Recently in a post on Seekerville, someone, I won’t say who, (Mary Connealy) said she didn’t really have any fears. For a moment I was stunned—and a little jealous too, truth be told.
Because I am riddled with fears. Fear could be my middle name. But success is gained by overcoming fears, and I have overcome—or at least tamed—a lot of fears.
God did not give us a spirit of fear, but He did give us a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). If we put our trust in Jesus and are Christians, we have victory. We only need to open our eyes to see it. And we need to tap into that spirit of power, that spirit of love, and that spirit of self-discipline to fully appreciate the victory we have.
What I’m about to say I don’t think I’ve ever shared before. But a year before I started writing again, I was having some issues, and I went to see a Christian counselor. I talked for about 40 minutes. Then he smiled and said, “You’re easy.”
Um . . . okay.
“Your problem is that you have low self-esteem.”
I thought the guy was cracked, and I wasn’t sure I would go back. But he was right. Low self-esteem was definitely a problem for me, even though I hadn’t realized it and didn’t even believe it at first. He helped me to overcome my low self-esteem to a great extent, but I still struggle with this. I have to go to God and ask for confidence, since I want God’s confidence, not just my own.
What does this have to do with success at writing and overcoming your fears? Well, if I had not gone to this counselor and sought help to gain confidence in myself, six months later, when God nudged me to start writing, I never would have listened. I would have said what I’d said before: Getting published is too hard. It will take too much time. What do I have to say that anyone would want to read?
But I didn’t say that when God nudged. I said, “Yes, I want to try that.”
1. Fear of trying
Without at least a modicum of confidence in ourselves, we will not fulfill the purpose God has for us. We need confidence, or we will never be able to weather the struggles to accomplish our dreams. We will either quit when things get hard, or we’ll never even start. So the fear that we aren’t capable of writing a book or of being published or being successful at writing, is the first fear I had to—and you have to—overcome. Ask God for the confidence to try, to give it your best, especially if you know that the desire to write is coming from Him. I recommend a great book called The Confident Woman by Joyce Meyer. It is not unbiblical to be confident. In fact, it is very biblical, and God is the giver of Godly confidence.
2. Fear of the unknown
When I was told that I should go to a writing conference, after I completed my first manuscript, I found the perfect conference while searching online—the ACFW Conference, and it was coming up in just three months! And it was practically in my back yard, in Nashville! So I signed up and paid my conference fee.
The day arrived for me to go to the conference. I was terrified. I was a stay-at-home mom and former special education teacher. I’d never gone to a conference like this in my life. I didn’t know a soul, except my conference-appointed mentor, Mary Connealy, and my roommate, whom I’d only met online. I was packed and dressed and ready to go, but I was stalling, hanging around my house. Finally, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had paid that money! I had to go. So I got in the car and drove.
While at the conference, I was so nervous and uptight I couldn’t sleep. I took an over-the-counter sleeping pill the second night. The next morning I was having a reaction to the sleeping pill, and in the middle of breakfast, I fainted.
Believe me, this was traumatic, partly because I missed an appointment with an editor while at the ER. The bill we got was even more traumatic. Did you know that some insurance companies won’t pay for an ambulance and ER visit out of state? Me neither, but now I do.
So the next year, when conference time rolled around, I had another book to pitch. I really wanted to go to the conference. But I was terrified. I kept reliving the trauma of that fainting incident. But even though I was scared, I went anyway. That’s how I overcame my fear. I just went to the conference anyway, scared. And of course, it was a great conference, and it was worth facing my fear.
3. Fear of failure
By the time I had written four books and was still trying to get published, the economy had tanked, and my husband was hearing rumblings that he might lose his job. I knew, in the case of my writing, he was frustrated with money going out and none coming in, which was understandable. But I also knew that I have never been an energetic person. I’m not the type-A personality who always needs to be moving and doing. And even though I am well aware that some novelists have full-time jobs and still write very prolifically, I knew myself well enough to know that I was not going to be able to do that. But finally, under the pressure (fear) I was feeling about our finances, I took a part-time job.
I cried every day for the first two weeks of that job.
I had young children, and every night after I came home from the job and cooked dinner and tried to be a good mom, I was too tired to write. I felt my dream of becoming a full-time novelist was over, or at least put on hold. My drive to get published had kept me going through more than 32 rejections, but my drive was not working now. The job killed my drive.
I’d been working that job for a month or two when my then-agent, Mary Beth Chappell, called and woke me up from a nap. I’d been doing my lesson from my Beth Moore study in bed, then crying and praying that if a certain publisher decided not to publish my book, that I wouldn’t get too depressed. When Mary Beth told me they had decided to publish it, the only thing I could say was, “What are the possibilities that this will fall through?”
She explained, it’s possible it could fall through, but not likely. Finally she said, with a touch of irritation in her voice, “Aren’t you excited?” Honestly, I was too terrified it would not work out. But I must have had some faith in it, because I immediately quit my job.
4. Fear that the success achieved will all disappear
Through the years since getting published, I’ve been through various circumstances and moments of fear that everything would all go south, especially when, after giving me contracts for four books and those books doing pretty well, my publisher refused to give me an answer on the 3-book proposal we’d sent in. For fourteen long months, I did not know if they were going to publish another book from me. I wondered if I was done. Was I ever going to get another contract or publish another book?
But God gave me a new publisher, who gave me two contracts instead of one, for five books instead of three. How good is God? He is very, very good.
(I’m skipping the part about my husband losing his job the same month my first book released. He was out of work for 3 and a half years, and there was a lot of fear, and ample time and opportunity for me to wonder if I should go back to school to renew my teaching license and try to get a job teaching. Was it impractical and selfish to keep writing, when writing was not paying the bills? But after a few years, I can happily say that it eventually became more profitable to stick with writing. Writing turned out to be practical after all.)
5. Fear of burn-out
I have another example of the fact that even when you are succeeding, you still may encounter fears—more fears than ever, in some cases. When I was already writing two books a year for Thomas Nelson, my amazing agent, Natasha Kern, gave me the news that my Regency series, which she’d been trying to sell for almost a year, finally had an offer. Could I really write more books on top of the ones I was already writing? I was afraid of over-commitment, afraid I wouldn’t meet my deadlines, and afraid the quality of my books would suffer.
Soon after, I was having lunch with my friend Regina. I told her, “I don’t think I’m going to accept this new contract. I’m barely able to write two books a year, and three books might be too much. I don’t want to overcommit.”
“Of course you will accept this new contract!” said my perpetually positive and enthusiastic friend Regina. “This is wonderful! God is blessing you! This is a wonderful opportunity from God! I’m so excited for you!”
I sometimes argue with Regina when I think she’s going overboard. (She’s kind of my opposite.) But this time I didn’t. I overcame my fears, figured out how to work three more books into my schedule, and signed the contract. I might not have done it, but the first two Regencies were already 50% written. I just didn’t want to waste an opportunity if it was from God.
I’m still facing my fear of burn-out and over-commitment. But I honestly think I’ve written some of my best books during this season of over-commitment. Ha! So take that, fear!
I don’t know where you are on your journey or what your fears are. I’m not sure we ever fully conquer our fears while on this earth. But sometimes we just have to “Do it afraid,” as Joyce Meyer says. And just remember this one thing:
If you are a Christian, you already have victory over every fear.
Even when we don’t understand and aren’t realizing it, Jesus has overcome every single thing we could ever be afraid of, and He has given us victory. In Jesus we have victory over the fear of trying, the fear of the unknown, failure, losing everything we’ve worked for, and burn-out. We are victorious. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
Christian writer, God is using you, and using me, “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” How beautiful is that? It’s worth every struggle, and we already have victory.
In the comments, tell me your fears that you’re dealing with. Tell me how you plan to tap into the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Focus on the fact that Jesus is giving you victory. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes and see it. Congratulations to those of you who joined Speedbo! There’s power in doing something in community, working alongside like-minded people, encouraging each other. Take every possible opportunity to stir up your own motivation, and Speedbo is a great one!
Melanie Dickerson is the author of Historical Romances, and her two favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency England, which stems from her enduring love of Jane Austen. She earned her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing, hanging out on facebook, and taking care of her husband, two daughters, and two guinea pigs near Huntsville, Alabama. (Truth be told, her family mostly takes care of themselves and the guinea pigs, and she mostly writes and edits and hangs out on social media.) Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.
Melanie is generously offering one paperback copy of her February release from Waterfall Press, The Spy's Devotion (The Regency Spies of London),and an MP3 audiobook of A Spy’s Devotion...AND a hardback copy of The Golden Braid. Three winners.
Leave a comment to be entered. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
In England’s Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life—but behind closed doors treason and deception thrive. Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.
At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance—until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England—and the man she is falling in love with—need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?
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