Sunday, March 23, 2014

6 Question of the Week: How Do You Face Your Fears?

Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as books and writing is talking about books and writing. So each week at Adventures in YA Publishing, we’ll post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

This week's question is in honor of DIVERGENT's movie release.

Question of the Week
March 23, 2014

What scares you? For us writers, it could be sending a query letter to an agent, sending your manuscript to a critique partner/agent/editor, pitching at a conference, giving a presentation to a writers' group, reading an excerpt of your novel at a book signing. How do you gather the courage to do something that scares you?


LISA GAIL GREEN: My hero, Libba Bray, once said, "Write what scares you." That quickly became my motto (and no not just because I sometimes write scary things). I continually try to stretch myself and go where it's uncomfortable for me emotionally because I believe that's what helps me grow as a writer and what makes my work ultimately worth reading. I've learned over the years not to dwell on the eventuality of something frightening. It's like ripping off that bandaid. Just do it without giving yourself time to think. You can always change it in revisions.

MARTINA: That list? It ALL scares me, because the common denominator is that I could fail. I hate failure. It took me a long time to figure out that I am so afraid of failing that I seem to subconsciously sabotage myself to have an excuse, a reason, why it wasn’t actually me who failed when I’d put in every possible effort.

This author gig is all a leap of faith, but you know what? It’s not DIVERGENT that I’m going to be thinking about every time I have to push myself out of my comfort zone in the next months before (and after!) COMPULSION comes out. It’s Jennifer Lawrence picking herself up off the stairs at the Oscars last year, or tripping this year. She gets back up, she laughs, and she goes on to do her best work. That’s all I can do. Focus on the work, not my nerves, not what people are going to think, not what’s going to happen.

COMPULSION is my training wheels novel, the first one out of the gate. I’m scared spitless. But right now, I have to focus on writing Book Two and making it as good as I can. I tripped over the dog yesterday (literally) and went splat while talking on the phone to a #1 New York Times bestselling author. It was in my own house, but still. I’m going to fall on my face. I may as well accept it. And eventually, I’ll have splatted enough that I’ll just laugh like Jennifer and move on. :) It’s funny, because this is one of the themes in COMPULSION too. I just never realized who much it would become a theme in my own life.

ALYSSA HAMILTON: Because I'm not an author, and in fact want to be on the other side of that career and work in a publishing house, I'm going to take a bit of a spin on this question. I think for me right now, my biggest fear is leaving school soon and actually going out into the "real" world and looking for a job. I don't live in a place where publishing is centred, so I want to move and that is terrifying. I think what's getting me through that fear though is the excitement of actually working towards what I want to do with my career and life in general.

CLARA KENSIE: I am dauntless when it comes to pitching, presenting workshops, and live readings. Those things don’t scare me at all. One thing that does scare me is that tiny little send button on my email. When I’m done with my manuscript and need to send it to my critique partners, agent, or editor, I attach it to an email, write a nice little note, address it to the recipient… and freeze. My finger hovers over that send key and I… cannot… press it. I went through this with both books in the RUN TO YOU series, from the early drafts to my critique partners through the final, copy-edited draft to my publisher. Now I’m writing a new manuscript, and I’m sure it will happen again. But. When I freeze with my finger over the send key, I eventually thaw out enough to look at my screen saver, which is a vacuuming alligator (I explained this right here at Adventures last Thursday), and I get my courage back. Then I hit send.

Another thing that pumps me up with confidence and courage? Music. When I’m facing a difficult or unpleasant task, I listen to two songs: Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen and Defying Gravity from the Wicked soundtrack. Those songs never fail to lift me up and make me feel invincible.

YOUR TURN: What scares you? How do you find the courage to face your fears?


  1. Excellent question! Fear of failure, for sure. Also, a fear of letting others know what's inside my head. Not that I'm creepy or anything, but it's just weird letting others inside. Does that make sense? Fear of being terrible and everyone else knows it but me. I could go on and on.

    What helps me conquer those fears? My 3 sons. I don't want them to see a mom who is paralyzed by fear. I want them to see someone who goes after what she wants, even if she sometimes falls on her face.

  2. Really good question and one on which I shared some musings in a blog post about this a couple weeks ago: My go-to fear squasher: "take a knee." It pulls me out of my worst-case scenario'ing mind and into the tactical present, i.e. all the stuff around me I can touch/feel, smell, hear and see. I've tried a ton of stuff, and this one does it for me.

  3. Man, there are fears all through this profession. Writing (unless in a safe li'l vacuum where no one but yourself reads your work) is a vulnerable act. Good point about the band aids, Lisa! and LOL on the Jennifer-like tripping, Martina. :) Go forth, Alyssa, and explore your new worlds! and keep looking at that alligator and not cringing at your Send button, Clara. ;o) (Ooo! that Queen song is a great motivation booster.)

  4. Pitching scares me for sure. Pretty much anything that can't be done from behind a computer :) Or even a phone conversation. I'm so eloquent in my head, but when it comes to talking with agents or editors--or even other writers--on the phone or in person, I'm totally intimidated and the eloquence goes away. The more I do it, though, the easier it gets. Now I just need more reasons to do it :)

  5. I'm with Cindy. Pitching is really scary for me, but other things are as well. I don't submit nearly as much as I should. People can't say no if I don't send it out, right? It's just a really scary business.

  6. The fear that I could do everything just right and still not quite get there. That's the nature of the industry, and in the end it largely doesn't matter because writing is like breathing and I do it for the sheer joy...but it's still scary to imagine getting only so close.


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