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Reverend Mother Ramallo

Fear is the mind-killer.

Around this time last year I wrote a post titled “I’m scared.” It was a candid take on the feelings I was dealing with while I was on the verge of releasing The Stars Were Right. You’d think with one book under my belt that it would be easier, that publishing Old Broken Road would be more relaxing. Yet, here I am staring at another final manuscript and those same fears are hurdling through my head yet again.

Saying and understanding are two separate things. I now understand: the fear never goes away. It’s like the tide of the ocean. Sometimes its waters are distant and easily ignored and sometimes it hammers us. I don’t care who you are or how successful you’ve been. It’s always there. It pokes at us. It causes self-doubt. I think a lot of writers struggle with this fear. It’s why they rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. It’s why they never submit or never publish. But, for any of us to be successful, we need to push past that fear.

The Bene Gesserit‘s litany against fear always comes to mind at a time like this:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

So, how do we push past this fear? How do we let it pass over and through us? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. This fear isn’t something that has three quick steps or a handy online tutorial. Yet, thousands of authors get past it. If they can do it so can you. My solution: I just do. I swallow that fear, hit publish, and I let the work free. Maybe that’s enough.

Big announcement tomorrow.

The Creative Process

I stumbled across this comic from Tom Founder over at Happy Jar. It struck close to home, and got me thinking:

The Happy Jar - The Creative Process

It’s a common occurrence. Often we creatives feel like we’re the only one who goes through this sort of thing. That while our peers see only success, we see only struggle. We forget that in modern society we curate our lives. It’s:

Friend: “How are you doing today?”
Us: “Oh, I’m fine.” *fake smile* “Look at these pictures of my weekend!”

and not:

Friend: “How are you doing today?”
Us: “ACK! Someone gave me a one-star review. I got a rejection letter, and I’m so nervous about this latest manuscript. I think it’s all wrong. I think people will hate my characters. I hate my characters! Their names are all wrong. Maybe I should change them. Ugh. I’m not sure about the plot either. It’s trite, it’s probably like my last book. I bet it’ll get a one-star review as well! I worry that I’m not speaking from the heart. I should change it. I don’t think people will get it, you know? Don’t even get me started on my prose! I’m stuck, I’m scared, and I don’t know what I’m going to do! It’s wrong! IT’S ALL WRONG! AHHHHH!” *Bangs head against the wall like a crazy person.*

Like anyone else, we judge ourselves by our peers. And like the rest of the world, most creatives only share our success and rarely our failure. As a result we’ve become scared of failure. That fear breeds common reactions: self-doubt, depression, and even the self-loathing as shown in panel three. Often, because of those common reactions, creatives just give up.

We should do the exact opposite. Let’s go back and read that again: common reactions? Yes. Common. It happens to everyone! You’re not alone. I’m right there with you. We all deal with this! But these aren’t insurmountable hurdles. These struggles are only permanent if we let them abide.

The only way to really fail is to stop.

The important thing when confronting these barricades is to press past them. We get so close to our work all we see are the mistakes, the errors, and the things we want to change. We no longer see the good, but it’s there. That’s why it’s important to move past these biases, ignore the demons of self-doubt, and get the work out there. Let the world decide. Push yourself and move on to your next project. As I said earlier, so many of us hit that third panel and just… stop. Which is the wrong reaction. You see, the only way to really fail is to stop.

So yeah, as I said, Happy Jar got me thinking. You can see more great (and thought-provoking) comics at HappyJar.com. It’s updated every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribe to the RSS feed here, or follow HappyJar on Twitter. It’s great stuff and I highly recommend following along.

I’m scared.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing...Only I will remain."

When I started this blog I told myself I wanted to document my whole writing process. Start to finish. Concept to publishing. Ups and downs. So, in that spirit, it’s time to be honest about where I’m at with “The Stars Were Right”:

I’m scared.

I’m scared it’s full of mistakes. I’m scared it’s not going to be good. I’m scared people are going to hate it. I’m scared my prose sucks. I’m scared that I am going to fail.

I spent this weekend thinking about this a lot. That’s a lot of fear, but nothing I listed is a good enough reasons for me not to publish. The risk is there, but in the long run it’s really inconsequential. You know what I will do if “The Stars Were Right” bombs? I’ll press on. I’ll keep writing.

Life is a learning process. Failure and success are a part of learning. It’s a part of everything, even the things we care so much about and pour so much of ourselves into. The thing is though, you can’t fail or succeed unless you try.

It’s time to try.

Big announcement tomorrow.