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on fear

View of Cape Town from Robbens Island

View of Cape Town

Things have been quiet on this blog this month not because I have nothing to write, or because of my packed schedule (though that definitely hasn't helped), but rather due to an emotion I cannot control.  Fear.  Blogging is an extension of my voice and my voice is filled with fear. 

Lately, fear has been our national pasttime.  For ten years, this nation has been stifled by it --- frightened about the next Al Qaeda attack and to travel anywhere outside our countries' borders.  Two weeks ago, when the Navy SEALS killed Bin Laden, much of this country felt liberated.  Yet, on May 1, 2011, the United States State Department recommended, and continues to recommend that we pull down the proverbial curtains and lock ourselves in our homes, issuing a "Worldwide Travel Alert."  As Pam Mandel so eloquently put it, "The witch is dead, but there is no celebration, instead, we are all still locked in the castle. Flying monkeys are everywhere."

For those of us who never stopped traveling, or felt the need to smack a Canada sticker on our backpacks, or ignored (with justification) the hand-wringing worries of the State Department, the raucous celebrations over Bin Laden's death inspired new fears.  Wandering Earl, who has been permanently traveling for eleven years, "fear[ed] that this behavior [of drinking and partying] just might lead to some severe consequences."  He explained, that his "first thought was of all those I’ve met during my adventures, those who live in cities, towns and villages . . . even in Abbottabad, which I happened to pass through myself at the end of 2005 . . . .  I tried to imagine how these people were reacting to the cheering and to the drinking of beer, to the contrast between this behavior and my efforts as a traveler to demonstrate that Americans were peace-loving individuals as well."

I empathize with the State Department's mission to protect us from crazies and the role of the traveler as an ambassador, but do not really comprehend either.  Travel has never frightened me.  Last year, the most oft-asked question about our then-upcoming trip to South Africa was, "Is it safe?"  Crime in that country is so bad that a newly-married husband allegedly hired hitmen to carjack and kill his wife on their honeymoon in Cape Town, under the guise that it was one of the common carjackings that occur in that country. 

We went anyway and loved South Africa.  Yes, crime exists there but the only time we experienced it was when we stupidly left my headphones in our laundry bag before handing it to the launderer and didn't realize that we didn't have it with us later.  Yes, there were times when we felt uncomfortable, especially in Durban, but we simply got away from that particular area to another busier area.  At the same time, on an evening in a small restaurant in Komatipoort, I forgot my purse and the waiter ran all the way out into the parking lot to ensure that I didn't leave without it.  That sort of goodness is everywhere, despite a country's shoddy reputation.  We would, without hesitation, recommend South Africa to any traveler, not least because of the warm-hearted people who welcomed us into their country.

In fact, fear rarely plagues me.  Fear requires an imagination cultivated in destruction, disease, pain, or anger.  My thoughts are generally too happy for that sort of thing.  I'm the girl who believes that the world is a good place and there are good people here.

Except for now.  Now, fear follows me.  It is in my back seat, watching me as I turn down the road.  It is with me when I walk the dogs, trotting behind me, its tongue lapping against my heels.  It is in my bed, wrenching its sheets around me as I try to sleep.

The fear I suffer from is the fear of rejection.  At the end of this week, I will start sending my first novel to agents.  I'm not good at rejection.  Actually, strike that.  I'm terrible at rejection.  I remember every mean word said to me, every bad grade I've received, every college or job who turned me down, and every snub from kindergarten and up. 

I'm trying to get into a business in which rejection is the norm.  The likelihood of landing an agent and a publisher is slim.  I know that most authors (even the famous ones) struggle for months and years to find someone to publish them.  I know that rejection and self-doubt is the life blood of the author but still I fear it. 

I'm trying to pull myself out because I don't like this me.  I don't recognize her.  I'm starting to work on my second novel to avoid the unsettling feeling in my stomach and immersing myself in my technical writing and other work.  I'm trying to get back into blogging because I miss talking to you lovely people.  I'm trying not to dwell.  But, if things continue to be quiet on this site, it's because I'm scraping at the tough frightening shell that surrounds me.

05/16/2011 11:21
You are a fantastic writer and I know many in the book industry will recognize that. Good luck! I have a writer friend so I know how hard it is for a person during the process. Can't wait to be able to read your novel soon!
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: Our Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Seattle
05/18/2011 10:05
Amy - Thank you so much! You have been such an amazing friend since we first started this blog. I hope I get to see you at TBEX.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/16/2011 11:40
Akila, I'm sending you courage. How wonderful that you've finished something for people to look at! That's the only way

"Rejection and self-doubt is the life blood of the author." I strongly contest that. Rejection doesn't have to be anything other than information -- "that's not the right agent," "the book isn't ready yet." It doesn't say anything about your value as a person or even your talent as a writer. It just says, you're not there yet, keep going. Knowing where you are on the path can be really useful when you don't use that info to beat yourself up.

I'm rooting for you.
Alison Gresik's recent blog post: My Kind of World Dominators
05/18/2011 10:09
Alison, thank you. You're right - I need to start thinking of rejection as positive steps toward a final goal rather than something negative.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/16/2011 12:33
Oh, how I feel for you! I'm the same way about rejection or harsh words - I dwell on them and can't seem to forget (in fact, I still think about things that were said more than ten years ago and cringe).

Given that, I couldn't imagine entering a field like professional writing! This blog really illustrates that you have mad writing skills, but sometimes publishing seems more about who you know or if you can generate enough media interest.

Also, rejections just suck, even if they are useful as a "learning experience".

I'm cheering you on, though! And when your first novel gets published, I'm totally buying it. :)
Christy @ Technosyncratic's recent blog post: The Pros and Cons of Living in an RV
05/18/2011 10:28
Christy, thank you, thank you! It was a huge step for me to admit my fear of rejection and hearing you say that you go through the same thing really helps. :)
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/16/2011 16:29
Wishing you luck and serenity as you search for a publisher. I used to work in an industry where rejection was the norm (sometimes I think I still do, actually)...For the record, I always enjoy your posts =) As for the global travel warning/scaremongering thing, I find it crazy, considering people are more likely to encounter dangerous situations in their regular home lives, like in cars, for example.
05/18/2011 10:30
Andrea, thank you. Serenity is what I need now. I keep repeating Serenity Now to myself, like George Kastanza! I'm with you on the dangerous situations --- driving in certain parts of the U.S. is much scarier than traveling in certain other parts of the world.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/16/2011 17:37
It can be difficult as a first-time writer. I have a friend or two going through the same process.

Novels are our babies. We want to release them into a giving, uncritical world.

Since I was impotent for several years as a writer, now I write solely for me. I have the time and luxury that was lacking before.

Maybe a way to view soliciting agents is sharing your baby with a secret friend who comes with benefits.

Whether they like it or not overall is irrelevant. Sure, they will ask for editorial changes, that's a given. And some won't be nice. Agents and editors have to think about book sales and media tie-ins.

90% of writer wannabes long to complete a novel, the fact that you did is a major accomplishment in itself. Even I haven't done that. Yet. :)

In the end you might consider going with a smaller publishing house who will cultivate more of a relationship with you. Just a thought. Whatever the case, I long to read it. :-D
Nomadic Chick's recent blog post: Same Destination; Different Experience
05/18/2011 10:35
Jeannie, Thank you! I keep telling myself that I have accomplished something just by finishing it --- but I see the long road ahead and it doesn't feel like I've done much. I've heard from a lot of others that they preferred small publishing houses as a way to get their foot in the door. I'll just have to see how it goes. :)
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/17/2011 04:04
What they said! Congratulations on finishing it - really, the hardest part is over. Without having the words down, you have nothing to work with, so now you've got something you can send out, your most important task is done. Best of luck with it - I look forward to reading it one day!
megan's recent blog post: Harvest time in Bhaktapur
05/18/2011 10:37
Thank you, thank you Megan! I've got to keep reminding myself of this. In fact, I have a feeling that I'm going to come back to this post often just to read y'all's encouragement.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/17/2011 06:19
Priyanka
Dont b scared ! I love reading your blogs and you should be proud that you wrote a novel !
Oh btw we got a dog too ! :)
05/18/2011 10:39
Thank you Priyanka! I saw your dog - Rafa, right? He's so cute.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/17/2011 10:28
What about publishing your own book with the help of a small publisher? You pay up front but you get your name out there and receive more dollars per book. There are lots of those sorts of people around and they help with the editorial process.
I'm with you on rejection - that's never fun.Good luck and congrats on finishing.

I think the US promotes a culture of fear; it's working and keeping people home. I can't get over how afraid the people I know of, are of traveling outside its borders.
05/18/2011 11:10
Thanks Leigh! I've been thinking about that, too. A lot of people nowadays are really into self-publishing. I'm going to try going the traditional route but if it doesn't work out, then opt for self-publishing.

It's sad to me, too -- so many otherwise educated and wonderful people are worried to go abroad or worry about leaving the confines of the cruise ship or the all-inclusive resort. I keep telling them that the world is amazing but I'm not sure they believe me!
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/17/2011 13:24
May I ask you something? How did you motivate yourself to write regularly and finish your novel? I constantly start books, only to stop writing after the first 20,000 words, not because I don't know what to write, but because I don't know how to put it on paper.
05/18/2011 11:15
Denise, Oooh, that's a tough question. Basically, after a great deal of soul searching, I asked myself a question: do I want to go back to full-time work as a lawyer or do I want to seriously try being a novelist? I was like you - I had started a ton of novels but never finished them because they were always "for fun" and "not my real career." Once I took the big step to travel around the world, I decided to try this novelist thing, which of course meant that I had to actually FINISH the novel.

At times, it was super easy and fun but, definitely, at times, writing was extremely frustrating. At around the 35,000 word mark, I got stuck for a solid week and couldn't figure out how to get to the next part. I forced myself to write a thousand words every day even if I thought they weren't all that good and plugged on. After a couple of months of plugging away, writing became a habit. Now, I feel weird if I don't write a 1,000 words a day.

That's my best advice - keep plugging away and set yourself a manageable goal every single day and it will get easier over time.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/17/2011 20:28
Lakshmi Sankar
Good luck, Akila. You have created an amazing story and I know that you will experience success as a writer. Love, Mom
05/18/2011 11:17
Thank you, thank you Mom! Love you.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/18/2011 02:18
Congratulations on finishing your book, and lots and lots of luck in finding a publisher. I don't doubt that you will be successful and that you deserve that success after reading your blog!
islandmomma's recent blog post: Becoming an Ex-Pat Part 3: Settling In
05/18/2011 11:20
Aw, thank you so much islandmomma! I really appreciate your very kind support.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/18/2011 18:44
Rejection sucks. I have no good advice, I have been down this path many times. I actually stopped writing for an entire month in 2009 because of it. It just shut me down. Now, I've learned that I'm too sensitive to read the editor's feedback myself, so I just filter it through my husband! I don't know why, but it helps if he can cushion the blow, so I'm not thrown for a loop in the middle of my day. I guess I do have some advice: eat well, get lots of sleep, exercise and take care of yourself. It's never easy to put your babies up for criticism, so just know that other writers know your pain!

And please don't let it stop you. :)
Christine Gilbert's recent blog post: Talking About Fear
05/20/2011 17:53
Christine, you're absolutely right. Rejection sucks. I filter comments through Patrick, too! Right now, I'm not going to let it stop me . . . but ask me that question again in six months.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/20/2011 20:08
St John's Wort helps too. I'm not kidding.
Fearful Girl's recent blog post: Why Take The Road Less Traveled?
05/18/2011 19:43
I'm with everyone else that it's really impressive that you've managed to finish a novel, something that so many people want to do. Congrats and good luck!
05/20/2011 17:50
Thank you so much Erin!
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/18/2011 23:30
Just think that you have one of the greatest support systems in the world - the travel community behind you.

I love your writing and will be sending good thoughts your way.
05/20/2011 17:49
Erica, I know! The travel community is the best community out there and I know I wouldn't have the confidence to write this novel without them.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/19/2011 17:12
Congratulations for your new book and for the second novel too!
05/20/2011 17:40
Thank you so much fondotinta! :)
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
05/21/2011 06:25
I'm recommenting here as the 'reply' button doesn't seem to be working. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer my question in my previous comment. It's really comforting to know that I'm not alone, and that you were sucessful in finishing your novel, so I could too.
05/22/2011 11:11
I hope all goes well with you novels. Make fear your friend and every rejection you get will only make you stronger and make you work harder!
05/29/2011 19:27
Akila, Birthing a novel or a book is allowing the world to see and have an opinion on something intimate we've created. It isn't easy but it will be worth every hiccup along the way when you see it published. I wish you success and joy!
Lisa's recent blog post: Rome? Life in Photos
05/31/2011 09:54
Thank you so much Lisa! I really appreciate your support.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
06/02/2011 06:39
I truly believe, in general, the world is a safe place. Dont always believe what THEY tell you (they being government, media, other travellers, nay-sayers).

I was scared to go to Eastern Europe, I was scared to travel Turkey solo.... but I still went. F*ck fear! (and Im one of the most neurotic people you will meet).

ps. your captchas are tough to read!
Ian [EagerExistence]'s recent blog post: First Impressions of Turkey
06/02/2011 06:42
And 2 books! Im impressed. Thanks for sharing :-D
Ian [EagerExistence]'s recent blog post: First Impressions of Turkey
06/06/2011 20:10
Thanks so much Ian!
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
06/06/2011 20:00
Ian, I know what you mean. It's so easy to be afraid of traveling to other countries but, for the most part, people are so welcoming and happy to have us. [And, yeah, we know about the captchas. We've been trying to find a good substitute but it's hard to find one that works and isn't too difficult to read.]
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
06/05/2011 17:25
First of, congratulations on writing your novel! That's the largest step (I don't have to tell you that :))

Try not to let the fear of rejection grip your life. Lord knows I've faced my fair share in life. See it more as a mismatch between you and the source, rather than an actual personal attack.

One way I handle rejection as a freelancer is this - When I send a pitch, I forget it. I actively try to forget it was ever sent so that I can get on with my life and other projects. So when the rejection comes in, it doesn't make as much of a dent as if I'd staked so much on it. And when the approval + assignment comes, it's such a wonderful surprise that I treat it like it's my first ever assignment.

I know this sounds better in the comments section than actually trying to apply to life, but it has worked for me so far.
06/06/2011 21:11
Lola, thank you! And thank you for that very good advice. I am trying hard to keep this in mind and stop worrying about the submissions to agents and instead work on my next project. It's hard in practice but I'm hoping to keep focused and stop letting the fear overwhelm me.
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
10/13/2011 08:17
Hi Akila,
I wish you success for your proposal, and that you'll find someone who signs you up sooner than you even hope for.
But in case it's not going this way: maybe you know the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books. Probably, they've been a huge phenomenon with millions and millions of books sold.
Do you know that they got rejected by pretty much every major publishing house in the US, and many minor ones, before they finally decided to self-publish the first edition of their book?
There are many other examples where writers got rejected so often before they made it. I hope these stories inspire you to keep your spirits high no matter what kind of response you get. I'm sure your love for the written word is stronger than your fear of rejection :-)
All the best,
Bob
Bob Walsh @ Hypnosis Downloads's recent blog post: Establishing Rapport
10/18/2011 12:27
Thank you so much Bob! My parents love the "Chicken Soup" books and that sort of comment heartens me up quite a bit. I really appreciate it!
Akila's recent blog post: queen mary 2 kitchens
10/23/2011 21:57
Hi Akila,
great :-) Always keep your spirits high - and if you ever let them fall down, pick them up real fast and try again. I promise I'll buy a copy of your book when it's published and will be proud to say: "I knew her writing even before she got published" ;-)
Bob
Bob Walsh @ Hypnosis Downloads's recent blog post: How hypnosis against panic attacks helped her to succeed as an actress

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