Friday, August 16

That Uncomfortable Fear

by Jana Richards
So, our theme for the month is fear. I don’t like admitting to fears. Or more precisely, I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability that admitting to fears gives me. It’s uncomfortable. And scary.

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash
When I first started writing, I didn’t even tell my husband I was doing it. I wrote in secret when he was at work, hiding my writing papers before he got home. I finally, tearfully, told him that I wanted to write, and he looked at me and asked, “Why are you crying?” Good question.

I didn’t want to look ridiculous. After all, who was I to think I could write? At that time I didn’t know any published fiction writers. Books were written by people far away in the States or Britain. Not an ordinary woman like me living in the middle-of-nowhere-Canada. Romance novels weren’t even set in my part of the world.

I remember how excited I was the first time I read a Harlequin romance set in Canada. It was sometime in the 1980s, and the book was set in Montreal, which was still a world away from me, but at least it was in the same country. It gave me hope.

Soon, I read other books set in Canada, both Harlequin and otherwise. After I confessed to my husband that I wanted to write, I joined a writers’ group in my small town. We were like-minded people who were fascinated with words and story-telling. But outside of this group and aside from my husband, I didn’t tell anyone I wrote, and especially that I wrote romance novels. After all, at this point, I hadn’t finished a novel, let alone sold one. I was still an impostor, someone who thought she could write. And if I’m honest, there was a lot of stigma about romance novels back then. There still is.

Eventually I found a group in my province devoted to romance writers. I had to drive to get to the monthly meetings, but it was worth it to talk to people who were as enthusiastic about writing romance as I was. We bounced ideas off each other and critiqued each other’s work. Soon I actually had a finished book or two to submit.

And when I did submit, I met with rejection. It was discouraging, for sure. It reinforced the idea that I didn’t have what it took to be a writer. It kept me from reaching out to people for information on research, something I struggle with to this day.

Fast forward several years to 2006. Small publishing companies were popping up all over the Internet as ebooks hit the market in a big way. On the recommendation of a friend, I submitted a manuscript to a brand-new publishing company. I didn’t expect much. By this time, I’d been rejected by big publishers numerous times. But to my surprise, the publisher wanted my book! I was pleased, but my excitement was tempered by the knowledge that this was a very small company and they were only publishing the ebook. This was before the Kindle and other now-popular e-readers made ebook reading easy and fun. I began to talk about my sale to people outside of my writing groups. I’d often hear that they spent all day at work on their computers. They didn’t want to do their leisure-time reading on one, too.

Getting that sale in 2006 gave me enough confidence to confidence writing and publishing. But I always feel I’m on the edge as a writer. I’m not quite good enough. I see writers with 5-star reviews compared to my 4-stars and I wonder what they have that I don’t. And yes, I know 4-star reviews aren’t terrible. But I fear I’ll never be anyone’s auto-buy. Readers will never clamor for the next book in my series.

I’m just not good enough.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
I’m currently working on book two in a small-town romance series. Book one was met with mostly okay reviews. Okay, but no cigar. I don’t want okay. I want terrific. Explosive. Mesmerizing.

Getting those so-so reviews for book 1 put a stall on the writing of book 2. Why bother? I fear I’ll never get the kind of response to my work that I want, that I’ll always be an 'okay' writer at best.

Even though I’ve been writing and submitting my work for twenty-five years, I still find it difficult to contact people to ask for help with research. Right now, for the series I’m working on, I should be doing some live research into equine therapy. There are places in my area I could contact and perhaps visit. But I’m putting it off. Fear is stopping me. I’m not even sure what exactly I’m afraid of. Fear of looking ridiculous? Fear of being an impostor? Why would anyone want to talk to me?

So, there you have it. Fear. Uncomfortable and scary. Maybe it'll help to bring it out into the light.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, boy, can I identify with this. I am always reluctant to contact "experts," because I'm so afraid of wasting their time. A great post, Jana, and though I'm sorry you have the fears, there is comfort for those of us who can sigh and say, "Me,too!"

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    1. Thanks Liz. I don't know why I let the fear of contacting experts hold me back. Like you, I don't want to waste their time. But mostly it's about looking stupid. I don't really believe someone will laugh in my face (I think) but that fear is always somewhere deep down.

      It does help to know others have some of the same fears. Misery loves company, I guess!

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  2. I love this post, Jana! How true it is for me, too: I feel like as a writer, I'm an impostor. Fear is a paralyzing liar, isn't it?! Thank you for your bravery and courage in voicing what so many of us writers - and others in other professions - feel. Bravo!

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  3. Yes, Janie, fear of being an impostor is paralyzing. I'm not sure when/if I'll get over it: when I make big money from my writing? When I'm a big name in the romance world? That's totally irrational and out of my control but I'm afraid I'm going to always feel that way.

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