Fear as an emotion has received its fair share of critics and defenders. Often it’s not fear itself that is the harbinger of doom. Fear, physiological fear that is, is a good and empowering emotion. It brings about physical changes to the human body and mind that makes them, like the six million dollar man, faster, better stronger. It narrows the focus, causes the body to excrete life saving hormones and changes (producing adrenaline and increasing the production of blood clotting agents). These amazing changes are ancient life-saving formulas that have guaranteed the survival of mankind from its early walks upon the planet. Fight or flight stuff. True fear is an innate, instinctive emotion that requires absolutely no conscious thought to tap it. You don’t have to train the human body to feel fear or react to its effects. Place a person in front of a charging, rabid dog and it knows exactly what to do. Stories of supposed magical feats of strength, endurance and speed are all as the result of those changes (e.g. the diminutive mother lifting a car off of her child).
Psychological fear on the other hand is a crippling, irrational emotion. It has no basis in logic or reality but its effects can be paralyzing. Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear coined the acronym for this emotion False Expectations Appearing Real or F.E.A.R. In other words, you fear that which has not yet, or may never happen. From deeply felt inexplicable phobias to simple irrational fear, this emotion has quite the opposite effect of the real one in terms of action.
I’ll give you an example. Many people have a supposed natural fear of spiders and snakes, venomous or otherwise. If you think logically about this, you would wonder how you could fear an animal you can a) squash with your shoe, or b) outrun? The fact that neither of these animals considers us to be natural prey and avoid us as well, striking only when they feel threatened, underscores this point. So what are we afraid of? Simple. We’re afraid of that which has not yet happened; namely, the poisonous bite. There are countless actions we can take to avoid this once we’re conscious of the animal’s presence but often the psychological fear will paralyze us into inertia.
I’ve faced fear ferociously in almost all aspects of my life. I’m a bit of the T personality; adventurous and risk taking. I’ve held firm to a philosophy to not let fear dictate my life’s decisions, but even I have not been immune to its crippling hold along with its strongest motivating ally, uncertainty. Fear of the unknown. Is this a real fear? Of course not. Yet, it will stop us dead in our tracks when it comes to leaping out of our comfort zones.
The fear of rejection and ridicule stopped me from finishing a novel for the early part of my life. Sound familiar? I’d get a brilliant idea for a story, began to write it, lovingly shaping the big lump of clay into a semblance of the story and then somewhere in the process, stop abruptly. I was very clever in talking myself out of finishing the work. Lack of time, the idea was no longer “topical”, its focus is too narrow, too vague, too oblique, not funny, not exciting, wouldn’t sell, blah blah blah. None of these were the true reasons for not finishing it.
In taking a brutally honest assessment as to why I did not finish a book I had started I discovered quite by surprise that the reason was simple. The psychological fear of rejection and/or ridicule. It’s a toughie isn’t it? Putting yourself out there. Sink or swim. There’s a certain warm fuzzy coccoonish feeling of writing just for you. I actually know two people who have written more than three books apiece they have no intention of publishing. This I really don’t understand as once my book was finished I couldn’t wait to put it out there. When I ask them, they very quickly rattle off similar reasons to the ones I listed above. They were just more diligent in finishing the work.
Once I honestly accepted my reasons for not finishing, I was able to slay that dragon very easily. I decided that everyone has at least one book in them and by the same token every one has an audience, no matter how small. So I would just tell the story my way. Put one word after the other until I could come up with a logical place to put (30) or The End.
Good thing too because before I decided to self-publish I received 148 rejection slips from my queries and submissions to conventional agents and publishers. Nonplussed I settled on self-publishing and the results have been extraordinarily rewarding (well, I haven’t bought that Viper yet. I’ll keep you posted). My new challenge is to finish the second, third and fourth ones I’ve started so I won’t be just a “one book wonder”.
I’ve received many positive reviews for Protecting Nahir. Two of my favorites have come from people who know me. What they say is that when they read it, they could hear me talking. This is important to me. It means I’m not mimicking or copying anyone. I have my own writer’s voice. Like it or hate it, it is my own. As wildly successful as James Patterson is, I’d hate for anyone to say that I write like he does. Or anyone for that matter (of course, maybe that would get me that Viper).
Writing a book is not an elite, obscure talent only a select few of us have inherited from God. Writing of itself is a skill I still work on improving, but telling a story is as innate to people as talking. Some are just more enjoyable than others and it’s all subjective isn’t it? I simply love the stories of authors who were rejected countless times until that one story ignited a spark that spread like brushfire! It’s all a matter of conquering that fear isn’t it? Okay it’s not that simple but that fear is more daunting than anything that may stand in your way. A famous writer once said (I forget his name and I’m paraphrasing here), “Writing is simple. All you need do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” I have one of my own. Writing a book is easy. Simply put one word after the other until you’ve reached a logical place to put THE END.
See what I mean?
Anthony D. Hubble
Author, Protecting Nahir