(As you can see, I’m still feeling the influence of the A-Z challenge – alliterative titles abound.)
I hadn’t realised how much the thought of sending out my novel terrified me. I mean, I knew it would be a big step, but I thought it was “first day of school” type nerves, not “jumping out of a plane” nerves. I have, however, spent the last week – maybe even the last three months – stalling on my edit. And the only real reason for that is fear.
At first I thought I was just being clever about getting around my tendency to procrastinate. Using the idea of positive procrastination, I have copied out the names and addresses of all the potential agents in the “Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook”, written a template query letter, and prepared a place on Authonomy for my pitch to go as soon as it’s ready. All I have to do now is get it ready. Not the whole thing, just the first three chapters. That’s all – and I’ve already started breaking it down into scenes in order to catch all the details. I’ve done loads – and I’m still not ready to send it out.
Because, truth be told, I could have put it up on Authonomy weeks ago. I don’t need to list every agent – I’ve already copied out the details of potentially good companies. The template query letter could have be made from the draft of a REAL letter, that could, right now, be winging its way to an agency. I could have done this, and I haven’t. I could come up with endless “Yes, but…”s, but I’ve been too honest with you guys to start hiding now.
I’m scared that the product of my blood, toil, tears and sweat will not find a willing reader. I’m scared that someone might answer by return of post with “please send the rest of the story” – when the rest is not yet finished. I’m scared that, if someone does read it, they will find a plot hole at the centre of the whole thing, and I’ll have to start over. I’m scared of rejection. But worst of all, I’m scared of acceptance. I’m scared by the possibility of success.
Because once something is in print, it’s there forever. My first novel, unalterable and out of my hands. If it’s bad, I’ll be horribly embarrassed, and if it’s good, then I’ll have set myself a threshold standard. If I can write one good story, then I’ll expect my next attempt to be as good, if not better. I’m scared of losing my internal “permission to fail” clause.
Permission to fail is vital. Without it, we shrink inside our past achievements, seeing each day as a “double or nothing” stake. Of course, that’s not true – and it’s easy to see the flaws in that argument when it comes from someone else – but much harder to ignore it when it is a nebulous sense of dread that comes from within.
If another person stands over me and says, “I expect you to be perfect, and if you fail I will hate you forever,” then I can see how stupid it sounds. However, this is exactly what I say to myself every day. It’s not until I put it in words that I can expose the weakness in the position. Words are my friends here – so it’s a good thing I’m a writer, isn’t it?
I need to remember that I am a writer, and reclaim control of my thoughts. I have lost so much time mired in fear and self-doubt; and that time is gone for good. I can’t make those days reappear, but I can keep hold of today, and tomorrow, and use them to move forward.
Recent posts have been rather egocentric, haven’t they? I’ll check in again on Wednesday when, I hope, I will have rather more interesting things to talk about.