Is There Room for Fear?

Since removing my boot (broken foot, long story, maybe a blog post down the road) in June, I’ve made it my mission to conquer fear.

Conquer may be the wrong word. I’ll never completely get over certain fears, but I do want to learn to live with my fears. I want to acknowledge those fears exist, and then flip them the finger.

A few weeks ago I went snorkeling. Those who know me know that I have an unfounded fear of being in water, despite being an excellent swimmer. One night, maybe in my early teens, I had a dream that I was drowning. Not pleasant. The same dream occurred on a regular basis for years, into my mid-twenties. Always, I was alone and drowning in murky ocean water. Until I moved to Phoenix and the heat forced me to be okay with pools, I wouldn’t even go in a pool! So, snorkeling was a HUGE deal for me.

I hyperventilated, I silently repeated a mantra, at one point on the boat I said “hell, no,” but that didn’t fly because I had told my husband earlier to not let me sit this one out. And then I got in the water. I started to really panic then because, while pool water is safe, this was ocean water. Not safe, according to my fear based on a reoccurring dream.

That’s when I made an arrangement with myself. I said: Self, you’re going to have this fear, but work with me. Let’s put on the mask and peek our head underwater for a second.

I had a death grip on my husband’s hand. We swam against the current and away from a rock that supposedly burned like acid if you touched it (hey, that’s what the guide said). And then nature showed her beauty. A school of rainbow-colored fish swam around me. For an instant my vision blurred not from water, but from the bright colors of a hundred fish!

Fear–whether imagined or learned by experience– is a barrier. Conquering fear might help some people, but I prefer my less-intense approach of accepting fear and living beside it. I don’t want to miss the magic that surprises us in moments of living. Maybe someday I’ll be over my fear of open water, but until that day comes, I plan to live along side of that fear, but still live.

What Querying Has Taught Me

Rejections and the struggle to not take a standard form letter as a personal attack on your words. Then there’s the elation a personalized rejection brings. Constant stress eating. Welcome to the dreaded query process.

Querying agents is a necessary evil, and one which I loathe. “The Thing That Will Not Be Named,” as it’s known in my house. But the process isn’t all bad. Just mostly. Querying these past two months has taught me a lot.

First, it’s taught me that rejection won’t kill me. I’m still alive. I’m still determined most days. Some days are hard, and that’s when I hug my cats (sometimes too tightly).

I’ve also learned that I have no patience to be patient. But I have to deal with it. I’m relying on others now, so it’s their timeline. Not mine. To cope, I began vomiting a first draft of manuscript #2 and that has helped me whittle away the time. When I don’t want to write, I find something else to occupy the daylight (and sometimes the late night) hours. Yoga (finally, after months with a broken foot I can do some basics!), cooking, and even cleaning help pass the time when I can’t find a cat to hug.

I have a great support system. I have critique partners, a circle of writer friends, a book group, not to mention my non-writing friends who support me with food, alcohol, and a shoulder to cry on. So while I’m being rejected, I’m also networking.

Finally, querying has taught me discipline. Since I’m self-employed, I sometimes need the super power to not get distracted. Did someone say squirrel? Since I know approximately how many queries I need to send per month to hit my rejection goal by the end of the year, I can block out chunks of time per week to do the The Thing That Will Not Be Named. I schedule the rest of my work around the days I query. I treat it like a job I’m on the clock for.

While the process is daunting, slow, and mostly filled with rejection, I know my agent is out there. Likewise, I know that if I can survive this process, I can survive a lot.