"We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion, we conquer by continuing." --- George Matheson
Last week, my first draft was ready to be finished. A scene or two—the Big Confrontation—and I'd be done. Easy! Whew! Couldn't wait to finish. Really. *cough*
On Monday, I sat at my computer, fingers at the ready and froze. Couldn't force myself to type a single word. My eyes scanned the outline, read through the previous days' writing and…nothing. After answering emails, visiting blogs, responding to comments, and a lengthy game of online spades, I gave up. That night, I confided to my husband my panic. He listened and advised me not to put too much stock in one day's procrastination, just pick it up again tomorrow.
"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher
Tuesday morning, as I sipped my tea, my heart jumped once again at the thought of putting fingers to keyboard and wrapping up my first draft. ARGH! Then it struck me with the force of a wooden spoon knocking sense into my inner child. I was scared of screwing up.
"I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically the fear of change.... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back." ~Erica Jong
Yes, this was only my first draft but my panicky mind wasn't up for rationality. Once again, I let myself forget that these words aren't carved into stone. This isn't a sculpture made out of precious marble—one slip and my chisel knocks off the freaking nose! These are simply words. Flexible, interchangeable, and definitely erase-able words. Whew. I reminded myself, once again, that This Is Just My First Draft. Anything can be changed. The only imperative here is to keep moving forward, one word, one page, one draft at a time.
"The first draft is a skeleton--just bare bones. It's like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it's still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me." -- by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
When I compose these essays, I love sprinkling quotes throughout. The reason is simple. Whenever we feel fear, or feel blocked, or feel lost, or feel like giving up, just knowing that countless others have crossed the river of doubt threatening to sweep us away is a blessed relief. We Are Not Alone. The fear of making mistakes has existed since cavemen actually did chip into stone.
As soon as the door opened, revealing the source of my fear, I buckled down and put my fingers to work. I told myself repeatedly that it could all be changed later if need be while hunkering down and typing with feverish urgency. Suddenly, the need to meet my goal—to finish the first draft that week—burned brightly enough to diminish the shadow of fear. The result? I finished the first draft. When I counted what had been completed that day, to my astonishment, I had eighteen freshly typed pages. My jaw nearly hit the floor. Eighteen freaking pages in one day. Wow.
Facing my fear down not only made it possible to meet my goal, the push resulted in such momentum I'd surpassed my own expectations. Just like a hero in any adventure story, my heart beat faster as I clutched that newly won victory to my soul and realized just what I was capable of accomplishing.
"Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." ~John Wayne
"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
There will be times when the fear takes hold and tempts you to run away. The surety of giving up will seem much safer than the unpredictability of striving to meet your goal. Perhaps others will judge your choices and fill you with doubt, feeding your insecurity with shadowy predictions based on questionable perspectives. Many a writer's courage has been diminished by the fear that their story, their style, or their genre is unmarketable or passé. Many a writer has quelled in fear that the dream held in a quivering heart is impossible to reach. The truth? There are huge success stories and grandiose flops. Not everyone will hit the bestseller list but those that do have these traits in common: perseverance, patience, enthusiasm and unbeatable courage. You must face that fear head on and move forward.
"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties." --- Bonnie Friedman
Every dream can be achieved. Whether it's inventing the light bulb (Edison), creating a unique 'themed' amusement park (Disney), creating the first sitcom featuring an interracial couple filmed in front of a live studio audience (Lucille Ball) or hitting that NY Times bestseller list, just like two of my personal heroes, Sherryl Woods and Allison Brennan.
"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears."—Les Brown
Take a moment right now and think about it. This is your decision and your life. What do YOU want to do? Live your dream or live your fears? If you choose to live your dream, repeat after me: I choose to be a success! I choose to succeed! I choose to live my dream!
Next step, take action:
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." --Dale Carnegie
Remember always that what you believe in—your success or your failure—influences what you will create. People who succeed do so because they believe that they are already a success. As you sit down with fingers at the keyboard or curled around your favorite pen, repeat after me:
I am a success. A successful writer keeps writing until she reaches success. I am a successful writer and I will keep writing and reach my goal of success!
"Whatever a person's mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes." ~ Shankaracharya ~
Now you tell me… Have you had moments when blind panic seized you? How did you face your own fear? Did you ever think of giving up and if so, what drove you to keep writing?
Ready for a successful new week? Let's get writing!
Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between the Lines.