QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Best Writing Advice: Do One Scary Thing Every Day

I was frozen. I'd done my research. I'd spoken to my agent. I'd checked my contracts. I'd even gone as far as getting a business license, but now I was stuck. I needed to buy ISBNs.

(This isn't just an indie-publishing post. Bear with me.)

For two days, I'd looked at my list and found other things to do, but really, I needed to buy my ISBNs. I had a business bank account. I had money in it. What I needed was to go over to Bowker and give them money in exchange for the numbers.

"I can't," I said to my Patient Husband. "Every time I get almost to that point, I freeze. Because buying the ISBNs is the point of no return."

Once I did that, I figured I couldn't double back anymore. I'd be committed.

My Patient Husband said, "You need to do one scary thing every day."

Of course I was scared. I'd prepared extensively because I was taking my writing career seriously, but that meant doing the things I'd prepared to do. I needed to be willing to fail in a very big, very public way.

The next day, I said, "Okay, buying ISBNs is scary. So I'm going to do it, and then I don't have to do it again."

I did it. And after I'd done it, it wasn't scary anymore. But I took the rest of the day off anyway.

The next day, I made myself an IngramSpark account. Again, it was scary to enter in sixteen-digit numbers (or longer ones) but after I did it, I was done. The day after that, I made myself a KDP account, but that was less scary than it had been the day before, so I went on to do something else scary instead.

When you're writing for publication, you're going to find yourself right at the edge of your comfort zone more often than you ever thought, sometimes on the wrong side of the fence. In the story itself you're going to find yourself writing deep and touching emotions you never wanted out in the daylight. Then comes editing. And getting beta-readers. And reading your beta-readers' responses. And making those changes. And asking for help with your query letter. And then sending your query to agents.

Eventually you have to open the responses you get from agents. Sometimes reading those is scary, especially when you really like an agent and hope she likes you back. How about phone calls with agents? Those will scare you too at first. Signing your first agency contract? Terrifying. And then going on submission. Going through the publication process. Reading reviews. Writing your next novel.

If you had to do all those scary things at once, you'd think your life was a horror movie. So instead: one scary thing every day. When you're terrified, motivate yourself with, "Good. This is my scary thing." The next time you face the same task, you'll find it's not so scary any longer.

(Except for reading reviews. Those are still scary. I get a friend to read them first.)

And then give yourself a little breather afterward. "I've done my scary thing. I don't have to be scared again for a little while."


Alina K. Field said...

I love this post! And I have one request: Can you put the author's name in your RSS feeds? (I think that's the right term!) It's not coming through when the messages are delivered to my email. That way I can enjoy the content, know the writer's identity, and not have to link to the website from my phone!

Jane Lebak said...

Alina, it used to work that way, but now our signatures are embedded in the post in such a way that I guess they're not showing up on the feeds. I'll ask Patrick if there's something we can do about that. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Great advice, for life in general as well as writing!

Laurel Decher said...

Thanks for this post! It especially applies to writing conferences. :)