What’s stopping us as writers from pressing that SUBMIT button? From sending that email? From putting my work out there?
Self-doubt is probably my worst enemy. I can write and write and write, but if I never share it then it’s nothing but an extended exercise in hedonism. Some of my biggest what-if enemies in this process are:
- What if my story’s not good enough?
- What if it needs one more edit pass?
- What if there’s not enough diversity?
- What if the plot arc doesn’t conform to the standards of the genre?
- What if no one likes it?
and the biggest thing:
- What if I’m not good enough?
When I look at these, there’s one overriding driving force: fear. Nerves are one thing, but being out-and-out afraid is something else altogether. As we all know, rejection is a writer’s middle name. So how do we deal with that very rational fear of rejection?
I wish I had all the answers. I can’t tell you how to get past it. All I can do is describe my own two-step process.
First, I ask myself exactly what I’m afraid of: rejection or acceptance? I can deal with rejection, but the real mystery is what happens if something gets accepted? What will people expect of me? What will I expect of myself? Being human, we all have a little fear of the unknown and what it might bring. For me, fear of acceptance is an unreasonable thing to have hanging around, so right after I acknowledge its presence (yes, it’s allowed to exist even if I don’t like it) I will drop-kick that sucker right the hell out of my way and move on with things.
Second, I look at my list of what-ifs and remind myself that even if all those things come true, I won’t be any worse off than I am now. When I look at it that way, it becomes a no-brainer. There’s no reason not to submit or to query or to enter that contest or to send my words out to someone for critique or feedback. The worst that will happen is I’ll hear the word no.
I’ll tell you a story: when I was little, we went to a lake in upstate New York for vacation. I was a shy kid, extremely introverted. There was a dock, and I spent a lot of time sitting on that dock wondering how cold the water was, how deep it was, whether there were leeches, whether or not I might drown if I jumped in… you get the picture. But one day the sun was so hot and the water so inviting that a glaze of recklessness overtook me, compelling me to jump into that water. I did, and it was cold and dark and scary at first, but I paddled my way back up to the surface feeling so much better than I had before. Leeches or not, I’d reached the point where I couldn’t not go for that swim.