Today, I’m going to force myself to do some stuff. I’m not talking skydiving or getting a tattoo (not that those things aren’t wonderful, and all that), but I’m talking submissions. Yes, my friends. My burning compulsion to submit my work for publication, and to competitions, has sort of flickered and faded in the last week or so, and I need to stoke it up, double-time, lest it extinguish altogether.
I’m terrible for second-guessing myself, and for letting my doubts get the better of me. This tendency balances its opposite – my ability to be rash and impulsive, which is not always a good thing either – but there are times (like now) when my fearful, careful nature outweighs the go-getter side. There are two stories in my arsenal which I’d earmarked for a particular literary magazine, but I’ve still not sent them. I keep tweaking and changing and telling myself ‘no, let’s not bother. Maybe you just can’t write a suitable story for this place. Never mind.’ This is despite the fact that I know the stories are as good as I’m going to get them, and they’re reasonably good stories, and they’d suit the ethos of the magazine. All this logic, though, seems to be irrelevant to the worrywart between my ears.
I guess, then, that just breaking through the fear barrier once is not good enough. It somehow manages to rebuild itself while you’re off doing wonderful things with your time, and almost before you know it, it’s back up and ten times scarier than before. You have to keep breaking through it, and keep breaking through it, and keep… breaking… through it.
Taking the giant step, and pressing that ‘send’ button on my submission, seems harder this time than before. Maybe it’s beginning to seem real, now. I found out yesterday that I’ve had a story accepted for publication in a second literary magazine, which is fantastic of course. But I guess my brain took the news and went: ‘Huh. So, this means all this writing malarkey isn’t just a dream or, you know, something you’re doing to pass the time. It’s actually something that you need to do, and want to do for the rest of your life, and it’s going to expose you to scrutiny and judgement, and open you up to all sorts of dangers, and make you vulnerable, and… No. I can’t have it. Sorry, but it has to stop here.’ I can imagine my brain pursing its lips, folding its arms and fixing the rest of me with a beady glare. ‘Not on my watch, young lady.’ (I’m sure Freud would have a field day with this image.)
So, you see why I need to make some resolutions. I need to:
1. Keep sending work (when it’s ready, of course) to literary magazines and competitions;
2. Be more selective about listening to my brain;
3. Protect the flame of ambition from the guttering winds of self-doubt (prithee);
4. Nurture my love of writing and refuse to allow fear to choke it;
5. Realise that if I’m rejected by a publisher or overlooked in a competition, that it doesn’t really matter.
So easy to write. So hard to actually do.
It’s funny how dreams get really scary when they start to work out. I know I’m not exactly on the Booker Prize shortlist just yet, but even getting over the speedbumps of small successes is a little disconcerting. My post ‘Dangerous Dreams’ a couple of months ago talked about this feeling, too – the sense of terror that can come over you when you meet with the smallest of successes, or the tiniest hints of validation, or the barest crumb of confirmation that yes, you’re on the right path. Maybe you know things are working out just as they should if you feel this terror – it’s like the way a cut or abrasion begins to itch as it heals. It’s an irritation, and it seems wrong, but it’s a sign that everything is going right.
Clearly, it would be much more difficult to build up confidence again from scratch than just to salvage the bit I have left. This means, of course, getting those two stories primped up, wearing their Sunday best, their faces scrubbed and shiny, and then sending them on their way. If they come back stamped ‘Not For Us’, then that’ll be fine. There will be another home for them. I have to keep breaking down that wall of fear when it’s still small enough to be knocked over with ease. If it gets tall, and strong, and thick, and covered in ivy, then it’ll take me another twenty years of hacking to get through it.
So, my resolutions today are: to send at least two stories away, either for publication or to a competition; to write at least one more; to find time to do a little reading, and to encourage my brain to take a holiday. Not so difficult, wouldn’t you say?
And naturally, I’ll be keeping an eye on that Wall of Fear, making sure to give it a good kick every so often.
Happy Friday, everyone.