As I close in on 20,000 words for my YA novel, I keep hitting the same anxiety hurdles:
- What if I don’t finish?
- Will I like my story when I finish?
- What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
- What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?
These four questions swarm my head like flies buzzing around a overly-ripe melon. I’m constantly swatting at them as I write. Sometimes the questions become too much and I have to stand up and walk away from the keyboard, away from my doubt, and away from the swarm.
Combating the fear
I’ve always been a worrier, even as a child I would literally worry myself sick and give myself stomach aches. My mom would soothe me by asking,
“What is the VERY worst thing that could happen in the scenario that you are dwelling on? Discover what is in your control and the factors that are left to fate.”
So taking my mother’s advice, I decided to list my fears and examine the worst-case scenario for each.
What if I don’t finish?
Completion is entirely up to me. I have ultimate control on whether or not I finish this story, unless I die before it’s completed, but hey at that point i won’t care anymore. In order to finish I just have to get past my fears and procrastination.
When I rationalize this part of my anxiety, it’s really quite stupid. So, moving on…
Will I like my story when it’s finished?
What I’m really afraid of, or the “worst case scenario” is that I will finish it and then abandon it because I’m tired of it. What if the completed story is a cheap re-print vs. the original masterpiece I created in my head? (I’m abusing the word masterpiece here.) The mountain of edits and rewrites is daunting, and I don’t know if I will have the motivation to summit that mountain.
But again, I can control the outcome, I just have to battle the same demons above: fear and procrastination.
What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
Now we are getting to the festering part of my anxiety. This is where panic sets in and my manuscript is about to brutality end because my fears strangle my creative voice.
So I put a ton of time, energy, and heart into my story. I complete a solid draft and edit until I can’t edit anymore. I line up my list of book agents and publishing companies and write a snazzy cover-letter, attach my manuscript, hit “Send”, and nothing.
I don’t hear back. I don’t even know why my book was rejected.
Months go by, and I open my story again. The malleable story I thought I was sending out into the agent/publishing world to be critiqued, re-shaped, perfected, but nobody wants to work with my little fledgling story.
Where did I go wrong? What do I change?
This question breeds more questions and anxiety. This is a scenario where outside factors play a role in achieving my dream.
What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?
Again, I complete my draft, pay multiple editors to review my book for grammar, structure, and flow. I pay someone to publish my manuscript, now I have time AND money invested in my story.
Then nobody buys my book. Or maybe a few people do and it gets horrible reviews. I literally paid to have my dreams crushed.
Pretty dismal right?
So how do I combat my fear?
When I start to panic and drown in a sea of self-doubt I remember this quote:
I also remember what my mother would ask me, how much can I control? I realize that I can control most of the fate of my book. I may get rejected from my top choice of agents and publishing companies, but if I keep re-writing eventually someone will want to work with me. Or I can take my chances self-publishing and be content knowing that my loved-ones will read and enjoy my book (simply because I wrote it and they are biased). Neither of these outcomes are terrible, and most importantly by writing this novel, I am becoming a better writer.
What do you do to combat your fear of failure? Please answer by commenting below.