Author Ann Littlewood’s Advice on Fear

After Ann’s book party, a bunch of us local writers (including Ann) convened for literary libations.

I’m going through, let’s call it, a phase with my writing. I call it my fear phase. It’s not writer’s block. Writer’s block I could handle. Last week I read the perfect explanation for my funkitude on Nova Ren Suma’s blog. As quoted from her guest blogger, debuting YA novelist Meagan Spooner: But sometimes the fear is all too possible—what if I send this out and it gets rejected, and the experience is so terrible that it kills my love of writing? What if by trying to reach for this dream, I destroy it?

I’ve been getting rejected for years, right? Right. Handling rejection is a job requirement for writers. Somehow, though, the agent rejections of the past year have been breathtaking, spectacular, crushing. Perhaps my ego isn’t as strong as it used to be — I don’t know — but it feels like something has withered. Picture a dessicated corpse, a tender fledgling that crash-landed during its maiden voyage from the nest. That’s why the quote above caught my attention: I’ve been grasping so hard that I fear I’ve destroyed my writing dream.

Last weekend I was pondering this fear crap as I drove to author Ann Littlewood’s book launch. She’s touring with the third novel in her zoo-dunnit mystery series. It’s called ENDANGERED. If you’re an animal lover and you care about conservancy, check out her books. Even if animals aren’t your thing, check out her books because you’ll dig her zoo-keeper protagonist, Iris. She’s just the right amount of feisty without being annoying.

I had a chance to ask Ann about fear, and here’s what she had to say:

Winston Churchill defined success as “the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” That’s hard to pull off. Failure is debilitating, sucking out energy and leaving nothing much behind. But it can be thwarted if you see the possibility of non-success. Here’s some strategies I’ve used, with varying results.

1. Acknowledge that only a certain percentage of new ventures will succeed, whether they are possible friendships, sales calls, new plants in the garden, or whatever. And that’s OK. To paraphrase what a friend once said, “Of course I fail more than other people. I do more than other people.”  This leads to ….

2. Have more than one growth point to your life. If one wilts, focus on another for awhile. Then maybe come back to the first with renewed energy. And…

3. Have the next step in mind. If this round of agents all reject the manuscript, my next step will be to…write a different book, try short stories, submit directly to publishers, self-publish, and so on. Always know what you will do next if the current strategy does not pan out.

I was one of the last to leave…:-)

4. Look for benefits that you weren’t expecting, that aren’t your primary goal, and savor them. Met new people? Learned something interesting? Had to try something scary and felt good about that?

This stuff isn’t easy. It takes all your self-knowledge and self-discipline to decide whether and how to stay in the game. The alternative of inaction and depression is, however, not the least appealing.

As for publishing, my take on it is that success requires a good manuscript, a ton of persistence, and a surprising amount of luck–a big random factor. The longer you stand out in the field, the better the chance that lightening will strike you. (And I really need to come up with a less  lethal metaphor!)

I’ll take some of that lightening, please. Thanks, Ann!

9 comments on “Author Ann Littlewood’s Advice on Fear

  • I’ve gotten so many comments personally and on Nova’s blog about that post. For me it’s been a wonderful experience–just knowing other writers face the same fears I do somehow makes it all so much easier to face!

    It sounds like Ann has some wonderful, wonderful advice about venturing forth. That said, I think her lightning metaphor is pretty spot-on!

  • It was nice reading your post…I can relate to some of that….I am still a newbie at blogging…would you mind having a glance at my posts?…..your feedback would be very helpful

    • Hi Jim…Welcome! I still feel like I’m a newbie too, to tell the truth. I just glanced at your posts, and I like your voice. That’s what really matters–that you be yourself–the rest follows from there.

  • Speaking of fear, I just tagged you in a rolling blog called The Next Big Thing. Check out my current post for details. The beauty of it is, it gives us a chance to wax rhapsodic about our current project.

    • Hey! I’ve seen this on other writer blogs I read, and I was feeling left out, wondering who might or could tag me! And here you are! Thanks! I’ll write it up in the next couple of days…And, I’ve been thinking I ought the reignite my blogging–so double thanks!

  • Hi Lisa,

    The plaguing fear . . . Yes, and it’s a tricky one, too, because much of the time it’s not the actual fear, but the fear of the fear of rejection. We tell ourselves we are prepared to be spurned, and perhaps we are, but then it’s the silence that starts to eat away at our resolve. I’ve found that the only surefire way to keep the fear at bay is to continue to write. Even if it’s not great, even if it ends up in my own personal slush-pile, I must keep writing. Hope you can make your way through this soon!

    ~ Cara


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