far too many entries for them to reply personally to say “no”.

But if I send it out to an agent or a publisher, I’ll get a response. I’ll get a letter or an email. I’ll get a “no”. Or perhaps I won’t. But I’ve convinced myself it will be a no. Perhaps that’s because I’ve lost my job and had little success in finding a new one so I’m feeling like a big fat reject all round just now.

So I’ve spent the summer avoiding the final edit. Yes, I’ve had days where I couldn’t write; daughter to entertain, appointments to attend. But I spent half an hour sitting on the landing yesterday with a pair of tweezers picking out stuck bits of paper in my office shredder. Was that really the most important thing I could have done with that time? It’s not like the shredder was even jammed or going slow! I have several other examples of such procrastination that I won’t embarrass myself by sharing.

My other half put his foot down this summer and said that I didn’t have to rush out and get a temporary job (I have a few irons in the fire I’m waiting to hear on) but he expected me to do things around the house if I wasn’t working. Fair enough. But after a few days of hard graft painting the lounge, I could have put my foot down too and said I was writing for a day. But I didn’t. Because it’s easier to blame him than me for not finishing that MS. And if it’s not finished, then I can’t send it off … and nobody can tell me it’s not good enough!

At the RNA Conference, there was a session called, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” It was all about identifying what stops you doing things (usually yourself) and finding ways to overcome them. The leader of this session is a life coach. It was a good session but, as a coach myself, I was familiar with everything covered … yet it’s so damn hard to apply it to myself. I could coach and support anyone else who needed it but it would be a case of do as I say, not as I do!

An hour ago, we got back home from some commitments we’ve had today and hubby said he’d look after Ashleigh so I could work on my MS. Crikey! I think it’s because he’s made a decision to join the local archery club through whom he’s been attending a trial course. This will take time and commitment so I think this is his way of recognising I need time for my ‘hobby’ too. Only I don’t want it to be a hobby. I want it to be a career. Which means I have to send my MS off … which means I have to finish it … which means I should be working on it now instead of writing this blog.

Will someone slap me about with a cold wet kipper please and make me get my act together before novelrejectionphobia turns me into one of those writers with a PC full of manuscripts that have never seen the light of day just in case someone says they’re not good enough. Because what if I am good enough? What if they love my work? What if they want to represent/publish me? What if I become a bestseller? It could happen to me, couldn’t it? I could have the talent and timing to make it?

Right, that’s it. I’d better get my MS out now and polish it off. Could be in an agent’s inbox by the end of the week if I get my finger out.

Mind you, it’s only 20 minutes until teatime and that’s not enough time to do anything now … or is it?! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 Julie xx 


7 thoughts on “Face the Fear … But do it Anyway!

  1. I know that feeling so well, but I also think sometimes just being away from your novel for too long does something weird and makes you scared to look at it. As soon as you brave your computer and open up your story, you’ll be back into it in no time, I’ll bet.

  2. Goodness Julie, this really is a cry from the heart, one that any writer at any stage in their career will surely identify with immediately – but wait, isn’t that exactly what we aim for in our novels? Tug the emotions, ring the bells? If you can write with this much conviction then you don’t ever need to worry that the novel isn’t good enough. This is not me trying to be nice, it’s as plain as the nose on your face! So get to it girl, and consider yourself kipper-slapped!
    I do agree with Jaxx, though, the longer you stay away from the novel, the more the scare factor increases. But we all do the procrastination thing, at least I do. I’m doing it now! I came up here specifically to sort out a troublesome chapter but by the time I’ve finished writing this it’ll be time to put the dinner on… I have NO discipline!
    Love the phobias. Who knew there were so many weird and wonderful ones?
    Deirdre x

    • Aw, thanks Deirdre. Ashleigh appeared upstairs and said “daddy’s sent me to slap you with a kipper”. She didn’t know what one was but I had a pencil case on my desk so she picked it up and slapped me on the arm with that instead!

      It’s funny but just writing that has given me a kick up the backside and I’ve got the MS in front of me right now. I actually only have 80 pages left to do (then transfer the changes to the PC as I’m doing it on paper at the moment – my cheeky departure gift at work was to print it out on paper (double-sided and 2 pages per side to save paper)) but I think I’m worried my impressive change at the front just doesn’t quite follow through. Still, don’t editors get you to make a stack of changes anyway even when you’re accepted?

      I think I worry too much to need to get it into that ‘perfect’ state with no holes whatsoever … which will probably take another decade!
      Julie xx

  3. Oh, Julie, that really rang a bell with me. I did an article on my own blog on exactly this subject…how fear was stopping me from actually doing anything and I was becoming only too good at procrastination. You’ve had such positive feedback I’m absolutely sure you’re capable of doing this, and I owe it to you to encourage you all I can because if it hadn’t been for you and Alex giving me that pep talk that day I may never have set my own fear aside and conquered the paralysis that was afflicting me with my WIP. Now, thanks to you two, it’s currently in the hands of a reader and I can only hope I get comments half as positive as yours were. You can do this! :_) Go to it, girl!
    Sharon xx

    • Ooh, I’m going to need to look at your blog and see what you had to say on that subject, Sharon. It’s strange isn’t it? I really do think mine is being affected by the job rejection situation at the moment – “can’t get a job, rubbish at everything, can’t write” kind of mentality! On the positive side, writing this gave me a boost and a kick up the backside. I’ve now just finished my edit and my job for tonight (Tuesday) is to short list agents then tomorrow’s task is to get sending!

  4. Aww big hugs Julie (()) you have had a rubbish time of it lately with losing your job. It’s bound to have knocked you back. But I can totally identify with everything you have said above. You need to know that you are amazing, inspirational, fabulous, a writer (and an excellent one judging by your blog posts) a wonderful mum and wife need I say more.

    But the problem is the rewrite, I know exactly how you feel. I was exactly the same, my house was never so clean as when I had major edits to do. I would do anything rather than sit down to write. The best advice I can give you is once the kids are back at school. Make yourself a mug of coffee (chocolate is allowed at this point and the calories don’t count!) Then sit down and write yourself a plan of action. Just take a chapter at a time instead of thinking about the whole thing and concentrate on that chapter. Make notes, use highlighters, red pens, post its anything but work on that chapter. I found that by concentrating on just a chapter I could cope, not get too stressed with it and only eat a couple of bars of chocolate instead of family sized bars.

    You can do this Julie, I know you can. Look at what fabulous posts you write.

    Good luck,

    Helen xx

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