Running Scared, or How To Be Fearless
Two of my favorite books on writing are Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers. I have found that these books, like most good books on writing, have taught me a lot about life, too.
In Chapter After Chapter, there is a section about moving too fast and using speed to cover our fear. I found this rang true in many aspects of my life as well as with my writing.
Have you ever noticed that when you are really nervous (scared) about something you tend to do it fast? Some things are better done fast – pulling off a band-aid, jumping in a chilly pool, skydiving (I imagine). 🙂 The faster you take that leap, the faster the scary part is behind you.
But there are many things that people tend to rush through due to fear that would be better done after a lot of thought and time. Think about that tough conversation you had last week, or the project you are working on at your job. You may be nervous about it, but you know that rushing through it won’t benefit anyone.
Writing is like that, and so are your dreams. They are things that are better done at a slower pace despite the nerves. They take research and thinking and backtracking and starting over. They take baby steps.
When I first decided to pursue publication, I read books and articles about submitting my work to publishers and realized that I would need an agent. So I researched agents and how to query them. I was so nervous about the prospect of putting my work out there even in a little snippet that I rushed through the query letter and hit send before I could change my mind. Looking back, it is no wonder that I got a standard rejection letter in return; I hadn’t taken my time to perfect the query and make my synopsis pop. Why should I think the agent would take the time to promote me when I couldn’t be bothered to do the same?
I rushed through it because I was afraid. I was afraid it wasn’t any good, afraid I was too old to try something new, afraid that it would be a success, afraid I would be expected to write another one. Fear makes us stupid. We get so bent out of shape about how long something takes that we rush through it, hoping for the best, and do a poor job in the process. We also miss the joy of the journey along the way. We worry that we won’t ever be published, that we waited to long to start, that time is going by so fast that we don’t have time to slow down and write the best book we can, or follow a dream we have always wanted to pursue.
In Ms. Sellers’ book, she wrote, “There is only one ‘kind’ of time. The moment you are in right now. Staying in the now is essentially a kind of fearless focus. It takes gallons of courage to slow down… We live in a world where it’s become a talent, a lost art, something we have to relearn: slow down.”
She goes on to warn that we should “be dubious of any method that promises you a good quality manuscript quickly. You can taste the difference between quick bread and bread that went through two rises, just as you can sense the difference in books, articles, and television scripts that were written too fast and those that steeped, incubated, went through good, nurturing rewrites.”
Yet, most writers I know beat themselves up about not writing enough, or finishing their book fast enough. People with other dreams bemoan the length of time it takes to achieve them. Why? I think it is because we live in a world that rewards speed. Everything is done at a clip nowadays. Fast food, fast cars, fast technology. We don’t go for the five course meals, the leisurely Sunday drives. And God forbid, we are stuck with a slow internet server!
Just last month, I was in a bit of a tizzy over the delay of Book Day. I wasn’t going to make my self-imposed deadline for reasons beyond my control. And I felt like I failed. I didn’t allow myself a moment of self-congratulations for revamping my schedule for the year and shuffling priorities around. I am still on target to reach all my goals for 2015. They will simply be done in a different order.
It has taken a long, slow time to bring my book to the world. If I started rushing the process now when it comes to the cover and formatting, I would be doing it, my readers and myself a grave disservice.
Yet, that is what people do with their projects. They hit that “publish” button on amazon without proofreading, without editing, just to hurry up and get it out there. They are scared. They want to just rip that band-aid off and move on. And they are doing their work and themselves a terrible injustice.
It happens with dreams other than writing, too. A small business person puts up the OPEN sign without having the merchandise or staff to support the rush of customers and he ends up with no return customers and a reputation for poor service. A baker who hasn’t let the dough proof rushes on to the kneading and baking and gets flat pastries. A new homeowner rushes into the purchase without an inspection because they are scared they are going to lose their dream house and they end up with a money pit.
It’s a really hard thing to learn. Dreams take time. And sometimes we just have to slow down and go at the pace necessary to bring those dreams to fruition.
Dreams take time. Some dreams take an entire lifetime. But that’s okay. I can write when I’m old. 🙂