Monday, June 12, 2006

Fears of success

By Heather Justesen

“The thing that keeps most people from submitting to publishers is not fear of failure, but fear of success.” This is paraphrasing of something I think I read it in a book about writing, but can’t remember what book it was, or who said it. I can remember, however, thinking the guy was up in the night.

Who is afraid of success? It’s not like I’m going to become JK Rowling and be mobbed in the streets by excited fans or anything, I’m writing for the LDS market—a market obscure enough that I had someone ask me a few weeks ago who Rachel Ann Nunes was. Obviously the woman doesn’t read LDS fiction, or she would at least know Rachel’s name.

Working at the family business a few weeks ago I received a call from a writer who was asking about an item we had listed for sale on the internet. I didn’t get her name until she gave me her e-mail address so we could send her some pictures. When I recognized her name however, I asked her if she was the writer, and her reaction: “Yes. I’ve never had anyone ask me that before.” I suppose that’s the kind of response I’ll be giving after half a dozen of my books have been published some day, so you can see, it’s not adulation that worries me.

Today, however, as I look back over two nearly wasted weeks in which I have not barely opened Microsoft Word for anything besides writing my weekly blog, I realize maybe there’s something to all of this. Despite having thoughts pop into my head about ideas to expand or change several books throughout each day, I haven’t bothered to write them down. I’ve done a great deal of mind-numbing reading, I’ve cleaned the house and cooked dinners, I’ve even (gasp) turned on the television with the excuse that I can work on some humanitarian aid projects while I watch movies.

I hate the television.

So why haven’t I written much of anything? I wonder if this fear of success thing doesn’t have some merit. After all, what if I make those changes to my manuscript and someone great wants to publish it and then I can’t get the second book in my series to work? I’ve already worked on a couple different versions of it, not two drafts, two versions. And though I think I’m getting somewhere, maybe, it still has a way to go. And the two after that—serious rewrites, I don’t think they really even have story questions. Who is going to read a book if the characters risk nothing?

I believe in my book, I know it’s great, I know someone, somewhere, is going to love it—and I’m not just talking about my mother-in-law. But what if I can’t repeat the success, what if nothing else I write is good enough to publish? What if I can’t stomach another minute of television and have to face my writing again, but don’t have any answers?

I guess I’ll just have to kick myself into gear again regardless of my fears, because as much as I fear I won’t be able to duplicate my efforts without making them seem like the same old thing all over again. I worry even more that I won’t make my changes or send the story in at all.

And that would be a crime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are so many famous,money-making authors out there whose second books aren't nearly as good as their first, but people still love them. (Ex: Frank Herbert's Dune)

And so many others that basically tell the same story over & over again. (Examples: Dan Brown, Elizabeth Peters; both of whom I like)

I really wouldn't worry about it.