What are you afraid of?

April 28, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 22 comments

Frankly, I don’t like high places. I can’t look down. I’m also afraid of the ocean. I only go out far enough to get my feet wet, and only snorkel in three feet of water or less. But I’ll get on a sail boat any day and ride the ragged edge. Go figure. I’d get on one of those crab boats in Deadliest Catch too. I love the water. I just don’t like to get in the water. Hell, the pool in my backyard is gorgeous! I’ve swam in it maybe a dozen times total. The hot tub is a different story. I have other fears. I detest flying. HATE. IT! Every freakin’ time I get on an airplane I can see us going down and me not able to do a damn thing about it.

What scares me the most however is phone calls in the middle of the night. We’ve had a few over the years, all of them manageable, thank, God. This past Friday night my daughter and her fiancé, who are living with us, were out. Since I had to be up early the next morning (as in 5:45 a.m. early gah!) hubby and I went to bed early. By midnight we were asleep. At 1:42 a.m. the phone rings. Before the first ring had ended I was up in bed and two million thoughts had gone through my head. It was my daughter letting us know she and her guy were spending the night at her brother’s. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’m glad she called, really, I am, but damn if she didn’t terrify ten years off of me. They were home ninety minutes later and woke us up for the second time. Kids.

Okay so this isn’t about me, it’s about you. And writing, and why some of you don’t. Even though you say you want to, and do sort of, sometimes, but not regularly. Why? The fear of failure? Well, we all have to fail to succeed. The fear of fame? That you can manage. The fear of getting published then feeling as if the entire world is staring at you? Don’t get online, write. Afraid of bad reviews? They are a fact of life. We all get them. Deal with it. Fear of not being able to write a second book? You’ll never know until you try. After publication there are fears as well. Will my house keep me? What happens if my editor leaves? What happens if my new editor hates me? What happens if my agent dumps me? What happens if my sales tank? What happens if the muse deserts me? What happens if the trends change and no one wants to read what I write?

All very valid concerns, and most of them, completely out of our control. We can only control our work, our attitude, and our energy. And while all of those, What if’s can happen to a writer, and have happened to many of us at one point or another in our careers, all we can do is write forward. Worrying is energy wasted. I know, I know, easier said then done. It’s true. But sometimes we fear what we don’t understand. So I think the biggest step toward not worrying is to identify exactly what scares us, then unearth the reason behind it, and then plan for the worst case scenario of the fear coming to fruition, and then, the plan of attack after the fact. It’s a reality plan. So, as an example: if the trends change or my sales have consistently been in the toilette, I have two choices. Quit, or reinvent myself. Quitting is easy peasy. Reinventing oneself? Difficult. But not impossible. Movie stars do it all of the time, and so do writers. Dig deeper, expand your creativity, and writing horizons and produce something new and fresh. Then pick out a kick ass name.

I’m a firm believer in where there is a will there is a way, but damn if fear can’t screw it up along the way. I think the best way to deal with fear is being prepared to defeat what we are afraid of.

So, what are you afraid of, and what do you plan to do about it?
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  1. Margaret

    Damn, my butt is sore. Who kicked me in the ass with her pointy-toed stilettos? and so early in the morning? Christ, let a girl get a cuppa joe first!
    I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of failing. I went through the same thing when I showed in the hunter-jumper world (hm, methinks they are akin to RWA chapter contests). It wasnt’t until I realized that my thousand dollar Quarter horse had zero chance against a 50K dollar horse breed for jumping did I realign my goals.
    I’ve been writing 7 years and am no closer to my goal of selling than I was at the beginning of my journey. BUT it doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned a lot or made new friends, because I have. I may never get the right combination to win the golden ticket, but I always did enjoy the challenge of getting back on the horse and kicking his ass into behaving!

  2. Holly D

    My biggest fears always involve my families health. Hubby is probably being activated to some place nasty again in 4 months. The last time was a daily fear of a knock on the door by Army Officers.

    As far as writing, my fear is failure. What if I put myself out there and my writing sucks? Do I want to open myself up to that? No, but I’ll keep writing, fitting it in with taking care of the family.

    Oh, I’m also afraid of dieing. I’m in no rush to spend eternity someplace that I’ll need an SPF of a million.

  3. Karin

    Margaret, it’s my job to kick your ass first thing in the morning, Monday especially. Okay, so what is failure? It can be a verb, which is an action, and seriously, to learn we must fail. We then discover what doesn’t work. Or there is the noun form of failure, as in “I am a failure.” Fear of failing and feeling like a failure are two different things. If we go into any endeavor feeling as if we are a failure then we will fail. It’s predetermined, we have made up our mind that we are a failure, therefore we will fail. If we feel we are not worthy before we’ve entered the arena, we have lost before the competition begins. (I know that isn’t what you’re saying but I think sometimes they tie in.) I think out of fear of failure many times we don’t do our best, work our hardest, or we give it half a shake and shrug it off thinking, well, I tried. Try harder. Dig deeper. If I fail, I want to know I failed not because I didn’t give it everything I had, but because I need to give it more or give it different or learn a new way. My failing is not contingent on what anyone does or has. It is solely contingent on my skill, my preparations, my perseverance and my will to win. Literally we must get back up on that thousand dollar horse and ride his ass over those jumps, and bring home that blue ribbon.

  4. Karin

    Holly, I hear you on fearing family health issues. My fil just went through some stuff and boy am I relieved he’s still here.

    As to your fear of failing: To grow you must learn and part of learning is failing. If your ultimate goal is to sell then you really need to just take a deep breath and find a crit partner. If you don’t want to sell and just write for the love of writing, then disregard the CP thing.

    And I don’t want to die either. But I doubt you are going south. 🙂

  5. Karin

    Amanda, thick skin is imperative. And let’s just say for the sake of argument your writing sucks so bad it stinks up the house. How do you get better? First of all, while it’s to say it isn’t personal, our writing is an extension of us, so yes when you get slammed it is taken personally, but read between the lines. Open your mind and know the people who you entrust your work to are not out to hurt your feelings, and if they feel they have to tippy-toe around your feelings, you will never get the full value of their input. So open up, take a big deep breath and let the hits come as they may. You get used to it, but more than that, you learn from it.

  6. B.E. Sanderson

    Ack! Your blog won’t let me post my original comment (I’ve been trying off and on all day), so we’ll try this short one…

    You rock, Karin. Awesome post, and very inspiring. Thanks.

  7. Amanda

    My fear in writing is that I really suck and no one will tell me the truth because my feelings are so easily hurt. I think getting some critique partners and a group is helping. They are telling me my writing is okay, but it can be better. Hey! Anything is better than me sitting alone thinking it sucks. LOL

  8. Karin

    Sorry about that, Beth. I have issues with blogger, and I have a freaking account! Glad you’re enjoying the post.

    Kathy as a matter of fact, I do have some pearls of wisdom regarding agents and editors. First of all, long before you meet the agent you must have your pitch nailed. I mean nailed. Practice in front of the mirror practice to the dog or cat, practice to the hubster, the kids, the neighbors anyone and everyone. Ask yourself questions an agent would ask then have the answers down pat. While maintaining a professional mien allow your personality to come through. Being prepared is 99% of the battle, the other 1% which it seems is more daunting to everyone is realizing that agents get up and pee first in the morning just like the rest of us. They are humans who happen to have the job of selling books. And, if they don’t have the Kathy Calarcos of the world pitching to them, they don’t eat.
    They need you. You are offering them a commodity. Your work and yourself, and frankly, there are agents out there who you aren’t going to like. So be professional, be cool, baby, and know you have the goods.

  9. Kathy Calarco

    I get a big knot in my stomach when the phone rings in the middle of the night, which happens frequently; my hubby is an assistant District Attorney, and cops are always calling about charges/bail, etc. Since I have a twenty-two year old daughter living in a big city, I’ll never stop the knot when the phone rings.

    I had a needle phobia for most of my life, but the day I experienced a torn retina and the eye doctor quickly explained the procedure which included a six inch needle in my eye (some sort of novacaine), I had to get over that phobia in a literal heart beat.

    But nothing makes my arm pits sweat more than the thought of sitting face to face with a literary agent. I fear that I’ll mumble, say all the wrong things, forget what my story is about, and then wet my pants. So, Karin, if you have any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share in overcoming this fear of mine, I’d really appreciate them. After all, this is a necessary evil I have to beat, right?

  10. Karin

    Go for it, Kathy, and remember, they need you too, and never allow a bad vibe to get you down. Because quite frankly, there are some real scary agents out there, but despite that, you will find the right one for you.

  11. Kathy Calarco

    Wow! Great pearls. I’m copying and pasting the post (hope that’s okay) so I can put it in my “agent pitch” file. I don’t know why it scares me so much – but like you say, without me and my utterly brilliant work, they starve. I have to start seeing myself in a better light because if I don’t, they never will.

    Thanks so much, Karin!

  12. spyscribbler

    What can you do? Fear, I think, will always be there. If you put it in front of you, it will stop you dead in your tracks. If you put them behind you, then it will drive you forward.

    And, if you’re lucky, you might even forget about it.

    I use the fear.

  13. Karin

    Spy, you made me think of something else I meant to say: if we ignore fear it gets bigger. Like a monster in the closet. Once we open the door and confront it, it usually diminishes greatly in size. Mostly I think what we fear is far less fearsome then what our imagination creates.

  14. Cele

    Snakes, my life long fear. My biggest fear losing my grandson, my husband, my daughter. Running into past boyfriends (even though most parted with me on good terms.)

    Writing? People discovering that I’m a fraud.

  15. Karin

    Cele, I forgot about you being afraid of snakes. I don’t like big jumpy spiders. I can totally relate to the fraud comment. Sigh. We’re bookends.

    LaDonna, you always make me smile.

  16. LaDonna

    Karin, I love your mind, GF! 🙂 The well-being of my family always takes precedence like you, and everything else follows. That said, I had to put things in prospective in regards to the publishing world. My goal, get my stories into reader hands.

    That’s it for me, my desire to create and share my work. That takes the scary monsters out of the equation for me. I believe everyone has something to share in this world, looking at life this way takes out the nasty stuff like jealousy, negativity, etc. It works for me, and I think it’s important to do regualar internal “checks” on what works, and what doesn’t for a person. We’re all different, and that’s a beautiful thing. Your post is awesome!

  17. raine

    As far as the writing, probably that I’m fooling myself about my chances of ever being what I dream of being. Of being delusional. One of those people who try out for American Idol and can’t sing a lick…

  18. Karin

    You may not be able to sing, Raine, but I hear you can write. No delusions there.

  19. Kristina

    Fear of failure is big with me. I’ve got a thick skin from the television days but I still get all kerflunked up when I think I’ll fail. I’m much better at brazening (is that a word?) it out and faking my way through now. But it’s still a fear.

    The list goes on from there – I’m afraid of snakes and spiders and things that go bump in the night … I guess at heart I’m just a big wimp!

  20. Edie

    I’m not afraid of heights, but when I’m too high I feel like I’m unbalanced and will fall. I think it’s an inner ear problem. I’m afraid of illness, mine and family members. That’s the worst thing. I don’t like to drive in bad weather either. I’m afraid of a cyber breakdown. I’m afraid of war. I’m afraid of what life will be like for my grandson and his children. I’m afraid that my medical insurance sucks. Oh wait, I already know it does.

    Compared to all those fears, failure is not so scary.

  21. Karin

    Kristina, I like the word brazening. I know exactly what you mean. Hang in there, to be brazen you can’t really be a wimp.

    Edie, when you put it like that…

  22. Amie Stuart

    I’m with Spy…..I fear failure too but I use it as fuel to keep me going.

    Otherwise, I fear snakes *shuddergagshudder* and of course being unable to take care of the kids.

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