Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Feel the Fear and Submit it Anyway!

One of the books that has helped me most with my struggle to cope with mental illness is Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Self-help books often get a bad rap. Especially if they have catchy titles. However, I found Feel The Fear to be a revelation and it's incredibly useful. This book is one of the main reasons I was able to crawl out of the depths of anxiety and depression. And the most revelatory part? Everybody feels fear.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? But I was convinced that confident people were a different species to me. I never considered that they feel fear.

Jeffers also offers 5 truths about fear:
1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out... and do it.
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out... and do it.
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I'm on unfamiliar territory, but so is everybody else.
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

Jeffers explains these in detail and they are the foundation of the book, which I recommend to anybody and everybody. It helped me when I was afraid to leave the house; it helped me hop on a plane (for the first time ever, on my own) and visit a friend in Valencia.

But it's only in recent weeks that I have thought of applying the lessons in Feel The Fear to my writing. I tend to be self-critical and avoid submitting my writing anywhere, because I'm convinced it won't be good enough. Whenever I get up the nerve to enter a story in a competition, I imagine it get photocopied and passed around - for people to laugh at.

If I was to continue like this, where would it leave me? At home, writing thousands and thousands of words I will never send out. I have to face the possibility not only that I'm too scared to be a writer, but that I might be scared of being a writer.

So what can I do? Give up on my lifelong dream? Er, no. I have to take action. I have to literally feel the fear and do it anyway.

I've submitted stories to a few competitions this week and plan to submit several more over the next week or two. I don't know when I will stop worrying about judges reading my stories and saying 'what possessed her to send us this crap', but I know there will be a day when I enter a competition or send a story to a literary journal and not feel it's such a big deal.

Because it's not a big deal for a writer to submit stories: it's a necessity.

I will have to do it again and again, for as long as I want to keep writing. And you know what? It's infinitely better than being stuck in a fog of fear.

If you're in a similar situation, find places to submit your work to - and submit them. It might cost you a bit of money through printouts, postage and entry fees, but the cost of staying scared is far greater.


  1. It is very true that all people feel afraid. The only difference is how well each of us covers it up. I had a friend who appeared insanely confident and, being so sure of herself, appeared rather aloof and haughty. However, when I go tot know her better, I discovered it was all a very well-executed act. She was quaking underneath. She had barely a shred of self-confidence. After knowing that, I always imagine everyone I meet is probably quaking - to some degree or another, beneath a façade.

    I do undersatnd that feeling about submissions - will everyone jeer and wonder why I had the nerve to send off such rubbish? But I do believe all writers have that sort of insecurity. I think it is part of the writerly psyche to feel that way. And maybe our writing would suffer if we weren't as unsure of ourselves. Plus, that worry about its worth shows that we care about it. And if we care that deeply, that our writing will show it.

    I take the view that once I send a story or novel away, it doesn't belong to me any more, unless it comes back. It then becomes mine for a short time until I send it away again. Once it has gone, it's someone else's responsibility and therefore I can detach myself from it. The only way to achieve that sense of distance is to always be writing something new. The current WIP is always the baby. The rest of them have to fend for themselves. So if someone doesn't like them, at lest I don't have to be there to see it!

    Well done, Hayley, for a great post and for the submissions you have sent out. Very best of luck with the results, and, most important of all, with your current writing projects. x

    1. Thanks Joanna, for such a thoughtful and inspiring comment. It occurs to me that maybe it's easier to submit a bunch of stories (to different places) at the same time, since you don't have all your hopes riding on a single submission. It also helps that I seem to be in the right mood for starting new stories this week!

  2. That's awesome that you're submitting your stuff, Hayley. It is a scary experience, no matter who you are. But like you said, if you want to be a professional, it's essential.

    I'm all for self-help books with entertaining titles. That means the book will be entertaining too. Or at least I hope it will be. :)

  3. Thanks for reminding me I still haven't read that book, Hayley! Love your post (and Joanna's answer). I definitely hide my apprehension about things under a facade of confidence sometimes. It's great you're getting work out there - and, yes, it's far better to have lots of items on the go at once as it stops us obssessing and worrying about one.

  4. Thank you, Stina and Rosemary :-)

    I'm determined to keep going and keep submitting...

  5. and whats the worst that could happen?
    you get no response or you get a polite no thank you. no one (almost no one) will say "you suck!"
    and with your heart in your writing, i know you must have some good stuff!
    plus if they pass it around, it has character!! worth showing others & entertaining!
    each entry will be easier & each writing will be better, might as well get the first few out of the way!

    sorry i rambled. just wanted to encourage you =)

    1. Exactly! Lol! Don't apologise for rambling - I am indeed encouraged :-)

  6. It really is true that everyone feels afraid. And I'm glad you found something that's helping you. And yes, being a writer has lots of things that can bring on fear. But you have the right attitude! Good luck!