What a powerful force.
It drives us and holds us back. In life. In writing. I’ve seen so many posts from writers, worried about a litany of issues keeping them from finishing their WIP and taking the next step. Fears of failure, imposter’s syndrome, fear of rejection. These worries drive some writers to long hours on social media, doing chores, watching shows. Anything but face the blank page. The fear of falling short as a writer is juxtaposed with the satisfaction of newly vacuumed carpets or the instant gratification of likes and followers in the Twittersphere. And while growing a social media platform is important to your reach as an author, it can become a sinkhole of avoidance.
Over the years, from quality assurance projects (oh, yes, they were as much fun as that sounds) to plotting out new WIPs, the one thing I’ve had to do is learn to overcome that fear. I found myself thinking for months over projects, planning…doodling…just not writing. And the eventual stress of multiple pending projects, all falling behind schedule, made creative thinking that much harder.
My research article on the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome is coming out at the end of this week. Talk about fear! When I started toying with the project, my brain put up lots, and lots of fear barriers: What if the project is too much for you? What if the editor rejects it after those 100’s of hours of work? What if other pharmacists criticize it? Eventually, several timelines forced me into action and I ordered up about a bajillion articles, found a research partner equally invested in getting published, and dove head first into the work. The project was massive. We sifted through over 50 references, from drug studies to major review articles. More hours than I ever imagined, more editing than I planned into my daily routine. After we finally submitted the article to the journal editors, the wait was unbearable. Would they even take the article? We waited for a few months before the acceptance email arrived. Another 2 months of editor-requested hard revisions put us, finally, into a publication queue.
I go back and look at the acceptance email periodically, when I find myself dragging my heels on yet another project. It doesn’t make starting another project easier. It doesn’t remove the fear of failure. But it does remind me that if I don’t start the project, I am assuming defeat from the beginning. It reminds me that getting past the initial, huge wall of fear is the hardest part- the rest can be handled. When I pick up my iPhone, clicking social media apps, I am reminded to put it down and be honest with why I’m wasting time.
I have started a daily list of long term and short-term goals: what do I need to get done today? What about by the end of the week? The list helps me see the project in small, manageable bite size tasks. If I don’t get everything done, I don’t label myself a failure, because life happens. The next day, I pick up the list and try again. I find this helps move the project forward, and pretty soon I have overcome the fear, and can start making real progress.
Do you have fears that threaten to keep you from your goals? Your dreams of becoming an author? I’d love to hear any tips you have on overcoming them!