If you spend enough time around authors and aspiring authors, you begin to sense a force wending its way through hearts and minds. Fear. As aspiring authors we may fear we’re just not good enough for publication. Or worse, what if the thing we want so much, to be published, exposes our flaws and shortcomings to the world? As current authors, in addition fearing we’re still not good enough, we can find ourselves on a desperate treadmill of ‘what next’. I’ve heard successful, New York Times best selling authors talk about how their publisher didn’t want to contract for the fifth or sixth book. What to do? Do I keep writing what I know or do I step back and rethink the market? Or worse, have I finally been found out? Was I a fraud all along?
What makes this fear so corrosive is the underlying truth. A great writer is never good enough, there’s always room for growth and experimentation. Has anyone not put their work out in the world, be it a poem, a short story, a novel– who wouldn’t mind pulling the work back to fix what was written, knowing what you know about your craft today? And of course, the marketplace constantly shifts. Vampires are in and then they’re out. Everyone wants to read a dystopian fantasy and then they gravitate to Romance or Thrillers or Thriller Romances or Sci-Fi Thriller Romances with Vampires.
For all of us, whether you’re an aspiring author or have been published since the invention of dirt, we all live with fear. Some of us let it consume us, stop us, keep us from our passion. Some of us have tamed the beast and keep it in a small jar on the shelf. Most of us have our good days when we go boldly into the world and our bad days when we curl up in the dark. The ones who continue to take on the very real risks of sharing their stories have not vanquished fear, but instead recognize its presence and act anyway.
We have to be willing to stand at the edge, look over the precipice of our fears, take a deep breath and leap without the certain knowledge of flight. But we don’t have to take the leap alone. We have a community of fellow writers to support and challenge us and the work of great writers living and dead to inspire and teach us. Fear can be an obstacle, but acting in spite of fear opens the door to possibility.