Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fear and Writing

by Amy

When my son was five, his kindergarten teacher planned a beautiful graduation ceremony, where each child stood up and told the assembled parents what they wanted to be when they grew up. Standing with his classmates in the school gym, my son suddenly realized he did not like being in front of a crowd, no sir, he did not! As his turn to speak drew near, he retreated—first by pulling his shirt collar above his face. Then by turning his back to the audience. When he finally crawled under his chair, bottom facing the audience, we rescued him to the playground.
 

Fear. We’ve all felt it. On more than one occasion I myself have wanted to crawl under a chair, butt facing the planning and zoning commission. And I was nearly paralyzed with fear when I took my son, alone, for a week vacation to a remote village in Mexico where I barely spoke the language. Fear can be good—reminding us to be careful—but it can also be crippling. It can even affect our writing.

It keeps us from joining a critique group, from attending conferences, from submitting to agents or editors. It might even keep us from ever putting pen to paper in the first place. So how do we deal with it?
 
"...when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” --Rosa Parks

Mrs. Parks was right. It seems awfully simplistic, but I’ve found that setting clear goals for my writing is the best thing for staving off fear. Every step we take in our lives involves a decision. Decisions are hard and the longer we fret over them, the more painful and scary they become.
Decisions = Fear

My dad used to say, “You don’t want to have one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock.” After years of standing blank-faced in front of him, imagining some poor soul spread-eagled over a lake, I realized what that means. The worst thing you can do with a decision is not make it. Get in the boat. Or stay on the dock. Either choice will most likely be fine, so long as you pour one-hundred percent of your energy into it. Just make the decision. Don’t wait too long. Don’t look back.

So when it comes to your writing, decide what you want and plot a course.:

     -If you're just trying your hand at a book, write it. If it doesn't turn out like you'd hoped, you don’t have to show anyone.
     -Does it simply give you pleasure to write stories, maybe to share with your kids or grandkids? Great—you don’t have to chase publication for that, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
     -If you’d like to be published, there are ways to pursue that. Read, study, hone your craft, write, revise, submit, repeat. Those are the steps. They’re laid out for us. We don't have to figure them out; we just have to follow them. And following directions isn't scary at all.


Sure, there might be some niggles of fear when our cursor hovers over that ‘send’ button, launching our first submittal to Dream Agent Extraordinaire. I still get them…over four million ‘sends’ later. But that’s okay.
The beautiful thing about fear is that overcoming it helps us grow. Sometimes we realize what scared us isn’t so scary after all. My son is now an aspiring Improv actor who’s been on stage in front of hundreds of people. Other times, overcoming fear helps us expand our comfort zone--or at least, define it. I probably won’t take my son to another isolated area alone, but I’d definitely consider Europe. Oh, heck yes I would! Who wants to go with us? Don't be afraid!

"Because fear kills everything," Mo had once told her. "Your mind, your heart, your imagination."--Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

Be brave, Monkeys!

12 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post, Amy! On my desk sits a paper that says, "Feel the fear and do it anyway." I've tried to live my life by that because one thing I've learned is that our fear is often worse than the reality. Also, I never want a beeyotch like fear to be bigger than I am. :)The one fear I use to my advantage is the fear that at the end of my life, I'll regret not trying to do the things I dreamed of. That fear is a motivator. Thanks for this!

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    1. YES! Fear and regret are close partners. I've regretted more things I haven't done than things I have. And conquering those things that scare me a little is such a powerful feeling! I love "Feel the fear and do it anyway." Great life advice. :)

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  2. Love this, Amy! And I love the picture! I have absolutely felt like doing that so many times. Thanks for the reminder to press on.

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    1. It does seem easier to crawl under that chair sometimes. But eventually, you have to come out again and that's even harder.

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  3. Amy, sometimes messages come at just the right time. This is one of them. Thank you for listening to the universe!

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    1. Marilyn, YOU are amazing. I have no doubt you'll kick your fear to the curb and go on being brilliant!

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  4. Yay, Amy! Makes me want to climb mountains and write good stuff! I love it, yes I do!

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    1. Do it! Write more of your lovely, heart-tweaking stories! I want to read them, yes I do!

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  5. Really great, Amy! Going to pass it along to my other clients and students. Important to think about, especially given the times in which we seem to be living of late! XO -- Lorin

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    1. Thanks, Lorin! :) I agree with you about the times...very uncertain in the publishing world lately. xo

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  6. Oh, my heart still goes crazy with fear every time I hit that "SEND" button. Even thinking about it gives me an adrenaline jolt.

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    1. MINE TOO, BETH!! I still haven't figured out a way to stop that, but I guess beating hard is better than not beating at all. :)

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