Rula Sinara‘s first book is out from Harlequin Heartwarming this month. Senior Editor Victoria Curran can’t stop talking about the wonderful, emotional qualities of THE PROMISE OF RAIN, and we’re all eager to read it! But first Rula has some words of encouragement…
We all have the capacity to fear. For the sake of survival, we’re wired to react mentally, physically and emotionally to danger. Without that ability, we’d be nothing but proverbial lemmings jumping to our deaths. But life is about balance, and when fear is so debilitating that it kills an individual’s ability to go after their dream—their calling—it’s no longer a good thing. It’s bad. Break it. As children we learned (hopefully) the difference between right and wrong. We were taught to make a conscious choice between good and evil. Fear that keeps a writer from achieving their dream is evil.
Don’t give in.
I know. I know. You’re thinking: ‘Yeah, right. Easy for her to say, now that she sold’. But wait. Let me tell you, fears don’t disappear after you sell. Like 99.9 % of writers, I’ve always excelled at being a morbidly shy, insecure, self-deprecating introvert. Sound familiar? Come on. I’m willing to bet that even those of you who are more outgoing, type A’s have moments when doubt creeps in and latches on to your stomach wall like a parasite. Sure, there is a plus side to being a tiny bit insecure about your abilities as a writer. As it turns out, those individuals are probably better at polishing their manuscripts. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Read this (later 😉 and be proud, BUT don’t use it as an excuse to pick apart the same manuscript (or chapter) for years, without ever submitting it!
You want to know my secret to breaking fear and taking the leap? The secret that helped get me that first sale?
The Mother Bird and the comfort of her nest.
No, seriously. I was lucky enough to be taken under a wing. Little me. A nobody in the writing world. And it just so happens that that nurturing, attentive mother bird—a symbol, as birds are, of wisdom, communication, and the ability to fly high enough to achieve your dreams…a symbol (in some beliefs ) of the power to overcome fear—has her wings spread for anyone who wants to become a better writer. Harlequin gave me what I needed to break through my writing fears.
- Knowledge: Knowledge is power. You’ve heard the expression ‘fear of the unknown’. So know. Never stop educating yourself. There’s no better way to battle insecurity or to boost confidence about your plot, conflict, submission process etc… When I began writing romance, I happened upon the Harlequin.com Community. The writing samples, articles and guidelines were invaluable. But beyond that, I was amazed by all the opportunities to learn. At first, I lurked on the forums (remember, I’m shy), but I didn’t lurk for long because the warmth and willingness of published authors, editors, moderators and fellow unpubs to answer questions and share information was phenomenal. Here I’d been warned, by the few who knew I was going to try writing a novel, that the publishing industry was some sort of secret society. Hah! Harlequin fosters a supportive society. I thought the forums, podcasts and links were the jackpot…but then came the first SYTYCW event. It blew me away! Even if I didn’t enter that one, the direct interaction with editors on ‘Meet the Editors’ was…well, there are no words…let’s just say I took notes. At one point, the editors listed their must read craft books. I ordered them all. Among those were books that I know made a difference in my writing…books like Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’ and ‘Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ and so many more (there’s a list on my blog). Taking advantage of what Harlequin has to offer is like free tuition to a top university dedicated to writing. Empower yourself.
- Support and Friendship: Nothing fuels fear and insecurity like feeling alone. Nothing boosts confidence and squashes anxiety like being around people who ‘get it’. I never would’ve had the guts to enter one of Harlequin’s online pitch contests if it hadn’t been for the encouragement and coaxing of writer friends. That pitch led to my first request and it was how I met my truly gifted editor, Victoria Curran. The forums were where I met author, Jeannie Watt, who reached out as a mentor. Her nudge a few years later is what led to my sale—to Victoria, who’d watched me grow as a writer and whose feedback and guidance made the difference. I’m living proof that editors do listen and care, but as much as they want to help, they can’t hear your unique voice in the crowd, if you’re not in the crowd. Step in. Whether it’s the voices in your head, analyzing your rejection letter or obsessing over margin size, it’s all considered normal here. It’s like being at a year round Star Trek convention, only for romance writers. 🙂 True friends are those who want you to achieve your own happy ever after. Having someone believe in you is energizing. Surround yourself with kindred spirits.
- Helping others: Another confidence booster is to give back. There will always be a newbie writer tip-toeing in behind you. What may seem clear to you, might be robbing them of sleep. One piece of advice…one shoulder…can make a difference to you both. There’s a saying I love—‘A person may forget your face, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.’ Helping others puts you in control of fear.
- 20 seconds: One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie We Bought a Zoo, with Matt Damon. In it, he tells his son, ‘All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and, I promise, something great will come of it.’ I’ve chanted this even after my sale (like when I sent in my book 2 proposal). For a writer, all it takes is twenty seconds to press submit on a pitch or contest entry. Twenty seconds to hit send on that manuscript submission. Twenty seconds to say hello to other writers. Twenty seconds to stop fear from causing you to procrastinate. Just start typing.
Sometimes all it takes is a nudge from a friend or simply knowing that someone out there believes in you and respects your goals. I’ve been there. I get it. So…you think you can write? New year. New attitude. New words. Stop thinking and do it.
And now for some fun—a synopsis of this post. [Warning: Not a legitimate synopsis format. Do not try at home.]
If you’re a writer
ringing in the New Year,
then resolve to sing
and have no fear
that your voice will squeak
or your conflict is weak.
Give your story your best
and send it in like the rest
‘cause if you don’t write the words
there’s no chance to be heard
By the Mother Bird
Under the warmth of her wing
You’ll find many things
That will help you fly
If you give it a try
You’re a writer
So banish all fear
This could be your year!
We know you can write
Let your ideas take flight
P.S.: Added because of comments below! More info on Rula and her debut can be found on the Harlequin Community site here and you can also find the Harlequin Heartwarming Guidelines and the current Community thread for Heartwarming here. And here is Victoria Curran’s post on Heartwarming on Romance University. Good luck!