Holding Up a Mirror to Your Biggest Challenge
Blog | craft
April 21, 2016
by Jan Fields
Writing for publication is chock-a-block with challenges. You have to find
the time to write, often with little or no support from the people around
you. You have to hone your skills until what you write is ready for the
bigger audience that comes with publication. You have to learn about the
business side of being a writer. You have to take uncomfortable steps into
the public eye through promotion. All of those things are challenges, but
the biggest challenge most writers face is the guy in the mirror, the one
who is too scared, too uncomfortable, or too impatient to make it over those
Fear is a vampire to motivation. Fear says don't open that door, whatever is
on the other side might bite you. Fear says don't insist on carving out
writing time for yourself, people will think you're selfish. Fear just plain
says, "No" and "Don't." And Fear says those things loudly. Every writer has
to deal with fear somewhere and somehow. We all have things that scare us.
I've taken on projects with a sick at my stomach fear that I wouldn't be
able to do it well, even though I knew I had the skills for it. Fear doesn't
care about logic.
So what do you do about fear? Know that it's going to hit you. And know that
it won't kill your writing unless you let it. Think of all the things in
your life that scared you, and you did them anyway. Your first day of
school. Swimming in the deep end of the pool. Leaving home. We all have
things that scared us silly and we did them anyway because that's how you
grow up. Writing fears are like all the others: take stock of what is
generating the fear. Use positive statements to build a wall of belief
against the fear. And then, just step out. It's that simple, and that hard.
But you can do it.
Discomfort is part of being alive. It's instinctive to shy away from
discomfort. Fire is hot, so we pull our hand away from it. Sandpaper is
abrasive, so we avoid rubbing it across our skin. And writing for
publication has a lot of things about it that are uncomfortable. We can get
bored with studying markets. We can find it uncomfortable to revise, because
it lacks the fun of new creation. We can find it confusing to learn new
things. And that discomfort can make us avoid, make us procrastinate.
So what do we do about discomfort? We keep our eye on the prize. Think about
your actual goal: publication. Know that sometimes discomfort is simply
part of a process of success. We do that very thing in other areas of our
lives. We need a blood test to stay well so we hold out our arm even though
the needle hurts. We want a baby so we go through the arduous process of
pregnancy and childbirth, even though that's just a whole new kind of pain.
And, as writers, we want to be published and share our work with readers far
and wide. So we must study markets even though it's a bit tedious. We must
revise and revise and revise, even when it stops being fun and becomes a
grind. We must step into the cold, scary world of promotion, even when it's
not really our thing. We do it, because we want the end result.
Impatience is the short cut to failure. We live in an instant gratification
world. We have electronics that bring us instant news or instant
entertainment. We can buy instant meals and have fresh clear water at the
turn of a tap. So we can chafe at things that are a slow process. We get
bored. We get impatient. We look for short cuts. We tell ourselves we've
done enough. And (more times than not) we get an end result that is not all
it could have been.
So what do we do about impatience? We just work through it. Looking for
short cuts rarely works. There are some ways to work smarter. We can take
classes, and workshops, and improve our writing faster. We can read books
and gain skills through the experience of those who wrote the book. We can
buy market guides instead of trying to track down every publisher on our
own. Not everything has to be done in the hardest possible way. But we do
need to look at each shortcut and ask ourselves if it's helping or just
giving us something to do. Is hiring an editor helping us become better
writers or just letting you fix a manuscript without the hard work of
learning what makes for better writing? Is publishing through Amazon helping
you connect with your readers better or just letting you avoid the whole
submissions process? And is the end result what you really want?
The challenges that spring from that person you look at in the mirror every
morning are daunting, but you can succeed. You have to want it. You have to
be willing to be uncomfortable sometimes. You have to be brave. But you can
succeed. And I'm betting on you.