In 2013, I attended my first ACFW conference. I was a Genesis finalist, and I was eager to meet my agent and my cyber-friends in person. I registered, bought airline tickets, found a dress for the gala, planned a costume for the genre dinner…and then it hit.
Uneasiness. Difficulty sleeping. Pounding heart—you know, all the things our characters experience when they experience fear.
Suddenly, I was afraid to:
- Leave my kids.
- Meet my friends and agent, because they might not like me once they spent five minutes in my non-cyber company.
- Meet new people (ditto).
- Speak to editors, who might judge my proposals as stupid, and then forever associate my name with dumb ideas.
- Lose the Genesis.
- Win the Genesis.
And so on. I was a freak show, and utterly embarrassed about how I felt. Don’t I trust God? Aren’t I an adult with a modicum of social skills? What on earth is wrong with me?
But fear, as we all know, isn’t always rational. The part of our brains that registers danger, the amygdala, receives sensory information before the thinking part of our brains, the prefrontal cortex, does. That means our bodies react to stress before our brains can judge the validity of our fear. This is a good thing when something life-threatening occurs—say, someone swerves in front of you in traffic.
It’s not always helpful in non-life-threatening situations, though. Like writing. And we writers have managed to come up with our own particular fears:
- Blank Page Syndrome (fear of sitting down at the computer to start something new)
- Aptitude Anxiety (fear one’s skill is insufficient)
- Rejection Trepidation (fear one’s novel will be turned down)
- Dead Dream Disorder (fear of persistent rejection and no publication ever)
- Success-o-phobia (fear of the unknown world of published authors)
- Anti-Climax-Complex (fear of poor reviews or sales once one is published)
- Follow-Up Foreboding (fear of not meeting earlier successes)
Perhaps you could add a few things to the list, too.
Putting ourselves and our literary babies out there is a daunting thing, no argument. But living in fear isn’t healthy, either. If we let our amygdalas go wild for a prolonged period, we can develop chronic stress from all the anxiety we’re experiencing. That means lower immune function, higher blood pressure, and other physical tolls—not to mention the damage it can do to our emotional and spiritual health.
It’s not always easy to take charge of our fears, however.
My ACFW Conference Fear Beast was challenged when I shared my feelings with my friend, Karen. She marveled, “What an opportunity!”
I thought, yes, ACFW is a good opportunity career-wise, but Karen hadn’t finished.
“What an opportunity to let God meet you in your fears and help you overcome them!”
That’s when I looked at my fears differently, as a motivator rather than a hindrance. A few things I learned:
- Do not be ashamed of your fear. Instead, give thanks for it, because it can be used to bring you closer to God. Paul puts it like this: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9). If we allow it, our weaknesses can set the stage for God to intervene!
- Handle immediate fears using techniques like deep breathing or meditating on a Scripture verse that helps you focus on what is true. One I like? Matthew 28:20: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- Talk to someone trustworthy. Sometimes, articulating our emotions helps us to process them.
- Respond to your fear. Each of the fears listed above requires work to overcome. If you’re procrastinating because you’re facing a blank page, the best way to remedy that problem is to put something down on paper (you can revise later). If you think your craft could use some help (don’t we all?), get a book, attend a workshop, and/or join a crit group.
- If fears won’t go away, remember some fears require work and time to overcome. Choose not to dwell in fear—repeatedly, if you must. Some people picture themselves in a boat, pushing all their worries overboard. Others picture themselves handing their worries to Jesus.
- Understand the consequences of living in fear. We’ll never final in a contest or sign a contract if we don’t write or submit. What a shame it would be to live our lives wondering what would’ve happened had we taken the risk.
- Accept that failure and rejection are part of the business. I hate how it feels to receive rejections and sad contest scores, but some editors and contest judges were quite helpful and showed me areas I could improve in my writing.
I can still be a bit of a Fraidy Cat, but just so you know, back in 2013 I went to ACFW. I left my kids. I flew. I met friends, my agent, some editors, and lots of new people (and they were all very nice!). I even won the Genesis. Since then, I’ve signed two contracts with a dream publisher, Barbour. None of those amazing, praiseworthy things would have ended in success had I chosen fear over opportunity.
Wherever you are in your journey, I encourage you to be brave today!
Serious Q: What writing fear plagues you most?
Silly Q: What is scarier: spiders, snakes, or clowns?
Susanne Dietze is a pastor’s wife and mom who loves fancy-schmancy tea parties and travel. She began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today she writes in the hope of encouraging and entertaining others. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.
Susanne is offering a copy of The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection here on Seekerville, (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition)but readers can also enter to win two more prize packages today: one celebrates the release of her novella, Love’s Reward, and the other celebrates the release of the collection with prizes from each of the authors. Visit www.susannedietze.blogspot.com to see how!
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Love’s Reward, from The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection:
A rich man’s joke, offering a monetary reward for the capture of a shy architect’s heart—but the game is on for every female in town except a charity-minded miss who won’t compete for the bachelor’s affections. Just his bank account.