Pressfield on Fear of Rejection

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I planted these on my back patio this last week. If I remember to water them (that is a big if, considering I have a memory like a goldfish), they will fill out nicely. I bet you think I’m going to pull in some analogy about growing as a writer here, just like these tiny herbs that will grow healthy and strong with proper care.

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Nope. I just wanted to show off my plants. The end.

Actually, I wanted to encourage you if you have not yet read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, put down whatever book you are currently reading and pick this one up. It will change your life as a writer, artist, creative, etc.

One section in particular that has impacted me in the revision process talks about fear of rejection. It’s one thing to admit to people that you’re working on a novel, but to let them read it? That’s a whole different level of fear for me, and probably for you, as well. Pressfield addresses this fear:

“The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still.”

I am finding as I begin sharing my work with others, the whole idea of what’s coming next in my creative pipeline keeps me from getting discouraged. I want people’s thoughts and opinions, but they do not change the will to push on, the commitment to keep moving forward. I will finish this project, and then its on to the next one. This novel is not my life’s work. Pursuing the writing life is my life’s work. It’s silly, but I have to say this out loud to myself:

My value does not hinge on whether or not people like my novel.

I am writing it because I have to, because it is a story I love and feel compelled to tell. Writing it has enriched me personally, and it may enrich others as well, but I cannot let their response be the driving force that keeps me going. It must be something deeper.

Do you find it hard to distance yourself from your writing? How do you work through the fear of sharing it with others? Also, if you’ve read Pressfield’s book and have a favorite quote, feel free to share it below!

 

 

 

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Practice vs. Perfection

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This is my mom and I. My mom is an amazing woman and continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders in pursuing the writing life. She is a huge fan of practice, of taking risks and of not being afraid to fail. I owe a lot of my decision to persevere in writing to her encouragement.

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Practice and perfection are two things I have been thinking about a lot lately with regard to writing. Perfection is something I strive for, but practice is the space where I live. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s the space where I want to stay. Why? Well, what happens when you stop practicing?

You plateau.

Perfection gives this deceptive sense of arrival, that we have made it to “the zone” and there’s no need to strive further, to push harder. However, those who are continually in a mind set of practice have their head down and their game on. They take nothing for granted, and they continually throw out new goals for themselves before they have hit the old ones.

Maybe this doesn’t settle right with you, because you think of practice as the dry run, the pretend stuff before you get to the real deal. Like when you’re playing a board game for the first time and everyone says, “Okay, this is just a practice round.” However, that round matters, because it is what enables you to play the game well in the long run.

Make no mistake; practice is where writers are made.

So, what does pursuing the writing life look like with a practice mind set?

1) You practice. Obvious, but it needs to be said. Keep writing. Rain or shine, happy or sad, stupid or brilliant, write until you think your fingers might fall off. Don’t talk about it, don’t think about it, don’t strategize about it, just do it.

2) You publish. Living with a practice mind set does not mean you wait to show your work to others. Share it now. Write a blog, publish an e-book, start an email newsletter. It is so easy to make excuses to wait, to make it just a little better, but you can’t listen to those voices. Seth Godin encourages the principle of shipping, and that definitely applies here. Write it. Ship it. Repeat.

3) You persevere. You never arrive, and this is the crazy, maddening, exhilarating thing about this whole journey. You keep practicing, and keep pushing forward, and before you know it, you look back and have a boat load of finished work to your credit. Is it perfect? No. Has it made you famous? Probably not. But that’s not the point anyway.

“Practice makes perfect” is never a true statement for the writer. In fact, practice begets more practice in the writing life, but you know what? Out of all that practice may come powerful work that can change lives.

Is it hard or easy for you to live in the practice mind set when you’re writing? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Feel free to share a comment!

 

April Reading

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Dad beat me out this month on reading. Badly. In case you didn’t know, my dad and I are doing a reading contest throughout 2014 which will culminate in a giant page-counting showdown in December where the stakes are high, the books are big, and a trophy of pure gold will be awarded to one lucky victor.

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However, in the meantime, we are comparing page numbers each month to see how we’re faring. This month, I ran home with my tail tucked between my legs. I’ve been reading for sure, but not as consistently as I could have been. And you know what? I notice a direct correlation between how well my writing flows and how much I’m reading. When I’m not reading as much, or its more sporadic, my writing suffers. No exceptions.

Anyway, my dad is very encouraging. He doesn’t gloat like me when he wins. He just smiles and says, “May is a new month!”

It is a new month, and with it, the deadline for finishing my novel revisions is looming large. The closer I get to sharing it with my beta readers, the more insecure I become. This is a stupid part, I hear myself saying. Why did I write it like that? Ridiculous.

It may be ridiculous, but you know what’s more ridiculous?

Quitting.

Regardless of where this novel goes (or doesn’t go), I will not shut it up in a drawer and give up. It’s not about whether it sells or not. It’s about proving to myself that I really do have what it takes to write this baby, and the gumption to share it with others. It’s about conquering fear.

By the way, two great resources on fear:

Jeff Goins just produced a great podcast episode on facing fear, and you can find it here.

If you want to read a fantastic book, Jon Acuff’s Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters is terrific. Acuff is inspiring and hilarious.

How’s your writing week going? What are you doing to face your own doubts and fears?