Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Tenth Day

Nine days out of ten, I'm a optimistic about writing. It's the tenth day that wrecks me.

As I said at the bottom of yesterday's post, in the comment that never got left on Karin Tabke's blog, "...if I sit and think about all the little things there are to be afraid of in this business, I freeze." Well, that's usually what happens on the tenth day, and yesterday was that day.

My morning rejection (which came shortly after yesterday's post) didn't help. One rejection--not a form, but not very personal; not nice but not nasty either--derailed me. It was something along the lines of 'this agency doesn't handle that, but thanks for thinking of us.' Innocuous really, but it hit me and knocked me off-kilter.

I started to think about every little thing. Like the cliched snowball, it started small and by the time I got to writing last night, it had grown to overwhelming proportions. And I didn't even see it coming. Just heard a rumble and then whoomp! Every word I wrote was wrong... or if not wrong, at least not perfectly right. Type a sentence, delete it, rewrite it. Worry over whether this word or that word would be better, change the word, repeat with next sentence. I meant to write the hospital scene last night. It should've been a couple thousand words at least. Instead, I got the lead-in down, and after 800 words, I stopped.

90 minutes, 800 words. That's what I meant yesterday about my output being effected by my confidence level, or my optimism level if you will. I have to maintain a certain level of assurance about my work, or I can't do the work. I get all 'deer in headlights'.

Thinking about it now, it's like those rare times I worked as a commissioned salesman. You see, working on commission-only means: if I didn't sell, I didn't get a paycheck. If I didn't make a sale right away, fear would creep in, and I would begin to doubt every little thing I said in my pitch. And then I wouldn't sell. Needless to say, I never held a commissioned position very long. Give me a base plus, or a base with bonuses for performance and I'm selling slushies to the Inuit. Let fear enter into it, and I can't sell parkas for a penny in Siberia.

Not the best analogy, but the fear and the failure are the same. Boiled down to its bare essentials: Fear of failure causes failure.

This rejection reaction happens to me about once a query session. (More on the first book, but I was new to the biz.) I recognize it afterwards. I just never see it coming until it hits and I'm left under a pile of excrement several yards thick. I've learned recognizing it is half the battle (and if I could see it coming, I could probably avoid it altogether). Now I just need to pick myself up, shovel myself off, and stuff all the little fears back into the dumpster where they belong.

They'll sneak up on me again sometime in the future. Some tenth day*, perhaps weeks from now, they'll get me and I'll have to go through this again. Until I learn to see it coming and avoid it altogether, or figure out where it's coming from and stop it at its source.

(*it's an average. Since I went through months of this early on, now I can go weeks between.)

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