Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fear of Success: Can it keep you from trying?

I have sent out very little work since I gave up my full-time freelance job so I could write romance. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. All of those years when I had that weekly writing deadline for my non-fiction work, I kept wishing I had the time and the energy left to work on my fiction.

Then suddenly I had the time, and I wrote some, but not regularly. And the manuscripts I had finished, that I could have polished with the things I had learned over those years, I didn’t touch them either. When people tried to encourage me to send out something, I always had an excuse at the ready.

Then I gave in and sent off a query to Silhouette. Got a quick request for the complete. (They just skipped right over asking for the first three chapters.) My story made it up the ladder, but was finally rejected. (Wasn't the first time that had happened either.) The editor wanted to know if I had something else along the same style ready, and I didn’t. I could have written something else, but I didn’t do that either.

After a couple of years of nothing, one of my writing friends who had asked about what I was writing or what I had out there, listened to my normal excuses and then informed me that I was a great writer. I blushed and smiled. And then she added, ”...that wants to go nowhere.” Huh? “You are afraid of success,” she said matter of factually. “You’ve stopped finishing work, stopped writing most of the time at all, and you never send anything out unless someone twists your arm.”

I disagreed completely, and she kindly changed the subject. Good friends know when to back off. (Smile) But then a few weeks later another friend said almost the same thing to me. And then a few months later two more said it also.

Okay, that many people have to be on the right track at least. Right?

Maybe not.

So to prove them wrong, I recently sent out a query to a really top agent. Then I went in a panic...knowing the rejection was on the way. I had kind of set myself up to agent...query for a manuscript that was only half completed. Something I always tell new writers not to do. (I did tell the agent right off that it was only half finished.)

So of course I would get rejected. I sat around waiting for that rejection to come, nerves on edge. And then one night while I was in bed tossing and turning thinking about that coming rejection instead of sleeping, this cold lump formed in the pit of my stomach and I had one of those light bulb moments.

I wasn’t really dreading a rejection. I was hoping for one. Hoping that agent would send me a thanks but no thanks.

If I didn’t get a rejection, then I would have to prove to myself that I could still complete a manuscript. And if she signed me and sold that story, then I would have to prove that I could do it again, and then again. And then what if I couldn’t do it again, not even the second time? And what if the reviewers hated it? What if other writers hated it, if my family and friends hated it? What if the agent made a mistake and thought it was good, and then the publisher believed her, and they printed it and the whole world found out my writing sucked?

Those kinds of thoughts rushed through my head until I actually became sick. I got out of bed and stayed up a long while before I finally was able to go turn in and go to sleep. The next day I started the morning with a few things settled in my mind.

I love to write romance stories! Too many people have told me my stories are good. All of them can’t be wrong or wouldn’t be telling me a lie out of kindness. I do want to hold one of my books in my hands; to walk into a store and see one of them on the shelve with my name on the front cover. So what if everyone doesn’t love it, or even like it. That’s just life. There are novels that I’ve heard others say were great that I didn’t like at all. Liking a story or not is just a matter of personal taste. So that’s how it should be taken. I also wanted to help my husband support our family. Since I wasn’t freelancing any more, I wasn’t brining an income into the household.

And the most important thing I had settled in my mind was that I could do it. I can write a novel. I’ve done it several times, and it hasn’t killed me and the whole thing didn’t fall apart, and the world didn’t even end. (Smile)

So darn it, if success is waiting for me, I’m going to welcome it with open arms. And if it’s not...then it will just be fate and not from a lack of trying on my part. I can deal with that...and without guilt and wondering what could have been.

I’m not going to let fear hold me back any more!

Oh, and that query I sent that top agent. Well, she liked it a whole lot, and asked to see the first three chapters. She liked those too, and is now waiting for me to complete that manuscript. Success better watch out...because I’m on the hunt. (Smile) I might not find it, and that’s fine too, but I’m not going to hide from it any more. I think I’ve kind of reached the next level of “Life is Too Short”! (Smile) Took me long enough!


Linda Winfree said...

Whoo-hoo, Charlotte, on the request! If anyone DESERVES success, it's you. And so glad you're not giving in to the fear.

Charlotte Dillon said...

Thanks so much, Linda!

Desperate Writer said...

What are you, my twin? *g*

Seriously, I identified with this fear of success thing.