Fear of Success

1 08 2011

sailboatInspiration struck today about my business. I realized I’ve been an anchor, keeping things stuck, preventing them from growing because of fear.

Rather than being an anchor, a drag, holding back the ship, I want to be the sail, harnessing the wind energy and directing the craft. We’ll not only go farther faster, but it’ll take a lot less energy.

Ship Ahoy!

21 06 2011

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but a five-book contract with deadlines a month apart has been grueling.

But I just received word that Pirates 
Through the Ages  is on the way. Yay!! Can’t wait to see how it looks. The editor said it turned out terrific, so I’m excited about holding it in my own two hands. Here’s a mock up of the cover.

Looking back, I wondered while I was immersed in it if I’d manage to get it done by the deadline, but I did. Now I’m wondering the same about my latest assignment. What is it about writers that they’ll put themselves under this much pressure and agree to practically impossible deadlines, then slog through long hours day after day to produce a book? What is it about this profession that’s so compelling? It’s obviously not the money. As most writers discover, this isn’t a lucrative profession. So what do we get besides the pleasure and excitement of holding a book in our hands?

Overcoming Procrastination

29 08 2010

My Muse--Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just stumbled across a blog called “Getting Jump Started” that has what the author, Sarah  Bush, calls the 20 Minute Technique. To get moving on projects (especially creative ones) that you’ve stalled on for a while, set a timer for 20 minutes and do something–anything–related to the project. Sounds easy, right?

It is. I’ve been using this technique for years, only I set the timer for 10 minutes. The results are the same. It shoves me out of my complacency and gets me moving in the right direction. Even if it’s only a tiny step, I’m one step closer to finishing than I was before. And it works for writing a novel, painting a picture, cleaning the house, or any task that I’ve been avoiding.

One of the reasons it works so well is that, for a perfectionist like me, the critical part of my brain shuts down. It dismisses those 10-minute efforts.

“Ha,” it says. “There’s no way you can do anything productive in such a short amount of time.” And it stalks off.

Yay! It’s amazing what a great creative start I get before it realizes that I’m actually getting things done without it. By the time it comes storming over to demand that my creative half pay attention to its directives, the work’s well under way. And even it can see that the creative side’s doing a super job. Sometimes it stalks off to sulk; other times it points a finger at all the mistakes, but by then my creative side is strong enough to handle the barbs.

Most of the time procrastination is fear of failure, so the 10- or 20-minute trick helps. No one can write a perfect novel in that short a time, so for a little while, my muse can play freely without the pressure of producing a perfect product.

Fear of Falling

21 07 2010

Sometimes as you’re moving along in life, you have an epiphany. A moment when you see things with such clarity that you wonder why you never had this particular insight before. And everything around you appears in a totally different light. This has happened to me on many occasions, but most recently in the area of faith.

Hop to it

I’ve always believed in stepping out in faith, but today I realized how small my giant leaps of faith are to someone who’s looking down from above. I go into them trembling, terrified of the outcome, thinking I have to do it all alone. I forget to look up and around to see all the help that’s available to cross the chasm I see before me.

Maybe instead of worrying about falling, I could use that energy to summon help. Like the ants in the previous post, I may be so occupied with what I’m doing, I miss the opportunities for support that are right beside me or in front of me.

If I look, I might also see that a jump is unnecessary. Someone before me built a bridge that I can use to cross. So there’s an easier way to do things. Before you leap, look around to find all available resources. But then if no one has done what you’re about to do, take that leap. But be sure to leave the trail well marked for those who will follow you.

I Survived… I Think

21 04 2010

So, one day after the event, I can look back with equanamity. If you read my public speaking post, you might have gotten the impression I don’t like to speak in front of groups.

That’s partially true. And I’m a procrastinator who avoids thinking about the presentation until the last minute, then…gulp!…realizes that it’s time to go out the door, and I have no time left to prepare. Why do I do that? It means I panic as I rush to pull some thoughts together as I drive to my destination and pray that I’ll come up with an interesting and inspirational topic. Yes, I was asked to talk about myself, but every talk should be structured like a story, with a beginning (inciting incident), middle (rising action), and ending (dramatic conclusion).

Luckily for me, my muse works well under pressure. I came up with several exciting (at least I hoped they were) events in my life and made them steppingstones, using an underlying theme of how I jump into careers, then learn on the job, often after I being forced to change directions by a tragedy or a roadblock. That helped me choose my anecdotes.

But I also like to give each audience a takeaway, something meaningful that they can apply to their own lives. My muse, my creative mind, my subconscious didn’t fail me. It dredged up a wonderful idea–one I’d heard years ago in someone else’s speech that had a powerful effect on my life…

Stay tuned for: Seeing the Other Side

Public Speaking: Worse than Death?

18 04 2010

More people say they fear public speaking more than death. Is that true? And why is it authors get asked to speak in public when their forte is the written word? My post on the subject has been moved to the Susquehanna Writers blog.

Why Do I Fear Rejection?

28 09 2009

Lauren Barnholdt just posted a great link to a blog about rejections. It got me thinking. If I hung my rejection letters side by side, I wonder how much footage they’d take up. But that led me to a different thought. How long would my string of acceptances be?

I’ve written more than 850 articles for magazines, educational publishers, and websites, plus I’ve sold several books. So I’ve had quite a few acceptance letters. Obviously, some letters (or emails) asked me to write more than one article, but still, let’s say I had 400 acceptances. If I multiply that by 8.5″, I have at least 3400″ of acceptances–or about 283′. Hmmm… And I’m guessing I have about 100-150 rejections, which gives me 1275″ of rejections or about 106′.

So why am I scared to send things out? Odds are, I’m much more likely to get an acceptance. But I still dread it.

I spent this past weekend at the SCBWI Carolinas conference, where several people urged me to send out my picture book dummy. I hate to say how long I’ve had that dummy worked up. I’d been dreaming of doing it for years. Back in the early 2000s an editor at a large publishing house expressed an interest in the text. She said she had the perfect illustrator in mind for it. I was thrilled. But before it was contracted, she left publishing. And there went my dream.

I turned back to magazine and educational writing, which blossomed into my career. But that picture book kept nagging at me. I took a picture book illustration class with Robert Quackenbush, and he liked that text and urged me to illustrate it. I was too scared and sure I couldn’t do it justice, so I illustrated a humorous easy reader with cartoons.

Several years later I took another illustration class with Matt Novak. Once again, I was encouraged to illustrate this text. I took the plunge. I spent hours on detailed pastels that my classmates praised. I even received an “A” in the class for my work. So why almost 5 years later is that picture book dummy still sitting in my art cupboard?

I dusted it off this summer and took it to an SCBWI critique group organized by Lauren Patton. Again, I was encouraged to send it off. But this fall it was still sitting in my cupboard. It went with me to the SCBWI Carolinas conference, where once again I heard I needed to send it off. So now I’m trying hard to talk myself into it.

OK, I followed the suggestion in the blog and hung up all my rejection letters. Then I hung up all the acceptances. So now I have to ask myself: if people who have only received rejection letters so far can keep on submitting, why can’t I??

Ooh, better go send it out quickly, before my internal critic can think of any negative replies. Anyone else have this problem?? Or these fears of rejection??

Bridge of No Return

22 08 2009

bridge of no return The Bridge of No Return…

Yes, it’s a real place. Both in the world and in my mind. I’ve made some decisions and there’s no turning back. Ever feel you’ve made an irrevokable decision and wonder if you’ll regret it? That’s where this bridge leads. Once you start across, you can’t change your mind. You can never return. The bridge in the picture leads from South Korea to North Korea. At once time, families stood here and had to make an agonizing decision–to cross or stay where they were. To cross might mean new adventures, new opportunities, or heartbreak. No one knew for sure if they’d regret it later. To cross also meant leaving behind loved ones, friends, jobs, homes, and walking into the unknown. I’m doing that now and hoping I won’t regret all I’m leaving behind. I pray when I get to the other side of the bridge, my dreams await. But what if they don’t? What happens then?

Because there’s no turning back.  Ever.

Finding Courage

25 06 2009

I have a dream, and I’m working toward it, but I’ve been struggling with many things along the way. Today I read Michael Hyatt’s blog:  6 Steps to More Courage. For me, courage means following my heart and doing what I know is right. Not just speaking up about injustice, but doing something about it. People around the world are risking their lives to do just that.

When I realize that, it puts my own worries in perspective. Yes, I may fail, but is failure the end of the world. Many people used failure as the stepping stone to other greater ventures. So can I. But I don’t intend to fail. I plan to succeed, and I know I will. I’m surrounded by great people who offer a helping hand when I need it most, who sacrifice themselves for my dream, who work hard to help, who support when I’m down. It’s hard not to be courageous with so many encouragers in my life.

One of my biggest encouragers was my dad. I’ll never forget a time I was offered a leadership position in an organization. I wanted to take it, but it meant doing a speech in front of 200+ people every month. I couldn’t speak up in a small group of 4 or 5 people. I’d NEVER be able to do that.

My dad asked, “Would you take this on if you didn’t have to speak?”

“In a minute” was my reply.

“Then tell them ‘yes.’ You can conquer your fears if you follow your heart.”

I took his advice, and I learned to do public speaking. It wasn’t easy. I signed up for a class that had 6 participants. After our first class assignment–standing in front of the group to say our names, hometowns, and 3 things about ourselves–I raced to the bathroom and threw up multiple times. I was that frightened. Each week on the way home from class, I’d have to pull over to the side of the road, because I was so ill.

By the time I did my first speech for the organization, I could do it without getting sick, but my legs and arms trembled and I couldn’t remember I word I’d said. I have no idea if what I said even made sense. But now, years later, I can get up in front of a crowd of 500+ and speak extemporaneously, if need be, with barely more than a quiver in my stomach.

And that also means I can find the courage to tackle this new venture. Someday I’ll look back on all my trembling and wonder what scared me so. For now, I’ll move ahead and keep repeating my dad’s advice:

“You can conquer your fears if you follow your heart.”

What have you been putting off because you’re afraid? Why not step out in faith and try it today? Feel free to share your own stories of courage. We’d love to hear them.