October Editorial: No Fear
PHS Founder and Managing Editor Trish Wylie, talks about recognizing the fear which is holding you back and finding the courage to overcome it...
What scares you?
I'm not looking for answers like spiders or monsters or ghosts or any of the other things that go bump in the night we will use to try and scare the beegeezus outta kids at the end of this month. What we're talking about here is deep-seated, paralysing fear. The kind of thing that stops you taking chances or reaching for your dreams or simply believing in yourself enough to hold your head high.
As both writers and readers of romance novels (which presumably is what brings you here in the first place), we know all about emotional conflict and how much effort it can take for fictional characters to overcome their fears. Some of what we read/write in those stories can prove cathartic or provide a lightbulb moment in our own lives. But the simple fact is, we're all scared of something, and there's a reason for it. Recognizing what it is and why it's there is the first step.
Fear can be the root of many problems. It can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, tension and dread. Pair that with an over-active imagination and - like me - you may go through a phase where you plot twenty worst-case outcomes to every scenario before you can stop it happening. Fear loves when we do that.
Caution is something we learn pretty early in life and sometimes it's necessary. Lessons like run too fast and you may fall. Stick your hand closer to a flame and you'll get burned. Binge eat all the candy you collected at Halloween and you'll get sick. By learning that - sometimes the hard way - we minimize the risk to our personal safety.
Of course, we all test the boundaries. Particularly during adolescence. And some battles we'll win, some we'll lose. C'est la vie! But it's the losses we remember most. The first time you make a fool of yourself, the first time you get your heart broken, the first time you try your best and give it everything you've got but still fail. Those things can feed our fears to the point where every rejection, humiliation and loss results in the kind of over-caution which makes us erect a protective shield to safeguard against further pain. Makes sense, right? It's completely understandable. We get it. We've all been there.
This is typically when we meet the hero and heroine at the start of an emotional journey. Leave them alone, in the safe little world they believe they have created for themselves within those protective shields, and nothing will ever change. There will be no story to tell. But they won't have faced their fears, which means they're not worthy of the title 'hero' or 'heroine'. And don't you want to be the hero/heroine of your own story?
A little over a year ago, I tripped across a saying which resonated with me: Don't trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.
The sentiment isn't new. After fifteen years in the writing biz, I've heard/read numerous adages with the same underlying message which all amounted to the same thing (and one I've mentioned before). Writers don't just write. We're supposed to be thick-skinned, should never feed the crows of doubt, mustn't compare our own success to the success of our peers, etc. etc.. Above all, we should have faith in our abilities, particularly if we've been lucky enough to sell a few books, get some good reviews and win a handful of awards along the way. Technically, (and in the eyes of many others) we've made it. We are living the dream. We should be grateful. And we are. But that doesn't mean we're not scared we could have the rug pulled out from under our feet and have to start all over again. It happens. Frequently. And there's always that voice in the back of your head that says you could be next.
Accepting you can't control the market, that a reader's love or hatred of a book is subjective and you can't please all the people all the time, isn't easy. But what we need to remember is the courage which brought us to the point where we can consider worrying about those things. To become a published author, you have to overcome a list of fears. Fear that you can't write a book from start to finish. Fear that no-one will like it. Fear that no-one will buy it. Fear that readers will hate it so much they will never buy another one from you. Fear that one bad review can ruin your entire career. Fear that your next book won't be as good as your last or that you've peaked already or don't have another story in you. And with each new book, we are start the process of overcoming those fears all over again.
Overcoming a fear once means you can do it again. The more times you do, the stronger and more resilient you become. Because no, I'm sorry, much as I would like to say it does, it never goes away. Not completely. After all, there is a reason it was there in the first place. But the upside is there are choices to be made. The most important one is whether or not you let it rule your life. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision. You don't have to throw caution to the wind. Measured steps can be just as effective so long as they move you forwards. You also have to decide what is worth worrying about. If you can control something, you own it. Think in writerly terms and the words you put on the page are up to you. The kind of story you want to tell is up to you. Where you want to pitch or publish a book you have written is up to you. At the same time, the things you can't control, you've got to learn to let go. Worrying about them is wasted time and energy which could be spent on something else. Like overcoming another fear.
So, I'll ask again: What scares you?
And this time I'll add another question: What are you going to do about it?
Cos that, my friend, is the first step. And yes, it will take courage and determination. It may be a daily battle or a war you have to wage a few times a year but no matter what happens, you gotta keep fighting. Cos say no to fear often enough and there will come a time when it feels like you can conquer the world.
What scares you? Have there been times you've overcome your fear? Tell us in the comments or join the discussion on this subject on our Social Media using the hashtag #NoFear