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Fear was holding me back

Welcome to episode six of A Year of Writing. Today I wanted to talk about something a little bit more personal, the fact that fear was actually holding me back from getting published for quite some time. And I don’t know if any one of you has ever experienced the fact that you think you’re not good enough to do something? Or if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not ready for the next step because it’s scary. I want to talk about how we can tackle all these fears. 

What do I mean when I say that fear was holding me back from getting published? Every time I picked up the manuscript, Flykten (The Escape) and started to edit it, I felt like it could it be improved somehow. I felt like it could always become better. 

In the first episode of this podcast series, I talked about the fact that I studied Creative Writing at University. Once I graduated, there were a few years when I basically wrote on and off, primarily editing that manuscript. Every time I picked it up, I sort of felt like it could improve some more. And I never felt ready to send it to publishing houses because I thought it wasn’t good enough. I thought it was maybe it was too short. Grammar wasn’t good enough, the dialogue wasn’t good enough. 

During the time at university, I also wrote the first draft of a book in a fantasy series I call The Forbidden Circle. It took years until I picked up that manuscript again and started editing it, and continued writing on the series. I don’t know what I was afraid of, but I do feel like fear had some part in holding me back from writing and finishing it. 

It was not until I read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, that I could let go of some of the internal blockages that I had. That book actually helped me to say: Yyou know what? This is good enough. I’m going to try and send this book to a few publishers, and see if anyone likes it. And you know what? One of them said, yes, we want to publish a book. And I’m feeling, wow, that was such a relief. It was mind shattering. I honestly did not expect to get accepted straight away because you hear all these stories about people getting rejection letters and stuff like that. And that’s the thing. The worst thing that could have happened if I sent it in before was that I could have gotten a rejection letter. The best thing could have been that I would have published my book earlier. So the fact that I did not do this earlier a life lesson for sure. 

Why do I want to talk about fear when it comes to writing? Because I think that it’s something a lot of us are struggling with, and I think it’s something that might hold us back from reaching our full potential. There are a few things that I’ve learned from the last couple of years that I want to share with you. 

Writer hiding under a book.

The first thing is that you’re never going to feel ready. You’re never going to feel ready to hold that speech in front of a bunch of people. You’re never going to feel ready to let someone else read your  manuscript. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not. Just do it. Just get out there. Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is that you fail, that you get a rejection. And what do you do when you get a rejection? You get up again and try again. You learn from it and you try again. That’s what separates a winner from a loser. If you ask me, a winner will continue and try again and try to learn from every rejection, every failure, but always, always get up again. 

And honestly, people around you won’t care as much as you think they will about your failed attempts because everyone’s so caught up in their own life. Everyone feels like the main character in their own story. So if you try something and fail, they won’t trash talk you. They won’t think ill of you. They won’t offend you because they’re too caught up in their own world and in their own problems. So no one will care. No one will notice. And it doesn’t matter. Even if they do, what difference does it make? People like J.K. Rowling got rejected from so many publishers until someone picked her up and said, okay, let’s do this. In the beginning it was quite a small print, but then she became one of the most successful authors through our time. 

Just don’t let imposter syndrome or the fear of failure stop you from reaching your goals. Don’t let it stop you from reaching your dreams. 

The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins is a great book about how you can overcome the fear of failure. So in the book she talks about the fact that you must face your fears and do what scares you. When you get an impulse to do something, just do it. You have to do it within 5 seconds because otherwise your brain will come up with the reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Let’s take snoozing, for example. So if you promise yourself you’re going to get up in the morning when the first alarm rings, which is best for you, I mean, snoozing is not good at all. Read Why We Sleep and you’ll see. Okay, that was a sidetrack. If you promise yourself that you’re going to get up when the first alarm rings, what you can do in the morning is to count that count down five, four, three to one. And within those seconds you have to get up. 

The thing you do when you count backwards is that you interrupt your thought patterns and your brain goes: What’s going on? Which means that it stops making up excuse for you to go back to sleep and just snooze for a little bit. So instead you count down and you get up within 5 seconds and you’re good, you did it. And you can apply this one to a lot of things that scare you, like public speaking or maybe you dream of launching a YouTube channel. Maybe you dream of publishing a book. Just do it. Count down. Say yes to the opportunities to present themselves and just do it. 

So I definitely recommend reading her book or listening to her podcast. She’s a great inspiration for me. 

Poet scared of reading her poems.

And here are a few other examples on things that might be holding us back. Fears that might be holding us back from doing what we want to do. One thing is comparing ourselves to best selling authors within our genre. If I compare myself to Dan Brown, Sarah J. Maas, or James Clear, I might think that I’m not good enough as a writer because they wrote these epic stories that sold millions of copies. Maybe I feel like my language isn’t good enough. Or like I don’t have all the plot twists in order. What if I don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle there. 

The thing is, we should never compare ourselves to others. We shall learn from others. We should be inspired by others and let them be our mentors. Like James Patterson says in his Masterclass. 

To become a great writer, you have to write. 

James Patterson

So another thing is, like, if you want to master the art of writing, then you have to write as much as possible. And I think that… you know what? Maybe you are the next best selling author. You will never know if you are or if you aren’t until you master that fear, until you’ve tried. And also, I think writing is a continuous learning journey where we become better and better at expressing ourselves and at painting stories for the readers. 

So what if your first debute novel is just? Well, that’s fine. I know a bunch of best selling authors where their first books, is so-so. But their third book, their fourth book, is amazing. Don’t let that discourage you. And don’t compare yourself to others. You’re unique. And you know what? Someone out there needs your story. Also, if you want to climb a mountain, the only way to reach the top of the mountain is one step at a time. Remember that when the goal seems too big or whatever. 

Another fear that might be holding you back from from writing, is the fear of not having time. And I call bullshit on that one because. If you ask me, if something is important to you, you make time for it. You can carve out a few minutes while you wait for wait in line to pay at the grocery store. Write on your mobile. We have all these devices today that actually sync with our computer, so you can write anywhere, anytime. And if writing is important to you, you create time. 

Another fear that might be holding us back is the fear of never finishing. So why even bother? If I never finish anything, then why even bother trying to write a book? And I get this. I understand this fear. I mean, writing a book is a huge project. It is. But I read somewhere that every third person dreams of writing a book one day. So a lot of people have, fears that are holding them back from writing. But if you ask me, the more people that write, the better, because all writers should read. And the more people that write, the more people will read.

Reading and writing will be a self sustaining business. Look at me. I read. I’m going to read 100 books this year. That’s a lot of money to a lot of authors. I spend a lot of money on books. And that’s fine because I love reading, I love storytelling, and I want to support the people that inspire me. 

Back to the fear of not never finishing. One way to tackle this problem is to prepare before you start. And how do you do that? Well, one thing you can do is you can create an outline or a mind map what’s the story about? Map it out as much as you can and save inspiration and stuff like that in folders that you can come back to later. 

And tip number two is to actually create an entire synopsis. What’s every chapter going to be about? What are the characters names? What’s going to happen? This will help you both with direction, but it will also make the task seem easier to manage. 

Creator afraid of sharing her art.

Step number three is to create smaller bite sized goals. So if the big goal is writing a book, then maybe this first small goal is to create an outline. And the second goal is to write down what’s going to happen in each chapter, and maybe the next goal after that is to write the first chapter and then the second, and then reach 10,000 words and then write half a book. And once you’ve reached that goal of having finished the first draft, you know what? You’re further along than most people. Most people will never even finish the first draft. So once you’ve done that, congratulations. 

Unfortunately, you’re not done yet. Now you have to edit. And after that, I would recommend sending it to an external editor, proofreaders or beta readers. Just get someone else’s eyes on it. Then I should edit once more before sending it to an agent or a publisher. 

Remember that I believe in you. So keep writing, and please leave me a comment with how it’s going? Are you writing every day? What’s your goals? Did you overcome your fear? What are your fears? 

Another fear that might be holding us back is the fear that this has been written before. And there is a great book on creativity and ideas by Austin Kleon called Steel Like an Artist. In this book, he talks about the fact that there are no original ideas. Everything has been thought of before. Everything has been done before. So the fear of, oh, someone wrote this before, it doesn’t matter because everything has already been done. And just take ideas from different places and mash them together and create something of your own. An example about this one is that I love reading romance books and fantasy books, which means that I need more books within those genres. It doesn’t matter if the stories are similar to each other, because I love reading in those genres. I love immersing myself in those worlds. So please write more. And yeah, don’t fear the fact that someone’s already done this before. 

If you want to write something that is original within a specific genre, try to find the gap that other books does not cover within your niche and write something there. Another fear that might be holding us back is Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is when you doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud. A lot of us that write encounters Impostor Syndrome at one point or another. I know I have, and I know a lot of author friends that has done this. The thing with Impostor Syndrome is that everyone deals with it at one point or another. Every time you switch job or get promoted at work. At first you feel Impostor Syndrome because you don’t know what others expect of you in your new role. And the same thing with being a writer is that you don’t know what is expected of you now that you’re an author or now that you’re writer. And that’s okay. But just don’t let it stop you from becoming who you’re meant to be. 

One thing that can help you here is to make sure to have writer community around you, whether it’s online or in real life. Join a writer’s group or connect with other writers and talk to them. How did they get through Imposter Syndrome? What did they do that helped? 

In my day job, I’m a growth marketer, and this has helped me learn how to handle failure in a better way. I work with data driven marketing, which means that I do a lot of experiments, like A/B testing. I test which ads performe best, which landing pages and stuff like that. And the thing is that once you have a hypothesis, it’s not sure that it is the way you think that is why you have to try it. You have to get data behind it to see, okay, I think this ad can perform better because of X-Y-Z. But then you have to then you actually have to try it and do an experiment. You may end up being wrong, and that’s fine, because the good part about working data driven is that you continuously learn and improve. 

So a test that proves you wrong is actually a good thing. And this is something that I’m taking with me into my author journey, that it’s okay to try things and learn from them. It’s okay to fail as long as I get up again and I learn from my mistakes. And try to become a better writer. Because in the end, that’s all I want to do – write stories and connect with more people. 

I hope this inspires you to let go of some of your fears. And remember that fear might be holding you guys back too. Try not let it hold you back. It’s not worth it. Get out there and become your best self. 

If you like this, please subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend. It really helps me as a creator. My name is Natalie Forslind. Thank you so much. 

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