Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Overcoming Hidden Fears

Image Source: 37signals.com

Just reading those four little letters can bring up a strong emotional response deep within. Fear plays an important role in our everyday lives, and can be a positive or negative. Fear can keep us safe by preventing us from doing things that are dangerous such as jumping off a cliff; but fear can also hinder us from achieving our dreams and living up to our true potential.                                

For years I would write and then edit...and edit...and edit...and edit some more, trying to create that perfect story. What I ended up doing was nothing more than sitting still and spinning my wheels, never completing a single manuscript. In frustration, I would stop writing. I made tons of excuses for myself and my failure to produce viable manuscripts. I told myself that perhaps I just wasn't ready because I was still maturing and growing as a writer, or perhaps I needed to gain more experience in life and love before I could master the art of writing about these things. What I have come to realize is that these internal monologues that I had with myself were really based on deep seated subconscious fears that I hadn't even realized I had.

Why Am I Not Taking Steps To Achieve My Goal?
I knew deep down that there was more to my failure to complete a manuscript. My imagination was constantly swarming with ideas and I had always dreamed of becoming a published author, so it just didn't make sense that I was having so much trouble achieving that goal.

It wasn't until I began looking within my soul and asking myself some tough questions that decades of hidden subconscious fears began to slowly reveal themselves.

  • Why could I not complete a manuscript?
  • Why would I rather edit previous pages than produce new ones?
  • How could I find time to watch television, read, and play computer games, but not find time to write?
  • Why did I spend so much time researching and so little time writing?
In the past, I blamed the incomplete manuscripts and constant editing on perfectionist tendencies. I convinced myself that I just wanted my stories to be the best they could possibly be. However, what I began to realize is that I really was afraid to finish a manuscript. There it was. Fear had reared its ugly head and I was afraid! But afraid of what?

What Am I Really Afraid Of?
Figuring out what really was keeping me from writing and finishing my stories was not an easy process. My conscious mind quickly discounted my initial answers to the above questions in an effort to keep me where I was. I was subconsciously trying to protect myself from the thing I was really afraid of without realizing it. 

So, I decided to externalize the dialogue in written form so I could hopefully get to the bottom of my issues and effectively deal with my fears once and for all, and become that successful published author I had always dreamed of. Basically, I needed to know what was keeping me from achieving my dream. 

I began by asking myself simple "why" questions in an attempt to get to the heart of what was really behind my problem:

Q: Why can I not complete a manuscript?
A: Because I spend so much time editing what I have already written.

Q: Why do I spend so much time editing what I have already written?
A: Because I want my story to be the best I can create.

Q: Why do I want my story to be the best I can create?
A: Because I want an editor to like it enough to publish it.

Q: Why do I want an editor to like it enough to publish it?
A: Because I want to become a successful best-selling author. 

This answer reiterated my lifelong dream. I had always thought that just knowing what my dream was would be enough. However, since I still hadn't achieved it, and was doing very little to pursue it, I decided to dig a little deeper:

Q: Why do I want to become a successful best-selling author?
A: So I can work and pay the bills doing something I love. 

Here I realized that my dreams went a little deeper. What I really want is to be able to be financially secure enough to provide for myself and my family while by doing something that I love and enjoy. Becoming a successful author is simply my preferred method of achieving that true goal. 

While this was great progress, I still needed to figure out why I wasn't taking action towards that goal. So I kept asking more questions:

Q: Why do I want to work and pay the bills doing something I love?
A: Because I really do not enjoy what I am doing now! 

Q: What would you enjoy doing? 
A: Writing novels that tell great stories that touch people's hearts and souls.

This answer really got to the heart of my dream and is the real reason why I wanted to use writing as the method for achieving my goal. With each set of questions, I was getting closer to discovering the fears that were keeping me from actively pursuing my dream so I could deal with them:

Q: Why aren't you writing novels and telling great stories that touch people's hearts and souls?
A: Because I'm afraid I am not a good enough writer.

Aha! Finally, my hidden fears were actually showing themselves. I knew I needed to keep going until all my fears were out in the open:

Q: What else are you afraid of?
A: That I will spend all time and effort writing a story and then nobody will want to publish it or read it.

Q: What else are you afraid of?
A: That people won't like my writing and won't buy my books.

Q: What else?
A: That I will not make enough money to pay my bills.

Q: Anything else?
A: That even if I get one book published, there is no guarantee that I will get subsequent ones published.

Examine Your Fears & Beliefs To Test Your Reality:
WOW! I had no idea that all of this dialogue was going on somewhere in my subconscious. All of these hidden fears were the root of my writing issues. Some sounded rational, but others didn't. I knew that if I could work through these fears that were now out in the open, then I could really begin to actively pursue my dream of becoming a successful published author. So, I decided to look even deeper within and examine my unconscious beliefs that caused these fears to manifest in my life by continuing a written dialogue with myself:

Fear 1: I am not a good enough writer.

Q: Who said you weren't a good enough writer?
A: Nobody has said that.

Q: What has been said about your writing?
A: That it is good and that I should write for a living.

Q: Do you think you are a good writer?
A: Yes, I think I am.

Q: Do you think that you can write great stories that touch people's hearts and souls?
A: Yes, I really think I can.

So it seems that Fear 1 is not really strong enough to be preventing action because in actuality I believe that I am a good writer and can write great stories.  Let's look at the next fear:

Fear 2: I will spend a lot of time and effort writing a story and nobody will want to publish it or read it.

Q: Why do you think that nobody will want to publish or read your novel?
A: There are so many writers out there trying to get published and so many query letters and manuscripts for an editor to sort through that getting published seems like a crap shoot. Then, if you are lucky enough to get published, there is so much other competition out there.

Q: So you are really more worried about an editor actually getting and reading your manuscript than you are about it getting published, and you are also worried about competing for buyers/readers?
A: I think so. I've never written a query letter before and am worried that I may not write an effective query thus editors will reject it and never get to read the actual manuscript, thus it will not get published. Also I am afraid that if I do get published, then I have to compete with thousands of other authors for shelf space and book promotion.  

Q: Don't you think that worrying about query letters and getting published is a bit premature since you actually haven't completed a manuscript yet?
A: Yes and no. I don't want to put in the required time and energy into producing a great story if it doesn't have a good chance to become published.

Q: You know that there are more publishing options than a traditional publisher and lots of authors are self publishing today using an e-book platform?
A: I guess if I can't get my work traditionally published then I could self publish or publish in e-book format. 

Q: You know that there is going to be competition for buyers in any field?
A: I know and that is what scares me. I'm not sure what steps I could take to promote and market myself and my books, and how to make myself and my books stand out. 

Q: What are some things you could do to learn about marketing and promotion?
A: I could get some books on these topics and take some online classes through RWA and other author organizations. I could also research and interview other successful authors who have well defined platforms and apply those ideas and concepts to develop my own platform. 

By addressing these fears and questioning their validity, I was able to look at my own beliefs and put things in perspective. As I continued this dialogue process, not only did I discover that some of these fears were totally irrational, but I also was able to provide reasonable solutions that made the dream of becoming a successful published author more possible. 

Fear 3: People won't like my writing or buy my books.

Q: We already addressed these issues above. Is there anything else concerning these issues that needs to be addressed?
A: No, I think this fear has been addressed and is no longer a concern. Also fear 5 (not getting subsequent manuscripts published) falls under this as well and no longer needs to be addressed.

By looking at these hidden fears, I was able to realize that three of the five fears were really just different aspects of the same issue and that by addressing one aspect, the others took care of themselves.

Fear 4: I will not make enough money writing to pay my bills.

Q: Is any job or salary really guaranteed, especially in the current economy?
A: No, I guess not.

Q: What can you do until writing does pay the bills?
A: I could write part-time and keep my current job until I can afford to quit. 

Q: Is paying the bills the only reason you are writing?
A: No. I want to write because I love to create great stories that touch people's hearts and souls.

Q: Do you want to write whether or not you get paid for it?
A: I do. I want to get all of these ideas inside my head onto paper so I can share them with others. Getting paid for them would be a fabulous bonus!

Getting Your Breakthrough:
Talk about a wake up call! Something that should have seemed so evident had been keeping me stuck all of these years. My dream was really not to become a successful best-selling author, but rather to create great stories that touch people on a deeply emotional level. I simply wanted to write for the simple pleasure of writing. Getting paid for it would be a bonus not an absolute necessity. 

I knew when I answered that last question that I my entire perception of my writing changed. I no longer needed to worry about any of the above hidden fears because I now realized that I wanted to write no matter what. However, I knew that if any of the issues that had caused me to start this introspective process popped back up, I now knew where they stemmed from and how to address them so they would no longer interfere with my writing. Additionally, I had come up with solutions to issues that could arise in the future such as publishing, marketing and book promotion. 

Goodbye hidden fears. I have to go write now:)


No comments:

Post a Comment