Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post by Nikki M. Pill

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Nick Spill talking about his path to publication here:

You can read Constance Phillips and Jenna Rutland and Joe Konrath talking about their paths to publication here:

You can read Ian Kezsbom talking about Fuzzbomb Publishing here:

You can read Gary Ponzo talk about first lines here:

You can read Chris Everheart talking about technophobia here:

You can read about Joe Flynn talking about his publishing history here:

You can read Richard Stooker talking about bestsellers here:

Now here's Nikki Pill...

In 2003, I did a reading at Twilight Tales in Chicago. A writer approached me and introduced himself as Joe. He said he liked my work and wanted to introduce me to his agent. It’s a vote of confidence I’ve never forgotten. The agent passed on my manuscript, but I picked up Joe’s book WHISKEY SOUR and loved it. I’ve been a big fan ever since, and he’s been a major influence on my decision to go indie. If you want to see how his advice panned out for me, check this out.

I did my psychology internship at hospice, so I’ve had the chance to see the devastating effect Alzheimer’s has on the entire family. (PSA: the single biggest determining lifestyle factor about dementia and Alzheimer’s is exercise, so please hop on the treadmill after you nail your word count for the day). I was thrilled to have the chance to fight the good fight against that disease while getting a chance to guest post on Joe’s blog. I don’t know that I have anything new to say about writing, but as a trained therapist, I can talk about practical ways to deal with your inner critic.

We all need out inner editor to do our best work. We all write sucky sentences, clunky metaphors, and boring dialogue. It’s useful to weed it out in later drafts. When enough stress comes into the picture, though, that editor can become an outright bully -- usually before you start! People with good intentions will tell you to “put it out of your mind,” “stop thinking about it,” “get over it,” or “think positive.” They may tell you that people who give you negative reviews “aren’t worth your time,” so “don’t let them rent space in your head.”

But how?

We live in a culture where self-help gurus make a lot of money telling you to think positive. To replace negative thoughts with positive ones. To Just Be Happy. If it were really that simple -- if you could really just replace one thought with another by using sheer willpower -- depression and anxiety wouldn’t be epidemics in our culture. The thing is, there is no such thing as unlearning. If you ever believe that you’re a bad writer, that neural pathway becomes part of your brain. Think it enough, and it will get as big and crowded as Route 90 in Chicago rush hour. You might learn a more useful skill, but you can’t unlearn the thought.  It’s like learning French and expecting to forget English.

Some people can easily practice skills we call “cognitive defusion” and “emotional regulation.” Most people who grew up with that knack can’t articulate it because it’s just part of their unconscious mental processes. These skills are a bitch to learn later in life, especially if you’re a ruminator and worrier like me!

I hit a nasty rough patch in 2006-2007. I experienced paralyzing fear when I faced the blank white page. Every idea I had was a wretched cliché. Every sentence was stilted and stupid. I could barely skim Joe’s or Elizabeth Bear’s blog posts on writing because I felt like such a fraud. I called myself a writer, but I wasn’t writing. I felt like I’d used up all my good ideas and I’d never turn out anything good again. I would never be as good as China Mieville or Jeanette Winterson. They NEVER had ideas this bad!

I incorrectly attributed this to writers’ block, to a creative failing on my part. You see, the mind is an evaluation and judgment machine. Those skills are great for predicting danger so a species can survive. No amount of positive thinking will replace a sabertooth tiger with a kitten, right? But today, when our mind is attempting to predict and prevent circumstances that cause us embarrassment or pain, we end up in a vicious mental feedback loop. We end up with a long list of situations to avoid, like Going to Parties, Asking People on Dates, or Self-Publishing a Book.

For several years, it wasn’t safe for me to say anything. The abusive person in my life would twist my statements around and throw them back in my face. If something was in writing, this person could pick the statements apart and attribute all kinds of horrible, manipulative motives to me. Of course a blank page was terrifying!

Part of how I dealt with it -- my starting point in cognitive defusion -- is here, with my yoga teacher telling me “it doesn’t have to be anything.” I stopped trying to suppress my inner critic. I agreed with him. “That’s okay. This page can be absolute shit. If Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Bear talk about writing the Awful First Draft, then I don’t have to turn out a perfect first draft. Mine can be awful too.” That enabled me to detach from perfectionism, which was my mind’s attempt to protect me from embarrassment and hurt. Instead of suppressing the thoughts, I just allowed them to exist in a more workable way.

1. Letting go of Unhelpful Stories 
Sometimes critical thoughts come from a distance; sometimes, they clamp on like an awful H.R. Giger alien facehugger. It’s not about some miracle cure so you’ll never be afraid again. It’s about changing your relationship with those thoughts. For instance, I remember sitting in a booth at the Roger’s Park Leona’s, totally stunned that The Tease made it to #5 in free suspense. My boyfriend was grinning ear to ear, and I was sick to my stomach. It had just occurred to me that over 3,600 people had my book. That meant 3,600 people could dislike the book, write negative reviews, and judge me. What was I thinking, publishing a book? Who ever said I could write?

I recognized that my mind was just telling me the same old story, and said to myself, “Here’s the I’m a Bad Writer Story again.” My inner critic’s histrionics sputtered and quieted to a dull mutter, and I had a cheeseburger with my boyfriend while another couple hundred people downloaded the book.

The worst thing you can do is to try fighting the chatter. It never shuts off -- not even for the mental might of lifelong meditators. It’s impossible. Strategies like alcohol or TV can numb them for a while, but they’ll just come back.

There’s a difference between having a thought, holding a thought, and buying a thought. Meditation and yoga can help create mindfulness, but they’re not the only way. Simple, quick, easy mindfulness exercises can train your brain too. So when your critic starts telling you that you suck, hold the thoughts lightly, like a live bird. You are not your thoughts. They are just temporary private events. Notice the thought, thank your mind for telling you a story, and do what is meaningful to you.

2. Take Action
Another important strategy is committed action in service of your values. Many of us make this assumption that someday, we’ll be happy, and then our lives will start. Our life is happening right now, though. The further we get from our values, the less satisfied we are. If you value doing creative things, and your behavior doesn’t line up with that, you’ll experience dissatisfaction. You might even feel like a fraud, as I did. Life is more fulfilling when we act on our values. Feel the fear, recognize that not every thought or emotion is actionable, and take action. No matter what you do, someone is going to criticize you. Do you want your tombstone to honor you as a dedicated writer, loving family member, and loyal friend? Or as a person who successfully avoided criticism?

Some people might use a technique we call “flooding,” which is like getting over a fear of blood by volunteering in the ER for a night. You flood yourself with the experience to desensitize yourself. I prefer a less dramatic approach, especially for projects that take as long as writing. Todd Travis’s recent post is a good example of this. His post talks about the values of bravery, creativity, hard work, and pursuing dreams. He writes about placing a higher value on those than avoiding criticism and avoiding embarrassment. If you keep your values as your North Star, it’s a lot easier to live a rich, full life. 

3. Exposure
My personal favorite technique for big-time worriers like me is making time for it. Give yourself 15 minutes a day to worry as hard as you can. Seriously. Go for it. Freak out about how your book will flop and you’ll be remembered as the Biggest Loser Writer Ever. At the end of those 15 minutes, pick yourself up and get on with your day. Experiment with that -- 15 minutes a day for 2 weeks, even and especially on the days you feel like you don’t have something to worry about -- and see what happens.

If you’d like to read more about this approach, it’s called Acceptance Commitment Therapy. It’s the approach I use as a therapist, and it’s life-changing. I highly recommend the writers Russ Harris and Steven Hayes. I also loved Hilary Rettig’s 7 SECRETS OF THE PROLIFIC and Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART. They’re not based in ACT, but they’re great books for writers that align well with the philosophy.

And, of course, you can read THE TEASE, the novel I wrote when I changed my relationship with my inner critic. Anna is a therapist by day, burlesque dancer by night. When a serial killer stalks and murders members of her burlesque troupe, her personal and professional lives come crashing down around her.

As a special thank-you to Joe for encouraging me as a fledgling writer and devoting his resources to curing a devastating condition, I’m having a Joe’s Blog Special. THE TEASE is free today & tomorrow, July 22-23. I hope you enjoy it. 

Joe sez: One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Remember that being brave doesn't mean being fearless. It means being able to act while afraid.

First comes action, then comes not giving a shit.

My way to combat fear is to do exactly that--to combat fear. To face it, head on. So I'll add Pavlov to Nikki's list of ways to fight fear. 

4. Classical Conditioning
If you want to get over being afraid of something, keep doing it until you're used to it.

We fear the worst case scenario. But once that happens, and we survive, we can become calloused to it.

When I was a wee lad of five years old, the nurse sneezed while giving me a booster shot, jabbing me in my tiny arm with a giant needle three times in a line, powpowpow like a sewing machine.

I was afraid of needles after that. Every check-up was filled with anxiety. The very thought of going to the doctor was enough to make my palms sweat.

I carried this fear with me until I was sixteen, and then I realized what a wonderful opportunity fear presented to me. How many chances do we have in life to truly overcome something? To triumph? To conquer? 

Beating fear was a way to grow as a person. To turn something that made me feel bad into something that gave me strength.

So I went and gave blood. That needle was a helluva lot bigger than a booster shot needle. Plus, my veins are hard to find. You bet your ass I was sweating like a guy on death row sitting in that chair, and when the nurse started digging around for my vein and muttering, "I can't find it" it took all I had to stay completely still.

After a minute of digging, she apologized, pulling out saying it wasn't working.

"Try my other arm," I told her.

More poking and prodding, but she found it. I gave my pint, and got over my fear of needles. Having survived the worst case scenario, I no longer needed to fear it.

Twilight Tales in Chicago was a reading group where anywhere from five to fifty people would gather on the top floor of the Red Lion, an old Irish pub on Lincoln Avenue, and read aloud from their work.

I've heard it said that more people fear public speaking than death. I've always been a pretty good public speaker, but the threat of bombing always weighed heavily in my head, and I'd never bombed before.

So during an open mike night, I read some J. Andrew Haknort poetry. (Haknort is an alter ego who writes stupid, offensive poems, such as: "My grandma wears a diaper, I really hate to wipe her.") 

People who know me well enough to get drunk or stoned with me wind up appreciating the stupidity that is Haknort. The poems can, in some cases, induce hysterical laughter.

Such was not the case when I read Haknort at Twilight Tales. Instead, I induced groans and booing and catcalls to get off the mike.

Maybe I should have. I'd never been in front of such a hostile crowd, before or since.

But I took the abuse. For my entire slot, fifteen full minutes. Watching as people walked out. Enduring the increasingly hateful comments. I kept going, and by the time I was finished I'd been baptized by fire. Since it could never be worse than that, I could handle any public speaking situation that life through at me.

I've bombed a few times since, but not as spectacularly. Now, when a joke or line doesn't work, I apologize for it, promise things will get better, and move on. Nietzsche was right.

But public speaking isn't the biggest fear writers have. The biggest fear is probably bad reviews. Having people hate your work (and even hate you by extension).

Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, critique. Those who can't critique, somehow wind up working for Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly.

I remember the first few major reviews I had. They were so-so, neither raves nor pans, and I was able to cull some good quotes out for my book covers and website. This was before Amazon allowed customer reviews, so printed reviews in self-important rags like PW and Kirkus were very important to authors. I knew writers who would be depressed for weeks because of a bad review, and I sometimes had to numb the sting myself with liquor. 

Then Kirkus hit me with this quote:

"Konrath's prose ranges from careless to wretched."

When I read that for the first time, a dam broke in me, and I began to laugh like a hyena.

Seriously? What kind of self-important little asshat would write something like that? Did his mother not love him? Or maybe dropped him down an escalator as a baby? Was he bitter because he couldn't get laid without paying for it? Did he think trashing an author compensated for having a micropenis? Was he a frustrated writer who couldn't find an agent so he had to vent his spleen on those who could?

I realized anyone who needed to vent hate like that was seriously messed up in the head, and as such I couldn't take it seriously. So I stopped taking it seriously.

At the time I was in an anthology, and was asked to provide a quote for the back jacket copy. I did:

"Konrath's prose ranges from careless to wretched." - Kirkus

Since then, I haven't minded bad reviews. If anyone hates my work, so be it. It just isn't worth thinking about. Hell, it isn't even worth reading.

When I began blogging about self-publishing, I neatly segregated myself from the legacy world. A lot of people still part of that legacy world didn't like many of the things I said, or the way I said them. So I've been the target for a lot of hate over the years. Not just hate of my words, but hate of me, as if these pinheads actually know me.

It's ridiculous. And it doesn't effect me in the least.

If somebody wants to publicly eat a big plate of stupid with a healthy side of envy, let them. I don't care. What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul. And I truly thank all of my haters for the free publicity they've given me. That's part of the reason I make 20x as much money as they do.

We live in a scary, unfair, unkind world. One where complete strangers get off trashing you and your work. Bad reviews, rejections, boos, ridicule, envy, and hate are things every writer will have to deal with at some point. 

They won't kill you. Trust me. After a while, they become amusing.

Just make sure you have a good support network (friends, family, peers) if things get tough, and remember that were aren't curing cancer or making rockets to send people to Mars. We're entertainers. No book, or person, entertains everyone. 

And that's okay.

And if you do carry a grudge, remember that success is the best revenge. Ten years ago, no writer would EVER publicly denounce Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly, from fear of getting another bad review (or no review at all.) Now Kirkus and PW are so desperate they're charging writers for reviews. It's so pathetic it's hysterical, to see how those who once had power now pander and beg to delay the inevitable bankruptcy.

God, I'll really miss them.

So how do you folks overcome fear?


Veronica - Eloheim said...

Wow, talk about timely. I woke up this morning ready to say a big "FUCK YOU" to a fear that has been haunting me.

My favorite "familiar suffering" is "they won't like me." It annoys me to even type it.

I've faced it head on by becoming a public figure and putting myself out there in the world over and over and over again.

Sometimes that just feel like I'm rubbing myself raw though.

The truth of the matter is that fears are almost always (or always always) connected to a preconceived negative outcome.

"I got a bad review, now I won't sell anymore books." "I don't have a lot of sales, how will I ever quit my job and write full-time." etc etc etc

Evaluating the fear, head on, in the now moment - calling it on the carpet - often shrinks it to a manageable size. At a minimum, it gives you a new vantage.

I addressed this in an essay I wrote this very morning. Just a few minutes before this post was live! I love when that sort of thing happens.

What outcome is the fear connected to? Break the connection.

For me, it's catching myself projecting disasters and suffering the pain of them even when they are not actually occurring.


There are so many other things to enjoy.

J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

My favorite way to tackle fear is to just push through and do what I'm afraid of. Acknowledge fear, and its lack of control over ME. Move forward. Once you prove it isn't so big and bad, you're ready to tackle the next thing.

Michaela Debelius said...

Great post, Nikki.

As far as criticism, I think the only thing you can do is accept you can't please everyone. Write something YOU would read and the rest should take care of itself. Michael Scott said it best, "Don't listen to your critics. Listen to your fans."

Nancy Beck said...


You talk about an abusive relationship, and I say, kudos to you for talking about it. My S.O. (still married to him at this point) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder many years ago. He was always the type to be stubborn and always thought he knew better when it came to his own health.

Well, the mental abuse didn't really start until this past year, and it wasn't until Hurricane Sandy blew through (no electricity for 10 days), that he freaked out. I won't get into specifics, but suffice to say, he's in a mental facility for 5 years as part of his probation.

Anyway, altho I uploaded three short novels in 2011, 2012 was a not-so-good year for me. I only put up 2 novelettes under a pen name, and I didn't really get back into my writing until a lot of the court shit was taken care of. Now I'm just about to upload the first in a new fantasy series, have completed the 2nd in the series, etc.

I'd been looking at 7 Secrets of the Prolific for about month, wondering if I should get it - because I'd like to be able to put up a LOT more stories. So I'll definitely be getting that ebook soon, as well the Art of War (and another on procrastination called The Now Habit). I want to thank you for the recommendation.

And of course I'll pick up your book! Why not? Just gives me another excuse to procrastinate, lol! :-)

But much good luck to you with the book! If I ever go to a therapist, I hope he or she is as cool as you.

Joe Flynn said...

My remedies for fear are faith, family, friends, fun and when necessary a fighting attitude. Most of us know all the people in our families, but you might have friends you've never met.

I recently received a one-star review in which the reader said he/she loved my book but was ticked off about something he/she mistakenly thought Amazon did wrong.

Nine people, all strangers, responded with comments that the reviewer was being unfair to me and the review was taken down.

That's just one example of how most people are fair and won't stand for an injustice. Sure, there are jerks and worse out there, but in most places they are in the minority. Bearing that in mind is another good way to overcome fear.

Anonymous said...

Nikki - This was a great post that rang lots of bells.

Thanks for sharing and for the free book, and best of luck to you!

Judith said...

Thanks for a wonderful, informative post. I have the anxiety/perfectionism behaviors you describe and have somewhat slowly, but steadily made progress. It's wonderful to read about your success, first in overcoming the fear and then in having some publishing success as your reward.

What has helped me is a program called, EBT (emotional brain training - It's a very klugy name, but an excellent set of tools, based on emerging neuroscience, to "retrain" the emotional brain. You're exactly right, we can't unlearn a thought, but we can learn new thoughts and responses and our new responses can become quite sturdy and resilient.

p.s. I downloaded the Tease and have read the first chapter - very engaging!

Congratulations again and thanks for modeling good mental health!


Hollis Shiloh said...

Thank you for sharing a wonderful post. I think I really needed to read this.

And I gotta respect your bravery for sharing so much, Nikki. Your writing kept me riveted. I think you're going to go far!!

Joe, your addendums about the reviewers really made me laugh!

Stella Baker said...

I related FAR TOO WELL :) Nikki, thank you for a beautifully written post with useful coping ideas. I headed over to Amazon to download your book, and while there, also picked up one of your 'read about it' authors (Russ Harris). I already have (and read) a couple books on mindfulness, so this seemed right up my alley.

Joe asks, how do we fight the fear? I've tried lots of strategies (most of them don't work for me), but do OK with mindfulness techniques. For writer-related fears (of putting myself out there and being criticized/not liked) I remind myself the right answer to 'Dare I disturb the universe'... which leads me to Nikki's GREAT sentence: "Do you want your tombstone to read...a person who successfully avoided criticism." BRAVO...I'm adding that right next to, yep, I do dare disturb the universe.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Another great post! I had a chance to hear Hillary Rettig speak recently about her 7 Secrets of the Prolific -- she's wonderful.

And here's my most scathing review, after which I got drunk and had sex with ten sailors:

1.0 out of 5 stars

Absolutely terrible, May 14, 2013

Giacomo Tognoni

This review is from: The Sky Used to be Blue: a Silo story (Karma #1) (Kindle Edition)

I bought this book because, after reading the amazing Wool and Shift series by Hugh Howey, I wanted to dwell a bit longer in the silo world (before getting my hands on Dust later this year).

Compared to Howey's work, this piece is simply pathetic. It is:

1) rather dumb in its premise
2) boring and unintelligent
3) poorly written (at least compared to Howey's amazing prose)
4) a rip off. For the price of this 30-min read one can buy the whole Wool series

Dear Patrice and the others camping in Howey's success, please stop writing in the Silo world and find your own topic. Thank you.

Chuckles Austen said...

Ah, Fear. Fear is funny. Really funny. And I know because I've hung out with him a lot. But he can't hold his liquor and gets a LITTLE out of control when he drinks.

Soooo... I used to write comics. And I was quite successful. Until I became known as... in all seriousness... "The Most Hated Writer in Comics" and was blacklisted from the industry.

The ENTIRE industry.

Online people would discuss how they would take the comics I had written and read the dialogue aloud amongst friends, then laugh hysterically because it was so embarrassingly bad it was hee-larious. Kind of like 'Plan 9 From Outer Space' crossed with 'My Mother The Car'. Something you enjoy because it's SO bad, it nearly becomes good again.

So for almost a year and a half I was out of work. I had two kids and a mortgage, and my good buddy Fear came by every morning for breakfast and hung around till dinner to tell awesome jokes about how bad the economy had gotten and how people were losing their homes the way some people lose their keys.

How did I deal with this horrible hatred of my writing? This fear that I was... not only not good enough to write... but proven to be so horrible as to be unemployable?

I wrote.

Every morning I would write a few pages a day filled with whatever would make me laugh, or giggle, or even just smile. About a year later I had a novel. A comedy novel. It was SUPPOSED to be funny, so people could laugh at it all they wanted.

My buddy Fear seemed to have other places to be around that time. Hanging out with parents of children at the playground, no doubt. But he came by for a nice, long visit when my wife suggested I might try getting my book published.

To get Fear to move along I sent my work to a professional editor and asked for honesty and brutality--something he was known for with friends of mine. Fear moved in for a few weeks and slept between my wife and I while I waited with short, raspy breaths for notes and a reaction. Then I got the report from my editor, and with one novel he had become possibly my biggest fan, and he encouraged me not only to publish, but to write more.

Now I have five novels. And I make money writing, again. I have fans who are glad I don't write comics anymore, and actually wish I could do this full time.

It's not a living, (yet) but most of the people who buy my books seem to like them, and I keep selling more every month.

Fear still checks in with a crude joke now and again, but mostly he's just annoying and leaves when I ask him to. He'll probably be back, though, if I'm ever lucky enough to be really successful. Because that's my biggest fear.

Alistair McIntyre said...

Nikki: Great article. My wife's a counselor and talks about a lot of the mechanisms and ideas that you brought up. I'm still in denial regarding my own mental health, so I better get a few more books out before the world implodes!

Patrice: Thanks for sharing that review. That's definitely one way to own it.

Josephine Wade said...

I loved your article. I read the piece about what your yoga instructor said and laughed when you said you had the best yoga practice after your talk. I did yoga right after I gave up dance - my mom was a yoga instructor and when I was little I used to go out with her so it was a natural progression.. But life went along and I stopped practicing, but restarted again ten years later.

I was very stiff and couldn't do the positions very well and at first this was very frustrating. But I kept at it and I found peace in not being perfect. For the first time I felt like I was really understanding yoga because it wasn't ever about how far you can stretch or looking like Colleen Saidman (although I do think she's great), but just letting yourself breathe and relax into the poses.

And now I have this great idea you gave me about taking the yoga off the mat and letting the writing just be. That really clicked for me. "It doesn't have to be anything."
I'm putting that above my computer.

Anyway long story short - thank you.

Rebecca said...

This entry could not have come at a better time. I received a scathing review of a "how to" book the other day and it's been eating at me. Not only did the reviewer totally trash my work, they also visited my website and copied and pasted my professional services into the Amazon review so that they could make fun of them.

I now realize that they have actually helped increase my SEO.

adan said...

"The thing is, there is no such thing as unlearning. If you ever believe that you’re a bad writer, that neural pathway becomes part of your brain...It’s like learning French and expecting to forget English." -

so perfectly put, yet the best part were the suggestions for living with, and coping with that pattern, great read, very timely for me, thanks so much ;-)

M.F. Soriano said...

Thanks for this post, Nikki.

Fear has been a constant for me for a long time, and I'm not really sure why. I feel fairly confident in my own abilities and perceptions, but end up thinking that other people won't value me.

I've been writing for a long time, and my productivity has definitely been affected by fear. Especially the fear that what I'm working on isn't worth the effort, a fear you seem to have experienced too.

I finally managed to finish a novel, and shake free from a lifetime of depression, when I started embracing the idea that any success or failure I'd achieve would be, in the history of the world, pretty insignificant. That thought removed some of the pressure I put on myself, and let me focus on doing things (like writing) because I enjoyed them, instead of because I needed to prove my worth.

Nikki M. Pill said...

What a cool, supportive community :) Thank you all so much! Of course a lot of us have felt fear: we live in a society that loves to tell us that we're inadequate and take up too much space. When people are afraid, they'll consume more. Preying on our insecurities -- or creating more insecurities -- is a great source of revenue for cosmetic companies, the diet industry, the auto industry... the list goes on and on.

Whether you focus on committed action (do the thing that scares you), focus on your values, or just fight through it, you're still writing. You're still doing the thing. It's about finding your way because you're the expert in your own life. If I've said anything that resonates or helps you along your way, I'm proud and honored.

CW Browning said...

What a wonderful, and timely, post. As with everyone else, I have been feeling the effects of fear for years. I allowed it to prevent me from even attempting to publish for years. YEARS! What wasted time! One day, a few years ago, I had enough. I knew what I wanted to do, was meant to do, was born to do...and here I was, allowing the fear of rejection and the unknown to rob me of any hope, happiness or possible success.

How did I handle it? I engaged my red-headed attitude that permeated every other aspect of my life and directed it onto my fear. I fought back with everything I had and dug deep down inside and pulled forth...something. To this day, I am still not really sure what I mustered forth that broke the chains of my paralysis. But in the next two years, I finished one of the many novels I had started over the years before abandoning it because, of course, it was crap and I was ridiculous to ever think it could ever be anything else. I finished it, polished it, tweaked it, and then faced my fear head on when I sent it to a select few to read.

Guess what? They didn't hate it! Not only did they not hate it, it became very apparent that the only person who didn't believe in me was myself.

That was the beginning of the end for fear's control over my life. Do I still become afraid? Of course! I am getting to ready to self-publish that very novel now and I am terrified. But I love, love, LOVE Nikki's advice to hold it as I would a bird and then let it go. Such a powerful image! Because fear IS always going to be here. The trick is learning to not give it the control it needs to stifle us.

Thank you so much, Nikki, for this post! I needed to read it! And best of luck to you!!

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