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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Facing Your Fears

Courtesy of johnnyberg
Being an author isn't for the faint-hearted. Putting yourself and your work out there can be hard. Terrifying. Nerve-racking.

Especially now, when it's more important than ever for an author to have a public persona on the Internet. As a shy introvert, public speaking ranks right up there with impaling myself in the eyeball with bamboo skewers.

My fears, for the most part, divide themselves into two categories: not being enough and being too much.

Not Being Enough

I am made of dragon hide when it comes to getting critiques back from my beta readers and crit partners. I prefer the crits that highlight what I need to fix, because those kinds of crits give me a clear game plan for making my story shine. So I love red ink.

For manuscripts, that is.

Before I put my novel up, I never truly realized how scary it is to have a novel available for anyone to read. As a writer, I know that no novel is perfect, and that no single story is going to appeal to everyone. As an author, my nails are raw because I just *know* that every single wrinkle, blemish, and imperfection is now going to be magnified, and everyone will see it and know that I have failed somehow as a writer.

Sometimes the writer side of me wonders about this new author side. ;-)

So what can you do when you don't feel like you're enough?

Have a good support system. I can't stress this one enough. These are the people that remind you to breathe, and that everything is going to be all right. They can believe in you when you're jar of belief is empty. Some of these people will be cheerleaders, while others will not only be able to sympathize, but empathize as well. Where can you find likely candidates for your support system?
  • writing forums
  • blogs
  • other social networking places (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • family
  • friends
  • colleagues
  • neighbors
Not feeling like you're enough is natural, but like those insidious dandelion/sticker patch combos, it's a good idea not to let them take over your emotional yard. How to combat the weeds?
  • have a good support system ;-)
  • don't base your self-worth on external factors over which you have no control
  • forget about numbers (as much as you can)--they'll only make you crazy
  • find a hobby that relaxes you
  • exercise
  • do something you enjoy
  • reset your mental tapes
  • get good sleep at night
  • do something nice for someone else
  • read a good book
  • meditate
The number of things you can do is endless, but the important thing is that they fill you up somehow. It is very true that we are our harshest critics, and now is as good a time as any to learn how to be more gentle and kind to ourselves. I've learned that when my feeling of inadequacy has me crawling out of my skin, it's time to take a break from being an author so I can go back to being a person. :)

One of the greatest tools I've discovered in combating the I-stink-and-who-was-I-really-kidding-anyway doldrums is to make sure I'm managing my expectations. I need to reevaluate to make sure that I'm only worrying about the things I *can* control. Like pushing myself to write to the best of my ability. Editing, editing, editing, and editing. I can't control sales, and I can't control reviews, but I can make sure I'm putting in the time and effort necessary to make the novel the very best I can.

Being Too Much

And then there's the flip side of the coin--being afraid of being too much. I'm not talking about the fear of dazzling every reader and reviewer out there with my sparkling wit and scintillating stories. No, I'm talking about the putting-myself-out-there-so-you-know-I-exist part of being an author, otherwise known as marketing.

As a writer, I just want to appease the voices in my head and get their stories down on paper to the best of my ability. As an author, I want to let people know those stories exist. The trick is finding the balance between becoming a hermit in a cave (although this can sound very tempting) and broadcasting yourself like a commercial. It's a bit like tightrope walking on a planet whose gravity hasn't made up its mind as to which direction it prefers to pull in.

Some things I've discovered that help me find my balance:
  • Institute a 5:1 tweet/fb ratio (I get to talk about myself every 1 in 5 tweets.)
  • Don't go it alone--group blogs are becoming ever more popular.
  • Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is my writing career. Take a day at a time, instead of expecting instant fame and success.
  • Understand the nature of social networking. The people I love to hang around with on Twitter or Facebook are people I've been able to get to know, because they're human on their feeds. Not commercials.
  • Dare to say something. It's okay to ask for help whether it's advice you're seeking or trying to schedule a blog tour. The writing community is filled with awesome people who like to help each other out. But they can't read minds, and can only help if you ask them.
  • Don't be afraid to take a step back when you need to. Being both a writer and an author can be draining, so it's good to step away from the Internet when you need to in order to replenish yourself. I've been away from all my Internet networking places for about two weeks, and can promise you that they don't disappear and you won't be forgotten if you need to take an extended vacation to preserve your sanity.
  • Be a hand that helps lift others. This kind of goes along with not being afraid to ask for help. I love good stories, and am always looking for gems that I can share on my blog or through Twitter. Sometimes, instead of waiting around for the party to come to me, I try to seek out the authors so I can host them and help spread the word about both them and their novels. Don't be afraid to ask if you can help others. I've met some incredible people this way.
So there you have it. Putting yourself out there as an author is hard, but can also be incredibly rewarding. What are some of the things you do when you're wearing your author hat?

 Danyelle Leafty (@danyelleleafty) writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.


Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

I really appreciated reading this article today. Sometimes it's easy to become overwhelmed by the size of it all--my tasks, my goals, my deadlines...

Add to that the doubt that plagues each of us. The uncertainty. The waiting.

Then I remember to put things in perspective. Take one word at a time.

I imagine a door way and all my obligations are in the next room. I narrow the door way and limit what can come through. It's how I deal.

You made a lot of great points here. Thanks. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

You rock, Dani! I am taking a break starting on Monday, cause I know everyone will still be here when I return. Thanks for the needed advice. Smooch!

Valentina Hepburn said...

Thanks so much, Danyelle. Great advice...and timely too. Thanks for sharing.