Saturday, January 8, 2011

all we have to fear...

And don't you come back!
It's a new year, which means a renewed commitment to marketing my books. Since I'm a professional marketer by day it should be easy. Next to crafting a novel into something that works, however, promoting myself is the toughest job I've ever done.

I've boiled down why, and what I'm left with is the same cold, black lump of coal that virtually every artist faces at one time or another: Fear. Little wonder. Each foray into marketing, each query letter, synopsis, or partial I send is another invitation for disappointment and rejection. Another chance for someone who doesn't know me -- and who knows only the barest details of my work -- to proclaim that it isn't good enough.

As I look at the black lump before me, however, I'm reminded of the auditions portion of American Idol.
Although I try not to watch the auditions (I don't find the "funny" ones to be entertaining at all, and I simply can't stomach the potty mouths), I always catch at least one that shreds my heart. One trembling soul whose confidence is so battered their throat constricts and their breath comes in gasps. Sharps and flats never composed by the songwriter riddle the performance. The singer may have the voice of an angel, but it can't find its way past the paralyzing Fear.

Afterward, in the hall with Ryan Seacrest, they shake their heads and sob, knowing they could have grabbed the golden ticket to Hollywood if not for Fear. Watching, we know it, too, and mourn along with them for what might have been. What hurts so much is that they did it to themselves, and they know it. They gave Fear mastery over them, and it killed their dream.

The Bible says that Fear comes from the devil. Franklin D. Roosevelt said that all we have to fear is Fear itself. His wife, Eleanor, said that "you gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look Fear in the face."

They're all right. Along this journey I've faced Fear in many forms. Fear of killing the dream by daring to try for it. Fear of letting others read or critique my work. Fear of entering a contest. None of these frighten me any more. I looked each Fear in the face and it slunk into the darkness. I trust that this one will too. And so I will take my lump of coal, set fire to it, and use it to light my way as I quest for publication more boldly than I have ever dared before.

Will I be wounded? Almost certainly. Will I triumph? Only time and talent will tell. Should I fail, though, I vow this much: The opponent that lays me low will not be Fear.

What about you? Have you ever let Fear stand in your way? Do you have a favorite strategy to stare it down and defeat it? Now is your chance to share. Remember, there's strength (and courage) in numbers. Together, we can send Fear packing.

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  1. Love your site! And I know you're not one to let fear stand in your onward and upward.

  2. Fear lives with me and doesn't pay rent or utilities. Just feeds off my energy creepy parasite that he is. I face Fear daily. I kick him out, and he sends a minion to replace him. I face Fear with every review and with every author appearance or presentation. Sometimes Fear wins. More often I win. As long as the balance is tipped in my favor, I forge ahead. I try to accept Fear as a competitive motivator. My goal is to make Fear my friend. Then I’ll get him to pay rent.

  3. Good luck with that, Bonnie! It's a bit like whistling past the graveyard, isn't it?

    Which reminds me of Anna's strategy from The King & I: "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, and no one will suspect I'm afraid. While shivering in my shoes, I strike a careless pose, and whistle a happy tune, and no one ever knows I'm afraid. Make believe you're brave and the trick will take you far. You may be as brave, as you make believe you are!"

    Man, I love Rogers & Hammerstein. Now, if only I could learn to whistle!

  4. Fear? Oh yes, I know fear well. I live with it everyday, it is a part of me. I often wonder if strength can conquer fear. Some have said that I am strong, but yet I know better.

  5. Dear, dear Deb. Remember, courage is not the absence of Fear. It's the will to keep going even as you stare Fear in the face. And that makes you one of the two bravest people I have ever known. You are my hero!

  6. I fear my fear because it has stopped me from pursuing dreams in the past. Now that I'm ready to begin the next stage of my writing journey--querying agents--fear has come back to taunt me. But I say, "screw you, I'm forging ahead. You can tag along if you want, but I'm going to ignore you."

  7. Bravo, Brenda! That's the kind of talk that strikes fear in the heart of Fear. Fear will respond by being even scarier. Don't listen. Give that hitchhiker his walking papers!

    I sent a query yesterday. Go, me! Come back and tell me when you've sent one so we can celebrate together. Make it soon, OK?

    And remember, JK Rowling sent her first HP book out 100 times before she sold it. Which means the first 99 rejections are just steps on the climb to the prize!

  8. Whenever I get that sick feeling in my stomach and I begin to doubt myself, I remind myself that in the end, I'll regret what I didn't do more than I will what I did do. That tends to banish the fear or at least muzzle it.

    Good luck living fearless in 2011, McKenna. I know you can do.

  9. Good way to look at it, Keena. Reminds me a bit of the old adage that you'll never be on your deathbed and regret not having worked more. I think that's true of Fear, too. You'll never regret those things you tried for; only the things you didn't try for.

    And thanks for the good wishes. I'll carry those with me every day!