Lions and Tigers and Reviewers, Oh My! Don’t Let Fear Kill Your Dreams

Do you ever look back on your life and wonder how many times you let fear stop you from pursuing a dream?  You had a great idea, you were ready to take the plunge but then the doubts crept in.  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if I don’t have what it takes to succeed?  Perhaps a friend or family member was less than enthusiastic.  Like in the GoDaddy commercial targeting small business owners, when a smirking Jon Lovitz says “Every train needs a caboose.”

No matter what the dream, no matter what the circumstances, for many of us it comes down to one four letter word:  fear.  Fear of failure, fear of what others will say, fear of the unknown, you name it, fear is one very big pizza pie with a lot of toppings.

I came very close to letting fear win.  When I was writing my first novel, most of the time I was convinced that it was an exercise in futility.  I started the book on a challenge to myself to quell a chorus of voices that told me that I could never write fiction.  Well I was writing fiction.  But as the book neared completion, the reality of the next step – publishing – pressed in on me like a long and cold Wisconsin winter.

My fears ran the gamut.  I wasn’t a good enough writer.  My last creative writing class was more than thirty years ago.  Every reader brings a unique perspective and bundle of wants to a book – you simply cannot please them all.  The idea of having strangers review my work sent me to the nearest bottle of dry Cabernet.  If you’ve spent any time on Amazon, you’ll see some pretty tough reviews – many beyond the boundaries of constructive criticism and others downright mean.

“Seriously,” I thought, “I’m going to enter the fray?  No way.”  So I sat on the sidelines for a few years, and had it not been for the intervention of a few early readers (whom I am forever indebted to), my debut novel, Ten Days In Paradise, would have never seen the light of day.

Big fears morph into great joys

What I find remarkable is that my biggest fear has turned out to be one of the greatest joys of my indie publishing journey.  In the early days I pitched dozens of Amazon reviewers, and what starts as a simple transaction of asking for a review turns into getting to know them and some great conversation.  I’ve connected with authors, bloggers and wonderful people from all walks of life including a retired businessman from Northern California, a physician from Minnesota and an avid reader from Rhode Island.  One thing they all have in common is a genuine love of books, and their passion makes it possible for people like me to gain a foothold in the indie publishing world.

Indie publishing is like climbing a mountain . . . on an icy slope : )  More than 1 million books were self-published in 2017  there are six million ebooks in the Kindle store.  Many books only sell 100-250 copies, so I’m very excited to have sold more than 1,500 print books with a large share of those sales coming from book stores on Sanibel Island.  But what really makes me proud has nothing to do with royalties.  It’s that I slayed the fear dragon.  I’m so glad that I didn’t stay on the sidelines, thinking I was “safe” when I could have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.  I’ve learned that for me, “safe” isn’t where life really happens, and it’s only when we face our fears and embrace challenges that we grow.

A confession is in order.  Yes, there is still a subtle rise in my blood pressure every time I see a new review.  I hold my breath and hope for the best.  Yes, sometimes I’m disappointed.  But I’m learning to take it in stride and that it is a small price to pay for all the rewards and the sheer exhilaration of hearing someone say “I loved your book.” Or “You’re writing another, right?”

For me, this quote from Jack Canfield says it all:  “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  Here’s to crossing that bridge.  Follow your dreams.  You’ll never look back!

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