Fighting Fear

Once upon a time, I knew a guy who spent three years in law school, but when it came time to take that last class to graduate, he just didn’t bother. His employer gave him time off to study for and take the bar exam, but although he took the time, he never took the exam. Because, of course, he couldn’t. He was a smart guy, very knowledgeable in the field, but he never took those final steps to become a lawyer. I always wondered why. My ten year old just read this paragraph over my shoulder and answered the question for me: “I think he was afraid.”

I think so too. You can’t be called a bad lawyer if you never finish law school. And you can’t be called a bad writer if you never finish a book.

I typed “The End” in my manuscript seven months ago. I need to add a couple of scenes and it requires some serious editing, but the bones are all there.  And yet I cannot seem to finish it. I even started another book, and although that is going well, I am being haunted by the first one.

Generally speaking, I am not a risk-taker; I never have been. When I graduated from college, I cried for two days because for the first time in my life I had no idea what to do next. When I started my own law firm I was so freaked out I didn’t eat for three weeks and lost about 15 pounds.  Both involved leaving a safe cocoon of support and certainty. To me, a manuscript is a bit like that. When it’s in your own head or on your own laptop, it’s safe and secure. You can imagine that it will be perfect, that everyone will love it.

So I suppose it’s understandable, if pathetic, that the idea of pitching and querying the book scares the crap out of me. I squandered a recent opportunity to pitch at the NEORWA conference, and didn’t participate in a query workshop I took a few weeks ago. I told myself it was because the book wasn’t ready, but I was lying: the truth is that I was terrified.

This morning as I had both the old and the new manuscripts open on my laptop, I thought about that guy who never finished law school, who as far as I know still works in a cubicle doing the same thing every day. I thought about how I went abroad for my junior year and it was an unforgettable experience that inspires me to this day. I thought about how I left my cushy life for law school, and I graduated cum laude. I thought about how I started my own firm, and it’s doing fine. And I realized that I actually am a risk taker when it counts.

Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So every day I will do something scary, or at least a little difficult. I will write a logline, a pitch, and a query letter. I will shelve the new MS until I finish the old one. And then I will send my baby out into the world.


8 Replies to “Fighting Fear”

  1. Good for you, Marin, for taking that big step away from the safety of your world. I was at RWA last year, in the pitch room, and there was a woman in there, crying because she was so nervous to pitch. I handed her a kleenex and told her it was okay to be nervous, but not okay to back away and never do it. Send it out, take advantage of pitch opportunities wherever your can. At minimum, you’ll get good feedback. And who knows, one of those editors might want to see it, and you’ll be on your way!

  2. I’m proud of your strength to open yourself up with this blog. Excellent job. It sounds like you wrote this for me. (Except the legal references). I am scared to send out my baby, to let it be judged. I had someone that wanted to see it, but an illness kept me from following through. Now I’m using that illness as my excuse for not going forward. I just need to bite-the-bullet and go for it – after I finish a few things first. Is that procrastination – or fear?

  3. Thanks, Barb. I think it’s a little bit of both fear and procrastination, although I don’t know which one comes first. Bite that bullet and get that baby out there! 😉

  4. Oh, honey, I’m with you all the way on this. I go through the same thing every time I hit “send” on a query or submission. Massive self-doubt ensues immediately. Not sure it gets any easier either (and isn’t that a kick in the pants?) Hang in there.

  5. I do the same thing, Marin. It’s why I gave up writing in 2007 and now I see myself going down the same path. Every time I get rejected I tell myself I’m not good enough to get published. At least when I don’t submit (or finish the book) I don’t have to go through that.

  6. Don’t you dare stop this time, BZ! You ARE good enough, and if you ever need a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the pants to keep you going, just ask. 🙂

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