Strap on Your Writing Helmet

My youngest son is extremely coordinated.  He rolled over at 4 days and never quit.  By the time he was 8 months old he was running.  Yet I never worried for his safety around stairs or climbing on things.  He had, and still has, an innate respect for his own limitations.

Except…

The darn kid is petrified to ride his bike without training wheels.  His fear is so strong that at six and a half, he’d rather run somewhere than hop on his bike.  The farthest he’s ever pedaled is about 200 feet, and only then because his big brother ran in front of him the whole time.

This is a child who will take a ball to the face catching pitches, climb the swingset poles (12 feet high) and hand over hand his way across the top so he can slide down the other side.  He does both front and back flips off the diving board and can maneuver a golf cart into a parking spot.

Certainly he could ride his bike.  If he could get over his fear.

I’ve seen great writers sit idle for years for this same reason.  Regardless of how well they master the craft, their fear of rejection gets in the way of submitting; or they scribble away for years, penning great works, and never tell a sole about their addiction.

I was one of those.  Not a great writer.  But a writing scaredy cat.  Under the guise of making my manuscripts perfect, I tinkered endlessly and submitted very infrequently.  I used all kinds of excuses why I submitted to only one or two agents every eight or twelve months. 

Some of them were valid–like the fact that I am picky.  I didn’t/don’t want to waste an agent’s time.  Sometimes I’m truly making great improvements with a full manuscript edit and this requires time.  Other reasons included trying to understand the market and the viability of my projects.  However, when you get right down to it, I was a little scared of what might happen.

I think I was as afraid of success as I was of failure. 

In the past year, I opened my writing life up to the public.  (That writing closet was just getting too tight.)  I joined a few forums, embraced a writing community and told everyone that I was writing.  I’ve spoken about it publicly.  I’ve spoken about other things as well.  All these experiences have gotten me comfortable with the thought of success.  I have strapped on my bike helmet.

I know my youngest will do the same one day.  He will wake up and realize he’s missing an entire world by not riding his bike.  The excitement of what lies ahead will overcome his fear.  He, too, will strap on his helmet and never quit pedaling.

What are your biggest writing fears?  What steps have you taken to overcome them?  Do they keep you from truly enjoying the writing process or do they stifle your chance of success?

Strap on your helmets, writing buddies, and let’s ride!

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21 responses to “Strap on Your Writing Helmet

  1. A very well written and well stated post. I have become an agent for a woman who writes brilliantly but is paralyzed by fear of rejection.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. My oldest had some issues about learning to ride, (had a pretty bad crash when a training wheel collapsed, at age 4). He finally learned last summer, without training wheels, with me walking next to him,keeping my hand flat on his upper back to maintain his balance as he rode. I would make sure he was steady, take my hand away for a few seconds, and then put it back again. I let the times get longer and longer as he felt more comfortable until he didn’t “need” me at all anymore. It took about a week of 1/2 hour bike-walks and he was on his own, and very proud of himself. (It was a smooth asphalt road in a lightly traveled condo complex, which helped, too.)

    Regarding the writing, I think I was riding without a helmet at first, and now am a little hesitant, but still plugging away. 🙂

    • Layinda,

      That’s a sign of a muture writer. When we first hop on our bikes we have no sense of what riding entails and we peddle too slow, jerk our handlebars too quickly and don’t maintain our balance. Usually a crash teaches us what we need to move on at a bit more cautious pace that allows us to learn how to become safe and efficient bikers.

      I’m glad your son overcame his crash. Sadly, mine never had a crash–except the visions in his head!

  3. My son sounds just like yours. He just turned 9.

    I could NOT get him to ride his bike! We went through the toddler bike, unridden.

    I bought him a big-kid bike about at 6.5 and he never rode it, not once. Now he’s too big for it.

    His mom (my ex-wife) called me up a few weeks ago ecstatic. Her new boyfriend is a bike rider, one of those serious streetbiking two-wheel skin-tight traffic jams.

    She and he bought our son Trek mountain bike, the real deal, so they could all go riding.

    This new guy had him riding in about fifteen minutes, the big lug waving in the background of the picture she emailed me, our boy tooling around and glowing on his new bike.

    Yeah. There’s a moral here somewhere.

    – Eric

    • Make me laugh, Eric.

      I think it means I have 2.5 years before mine will ride a bike. Sooner if DH and I divorce and he starts dating a big lug with a penchant for biker shorts and expensive two wheelers.

      Either that or sometimes kids just outgrow their fears?

      Like we should?

      ~hugs

  4. Great post, Cat. Fear can hold us back from a lot, can’t it? Hm. Biggest writing fear. Let’s see… my ‘circle’ of friends and family and church are very conservative. And so far? None of them have read any of my books. Only critique partners who I know I can trust.

    My books aren’t what I would consider edgy or pushing the limits of Christian fiction. Still, I’ve dealt with some heavy issues, and I know there are some things in my novels they would object and criticize me for. I still haven’t gathered the courage to open up with my writing to people who actually know me. It’s one of those things I’m going to have to take one step at a time, but I’m gradually getting to that point 🙂

    • Mia,

      I completely understand. It took me a long time to share my writing with anyone outside of other writers. It is such a risk to be judged by the fiction we write. I don’t think that non-writers can always separate out the writer from the writing. I know other writers share this same fear as you.

      It’s a tough one to tackle and I wish you the best luck.

  5. Great post Cate! My son had some motor coordination issues with riding his bike at first. Coupled with zero fear, the fear wound up being all in my corner. He would careen out into streets, over yards, etc. Needless to say he rode in very wide open, non-traffic areas for awhile. It was all the terror I could stand. Now, he rides like a pro.
    Hmm, my biggest fear related to writing…maybe that I’ll never finish these YA novels. 🙂 Liked your post and glad to see ya’ commenting again too. Looking forward to Fire. Finished Catching Fire the other day and LOVED it.

    • Lisa,

      You are a reading machine! I just reread The Hunger Games this past weekend and want to read Catching Fire again. I’m hopeless when it comes to favorite books.

      Isn’t it funny how kids are so different about learning certain things. The ones we expect to be the most brave sometimes end up the most chicken and the other way around.

      I’m glad he rides like a pro now so you don’t have to worry about him running into mailboxes!

  6. I have been working at getting my writing helmet on. I am “out there.” I have written a novel that I am editing. I have written some essays which are being published on line. I have a “writer’s” blog and I am proclaiming to the world that I am a writer.

    Talk about scary, I am 53 and while I did some work that was published many years ago, other things got in the way of my writing and I just let the novel slide and lived only for writing the occasional letter to the editor of the local paper and then even that stopped. I was letting my dream die because I was scared and “locked down.”

    I am out in the open now but it sure takes a lot to stay here. Oh well, I keep on pedaling. I hope that when I fall I just “jump up and do it again” like my mom used to tell me.

    Ciao,

    Ardee-ann

    • Well, you certainly have to right attitude to do it. Sometimes just being able to voice our fears is enough to get us past them.

      There is such a wonderful community of writers that you will have plenty of people to help you right our back and get back on track. Just let us know whenever you need a cheering section. We’re pretty darn good at that!

      Is your blog at LJ or do you have a different address I can check out? Blogs are so much fun when people read them and comment.

      ~cat

  7. Writing is most definitely an act of courage! It’s hard to put ourselves out there especially because we know we’re going to be rejected (often) before we’re finally accepted! It’s hard heading into something like that.

    I think my biggest fear is putting all my hard work, passion, and energy into something that might not pay off. Usually I’m pretty positive, but sometimes I can’t shake off that little doubter in the back of my mind!

    One of my favorite quotes: “Fear is more pain than the pain it fears.” (I’ve read mixed things about who said this. It’s either Shakespeare or Philip Sidney, or someone else entirely, haha.)

    • Laura,

      I share your fear and would guess that many other writers do as well. Getting pubbed takes such a long time that we often wonder how many years we will “waste”, only to find out we will never get published. How many moments will be stolen from family and friends if we never get published?

      I think this is why we have so many “closet” writers. It’s easier to hide our passions and keep them safe than to let the world see our fears.

      Thanks so much for sharing your perspective and the quote. I think it is apropos for this topic, no matter who wrote it!

      ~cat
      P.S. You write so beautifully that I’m sure you won’t have to worry long about not getting published.

  8. My biggest writing fear is that I’ll one day be published, but no one will like my stories. I know that’s kind of silly because how could they get that far and have NO ONE like them, but you didn’t ask for RATIONAL fears. ^_^

    • Barbara,

      I haven’t thought about it this way before, and I would say that you might be right about it being irrational. However, that doesn’t lessen the sting of of the fear itself. I’m quite confident that if you find an agent to rep you, an editor to back you and a publishing company willing to shell out some cash to send your novels through the printing press, lots of SOME ONEs will like them.

      ~hugs

  9. I wish I could channel that fearlessness from my youth. I am fearful about sending my writing out there. I try to only work on the next thing and just enjoy the writing/revising/editing. When I look too far ahead, it can scare me to the bones.

    • Jemi,

      I hate to think of your bones being scared silly. As you write, hone and mature, you will gain comfort in your abilities and the bone-numbing fear should subside.

      At least you love the process of writing and editing. It gives you something to work on until you’re ready. And by then, your writing will be polished and highly publishable!

      ~cat

  10. Definitely true that the biggest hindrance to us moving forward is usually ourselves and our fear. This was an excellent post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    • Thanks, Cassandra.

      It makes me wonder how much our success is dictated by our ability to mature as writers and move past our fears. And conversely, how many one hit wonders are there because they didn’t face their fears before their writing matured?

      ~cat

  11. Pingback: Ventriloquist’s Dummy (or “Watch the Hands There, Buddy”) « Serial Distractions

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