Sunday, November 14, 2010

[WRITING TIP] Overcoming Fears with C. Hope Clark

Long ago, I wrote for practice and hadn't a publication credit to my name.

I wanted to slowly work my way up the ladder of publication success, but found the various Writer's Markets overwhelming. For many of my leads, I turned to a brand new e-newsletter called  Funds for Writers edited by the resourceful and talented C. Hope Clark.  Each week, I was able to peruse a few articles, and consider a handful of markets -- 
more my speed!

Now my resume spans many pages and includes magazine articles, children's magazine article, newspaper articles, book reviews, puzzles, games, poems, poetry and story contests, as well as my upcoming book with Scholastic. Thank you Hope, for helping me to build my resume and become the author I am today!

Eleven years later, Hope is still sharing her knowledge and expertise with other writers. I am honored to have her as my Guest Blogger at the Playground and to share her inspiration, as well as her sensitivity.


If I Wasn’t Afraid
by C. Hope Clark
          When fear strikes, we usually let it lead, keeping it where we can see it, practically letting it grab us by the nose and pull us through out lives. Most people then dodge whatever it was that kindled the fear, thinking avoidance the best policy. That’s why we dodge book signings, presentations and even submissions. If we don’t go there, fear can’t find us.
          The fear hasn’t gone anywhere. Because you drive around the pothole in the road you travel everyday doesn’t mean the hole isn’t there. Inevitably you’ll come back to it again unless you take an entirely different route or a longer way home, inconveniencing yourself.
          But what if you weren’t afraid? Name one of your worries and reword it. For instance: What if I wasn’t afraid of rejection?
          Think of this exercise as if you were placing yourself on the backside of the fear. Imagine stepping over it like a puddle, standing on the other side and describing what it’s like over there.
          What if you weren’t afraid of rejection? You’d submit a story every week to an editor of a publication. Simple. Now look back at the concerns mentioned earlier.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid of someone not liking me? I would smile and not get upset.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid of forgetting what to say? I’d refer to my notes, collect my thoughts and continue speaking.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid of tripping? I’d get up, brush off and keep walking. I’d joke about it with the crowd.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid my voice would crack? I’d keep talking, drinking from a bottle of water as I went.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid someone would walk out? I’d ignore the person leaving and keep presenting.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid of talking too long? I’d have a final wrap-up sentence prepared and offer to speak to individuals once the session was over.
·         What if I wasn’t afraid of low sales? I’d be researching how to make more sales.
        Make a list of five fears. Write “I’m afraid of” before each one. Now come up with three answers for each one using the words “If I wasn’t afraid, I would…” Then the next time you are nervous or scared, mentally challenge yourself to address it in this manner.
          At a conference in Florida, I suddenly learned I would be the after dinner speaker. Teaching small classes was one thing, but this was a room of two hundred writers including a few agents and editors from New York. I have night blindness, and as I stepped on the podium and laid out my notes, the lights went down leaving only a spot on me. I’d practiced the speech well, but not being able to readily read my notes left me rattled. I completed the motivational topic and stepped down feeling completely deflated, recognizing the episode as one of my lesser glories.
          I asked myself, “What is so bad about this moment?” I was still greeted warmly by the crowd. None of these folks disliked me for the speech. I was perfectly fine. I’d stumbled through a presentation and come out in one piece, the world still rotating as usual. Now before I step up to speak, or stand to read an excerpt, I imagine “What if I wasn’t afraid of this moment?” and plow forward.
          Soon you learn as I have that some of your fears are conquerable – as easy as stepping over a mud puddle.
After eleven years of editing, and ten years of Writer's Digest awarding FundsforWriters the 101 Best Websites for Writers recognition, you'd think public appearances prove no obstacle for me. Thirty-six thousand readers each week read my newsletters. Online I'm daring. Otherwise, however, I'm like most writers, nervous to appear in front of a room, anxious about what people think. To this day, I save the personal emails from readers until the end of my day, for fear one of them tells me I suck!
I penned The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success as a protest against the standard coaching of the day - speak up, make presentations, and act extraverted. What the general public doesn't realize is that a person fearful of public appearances might be confident in her own skin -smart, talented and amazingly intriguing. So I reached into my bag of personal experiences and drew out all the tools I'd used to cope in a world that misinterprets extraverted as intellectually bright, and I organized them in The Shy Writer, knowing so many writers need assistance to self-promote without coming unglued.
Using the mantra "Sell your words, not your soul," I hammered out this book in 2004 and self-published it through Booklocker. Editor Angela Hoy is a writer and reaches 75,000 writers with her own newsletter, Writers Weekly. The union worked, and the book sold well. In 2007, at the urging of readers, I prepared a second edition of The Shy Writer, and it still continues to sell. Once again, the pleas are coming through to create a sequel. Truth is, self-promotion is hard on the soul, but with groomed gimmicks, suggestions and tools, a writer can manager her way through the fracas and come out on top, looking like the professional she wants to be. Writing is only half the game. Marketing puts food on the table. Finding a way to face the population without sacrificing personality goes a long way to enforce confidence and subsequently make sales.
By the way, purchasing the paperback version of The Shy Writer entitles the buyer to a free year's subscription to TOTAL FundsforWriters, our largest newsletters chocked with 75 contests, grants, markets, jobs, publishers and agents with calls for submissions.

C. Hope Clark
Editor, FundsforWriters,
Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers - 2001-2010
A decade of recognized excellence
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  1. Dealing with fear can be crippling. Ironically, I think my fear is fear of success! What if I send out that query, get assigned the article but can't write the piece well enough! I love the exercise you've included about writing down your fears and then coming up with three solutions. This was an excellent post!

  2. Two favorite quotes I like to try and wrap my head around while writing are: "dig deeper!" and "embrace your fears." I think this post really goes along with that theme. I also love it because it added another facet to the diversity of topics here at the Playground. Thanks, Hope, and thanks, Holly & Joi for your comments :)

  3. glad I found your blog on the BBs- will definitely join and read more of your interviews!

  4. @Julia -- Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Glad to have you here! Lynne Marie