Tuesday, October 27

Getting Back on the Horse

I'm a lifelong rider. Horses are my passion. I live and breathe them. I've ridden since I was three years old, and I forsee myself riding until just physically can't any more.
Three years ago, my old faithful partner, a gorgeous red dun mare named Fawn, was hurt terribly in a freak accident. I was told to put her down, to let her go. But I'm stubborn, and I found a vet who saved my pet.
But this tale isn't about Fawn.
It's about Cinnamon, her "replacement". I say that lightly, because Fawn cannot be replaced.
Like Fawn, Cin is gorgeous. Also a red dun, but a little lighter than the old mare.
It was time to ride Cinny this summer.
I've never sent my horses to a trainer, I start my colts myself.
Cin was no exception.
I did all the ground work, she was gentle, she was ready to ride.
The day came.
I was nervous, but not scared. I had done this many times before.
My dad, a horseman among horseman, helped me. He held Cin while I mounted.
She bucked.
Dad held her, he never waivered. His own horse, Gary, started spinning, dragging the plunging filly with him. But Dad's hands held tight. He has arthritis, and it hurt him, but he held that filly until both horses came to a stop.
I rode her the whole time. I didn't fall, I didn't even lose my seat.

But I lost my confidence.

I've not been the same since. I, for the first time in 44 years, am afraid of riding. Oh, I cowboyed up, I make myself ride all the time. But my fear is there, just under the surface. It makes me not want to ride Cin any more. It makes me not want to join my sister and her friends on our weekly Sunday rides.

I can't shake it.

My writing is much the same.

I've been a writer for more years than I can count. I am self-taught, and I've worked hard. I've never been afraind to submit, it's always been a thrill.
Recently, I've gotten a couple of really great awards-- I won the Heart of the Rockies RS category, and I placed third in both The Daphne and the Lone Star RS categories.
Yeah, I hang tuff, I write, but lately it feels like every time I sub it is going to end with me being thrown to the hard ground with broken bones.
When I didn't get a request from either of the last two contests, it felt exactly like hitting the ground after a rough buck off.
The rejections I've gotten lately have landed me on the ground. Hard.

I'm afraid to get on, to sub.

Every time I go to the keyboard, the fear overtakes me, and I sit, I don't take the reins and get on the story.

How do I get back my old confidence?


  1. Fear is a horrible thing. I remember being young and feeling like I would get frequent flyer miles for being bucked off. I had my little mare for 28 years. Its very hard to start anew.. this was so brave.

  2. Thank you for your honesty, D'Ann. I don't know a writer among us that hasn't experienced what you describe. I know I have, and do. I'm about to sub a syn/3 chaps on request, and I'm terrified. This poor ms has languished on various desks, forgotten, misplaced, overlooked, and I don't know how much longer I can keep trying with it. But I believe in the story. It took Madelaine L'Engle ten years to sell A Wrinkle in Time, so who am I to be impatient?

    I suspect I'll always have a certain amount of fear about sharing my work. It may be the nature of the work. It's certainly the nature of being me.

    Here's hoping we can all access *just enough* courage to do the things that matter, to write the stories of our hearts and to get on those horses and RIDE!

  3. I read somewhere the other day that being fearless isn't about not feeling fear, it's about feeling the fear and moving ahead anyway. I like that. I think having confidence is more about acknowleding the risks that go along with a goal but trusting that, even if you fall, friends and family will pick us up and kiss it better.

  4. I can relate. I'm 56 and have had a total right knee replacement. This summer I got back a horse that I had loaned my cousin and had been riding him for a year. Had even had him out every weekend trail riding in a state park. Was so excited to have 'Dexter' back because I thought, now I've had my knee fixed and Dexter has had a years worth of training. I went out to the barn, saddled him up, got on and he went balistic. He didn't buck, he reared. Straight up and in a second I realized he was going to go over on his back on top of me. I was lucky, I let go, slid off and he landed right beside me with a huge thud. I was also lucky nothing was broken tho I did have a huge blood clot on my left thigh. I took the saddle off, put him up and walked away. Have stared at him all summer long but.....I will never get back on him. I am afraid! Never in my life did I think this would happen to me. I grew up on horseback. My first words were pony not mama/dada. It kills me to say "I'm afraid", but it's true. I'm afraid to write too, that fear of getting hurt mentally or physically is overwhelming!

  5. D'Ann -

    As many others, I also took a hard fall off a horse. However, I was only eight-years-old at the time. Blackjack took off in a dead run, and I was too shocked to jump off his back. He headed toward the barn and ran under an area where my dad and uncle were building a chicken coop. I hit so hard that I broke a 2X4 across my chest. Needless to say, I ended up on the ground, and in the hospital.

    They released me the ext day, but a week later, I was back in with a burst appendix. Coincidence? I'll never know. But with surgery complications, it was over three months before I could even THINK about getting back on that horse. I couldn't.

    I've ridden a few times since then, but it's always incredibly scary and I don't like to ride alone.

    Anyway, the real point is this...I allowed that experience to take something away from me. Something I loved so much. Something that was a piece of who I was and a piece of my self-worth.

    And that's exactly what we risk losing if we ever let these rejections keep us in the dirt. Does it hurt more to stay down wondering what life would be like if we'd chosen to stand just one more time? I say yes, that's the worst pain of all.


  6. D'Ann...Just wondering, what would you say to Anonymous and Kelsey if they had just written to you asking for advice about having fallen off a horse? The old adage is, of course, to jump right back on....would you still say something along those lines? Or would you advise them that it was probably for the best...just set the horse out to pasture and forget about it?

    I'm thinking the two can compare...do you fight back and ride the horse, overcoming the fear and enjoying a sunday afternoon? or do you give up and set the horse out to pasture, letting the fear take over your life?



  7. I know exactly what you're talking about - on both. At 14, I should have broken my neck, falling forward over the neck of my own horse and landing on my head. Some instinct made me ball up and I rolled instead of taking the impact on the top of my helmet. I had to get straight back on - halfway through a ride about an hour from the stables is no time to suddenly fear horses. I think, because I did, because I had no choice, I never got a chance to be afraid.
    Writing is different. I wrote about *that* over at my own blog, and it's being featured on another writer's blog this week - basically, I forgot how to write. Entirely.
    I view writing as water, but I forgot how to tap the stream. I worked it out again though - and you will too :)

  8. I don't have a horse story. I've only ridden once. I was on a date...so it was DECADES ago. LOL

    But as for the writing, I have a suggestion.

    You've placed in some fabulous contests, so you've clearly got some talent and skill!

    Have you thought about "adding" to your crafting abilities...psyching yourself up so that you become eager to try out whatever you learn.

    Donald Maass has 2 great books. Writing the Breakout Bestseller and The Fire in Fiction.

    Start with Breakout Bestseller, but if you've read Breakout Bestseller, try reading Fire in Fiction. Both are fabulous.

    Then when you sit down you won't have the feeling that you're trying the same thing over and over and over again, hoping for a different result. You'll bring something new to the table! So you'll have new enthusiasm.

    susan meier

  9. Hi, D'Ann,

    I'm a Jersey girl and so don't get to ride many horses, but I am a writer like you. I've certainly collected enough rejection slips to wallpaper my entire house. But I just keep on with it because it's what I love to do, and it makes the acceptances so much sweeter when they come. Just keep at it and they will come. Alfred Lord Tennyson became Poet Laureate during Queen Victoria's reign. His first book of poetry was trashed by the critics of his time. He went back to the drawing board and rewrote every single poem until each was a jewel. He refused to give up. Tenacity is a virtue for writers. We need to write and rewrite until we get it right. So keep getting back on your horse!

    All the best. Wishing you every success

    Jacqueline Seewald
    THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale 2009
    THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print 2008, romantic mystery

  10. D'Ann,

    Sometimes I wonder how I keep hanging on to the dream. It's not easy. Maybe fear keeps us moving -- to try harder, pushing to overcome and reach the goal. Just think how much harder it'd be NOT to keep trying. To lose the dream, the goal. You've got some nice awards that don't come easy. Feed off all the good stuff and push foward. You're not alone!

    As for the horse, I always wanted to ride but all I got when I asked for a pony was an old-fashioned stick horse. LOL.

    Hang in there!

  11. Hi d'Ann,
    I used to ride when I was younger, and I experienced a frightening fall that could easily have left me dead or paralysed. I know where you're coming from. The fall happened when I no longer had my own horse or many opportunities to ride, so I didn't have the chance to work through the fear.I know it's still there. I'd say grit your teeth and keep riding until it fades and the enjoyment comes back. It's a shame to lose something you love so much.

    All of us who write and submit our work know that rejection can erode our dreams if we let it. When I feel like giving up, I do what others here have mentioned: I ask myself if the pain of always wondering what might have been wouldn't be worse than whatever disappointment I'm facing. Then I try to lose myself in the story. I try to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and recharge my batteries - brainstorming sessions, workshops on craft, venting to writing friends, it all helps. when all else fails, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. That's all any of us can do.

  12. D'Ann,
    You get back your confidence by remembering how hard you've worked and the accomplishments you've made. A bucking horse and editors' rejections have shaken that confidence. That's only natural. You're human. But you have all these years of doing so well. Every reason to believe that it will all come together for you if you continue to press on. So sit tall in that saddle with your head held high. Reach inside yourself and know that you've got what it takes to break through this impasse of fear and move on.

    You've had some good comments already, and I hope you'll heed each one. I second what Susan says about reading Donald Maass's books. I haven't read the second one, but Writing the Breakout Novel is great, especially if you do the workbook. It's a great tool for taking a completed novel and improving it. Give it a try if you haven't.

    Some of the best quotes on not giving up are from Thomas Edison. He would try things thousands of times to get his inventions to work. He didn't see them as failures but as ways he learned what DIDN'T work so he could continue on to find what DID work. Here are a few of his quotes:

    "Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."

    "When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting I go ahead of it and make trial after trial until it comes."

    "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."

    "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

    D'Ann, I believe you are one of those people who is very close to success. Yeah, I know, it doesn't always feel that way. Rejections can make you feel like it's impossible. But like the quote says, this is not the time to be discouraged. This is the time to "make trial after trial, until it comes"!!!
    Love & Hugs,

  13. I was at work today, and so didn't respond to each of you, but I wanted to thank all of you for your encouraging words and thoughts.
    I am going to get back on this writing horse. I am, I am.
    I've been riding Cin all summer, and the fear is a little less each time, so maybe the writing fear will abate, too.

  14. D'Ann,
    Your post left tears reading how your dad held onto the reins despite his the pain. You can do nothing less, I know. I really love Kelsey's comment about our fear of sending out ourselves. So true. It is like a personal rejection. We only fail if we stop trying.

  15. D'Ann, Stop wasteing your time on contests. You are a good writer. You should be submitting to publishers, editors, etc. Someone will pick you up. Having the awards in your resume is nice and may give you an extra oomph but I think you're ready for the big leagues. CJ