You Are Not Special

Welcome to Rudan Thursdays where we talk about…things! Anything from books and movies, to blog posts and authors, to food and drink.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend, Jenny Hansen.  We had a glorious time chatting about a variety of things, but for the purposes of this here blog, I wanted to share a specific point of interest.

I’m scared.

Allow me to explain.  Jenny, being the inquisitive soul she is, asked about my current work in progress.  While waxing on about this bit of brilliance and that bit of wonder, I thought back on the days I’d worked on the book…and all the days I didn’t.  Suddenly, I blurted out, “I make a lot of excuses as to why I can’t get my writing done.”

That was the first time I’d said that out loud.  To a person.  To myself.

Then, for whatever reason, I just kept talking:

“Every time I manage to hit a milestone, I freak out and hit the brakes. When I told my husband I wanted to write and he didn’t look at me and start laughing hysterically, I freaked.  When I let him read some of my writing, and he looked me in the eye and said, “I think we got somethin’ here,” I freaked.  When I finished my manuscript roughly three months later, I freaked.  I can’t figure out exactly what I’m afraid of, but I have this fear and I can’t seem to shake it.”

Needless to say, I was breathless after the verbal mess I’d just dumped in her lap.

Jenny smiled at me, sat back in her chair and said matter-of-factly with a hint of a chuckle, “Kate, you’re not special.”

You’re not special.

Now, you may be thinking: Huh?  But I got it immediately.  I understood exactly what she meant as soon as those words left her mouth.  It was something of a slap-in-the-head moment.

That slap-in-the-head has been incredibly freeing for me.  She’s absolutely right.  Everyone has fears they have to deal with on a daily basis.  Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of standing up in front of the class in your undies.

courtesy of danettewatt.hubpages.com

I’m still not sure exactly what it is I’m afraid of…fear of potential?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a mix of fear of failure and fear of success…

The point is, knowing that I’m not the only one out there struggling to overcome my fears is so important.  I went home that afternoon, jumped on my computer and printed out a little sign that I stuck on my desk right above my laptop that reads:

You Are Not Special

Who knew those four words would have such a positive impact?

In fact, I’m so inspired; I’m going to have a little series on fear.  Next week, we’ll chat about having the courage to overcome fear.

So talk to me.  How have you struggled with fear?  Have you mastered it yet, or are you still seeking the solution?  What things have you done in the past that helped you overcome your fear?

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28 thoughts on “You Are Not Special

  1. I’m still struggling with it! Not sure why, but I’ve really got to push myself to write the closer I get to the end of a book…a mental block….frustrating!

    1. I hear ya. I’ve been reading a lot about breaking goals up into smaller bits and working your way through them that way. So in terms of finishing, instead of seeing “THE END” looming at you and wondering how you’ll get there, you just take one part of a scene at a time and focus solely on that. Then, when you’re finished, you’ll have realized a smaller and more reach-worthy “The End” 🙂

  2. I think the better phrase would be to say that you are “no different than a lot of people who have to face their fears”. Saying, “you are not special”, I believe, sends a crippling message that just fuels the fear. At least it would for me. I struggled with not feeling special for an enormous portion of my life.

    What set me free to face my fears headlong is to tell myself, every time I feel that gut-wrenching terror that tries to hold me back, that I can do anything I set my mind to. Two catch phrases that I have hanging from my refrigerator door are:

    “I can succeed. All things that are possible, are possible to me. I am successful. I do succeed. I am full of the power of success.” Wallace D. Wattle.

    The second phrase is from, believe it or not, Star Wars.

    “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you possibly can imagine.” Obi Wan Kenobi (as said to Darth Vadar just before he killed Obi Wan. After that, Obi Wan’s spirit comes back to help Luke Skywalker defeat the Imperial Forces.)

    Positive affirmations are always best when facing something as soul-wrenching as “nameless” fears.

    1. You are absolutely right Ledia! Positive affirmations work very well. I would offer, however, that it is possible to take a negative phrase (or anything, really) and make it positive. The phrase in this post is an excellent example. If a insecure, mean person uses this phrase, it’s intent is obvious. Likewise, if it is used by a good-natured person and it is offered in the way it was in my story, it can be quite positive. In fact, for me, it was inspiring.

      I’m more than familiar with the dark parts of humanity. I’ve struggled with more than my fair share of the ugly, the abusive, and the just plain mean. In spite of all I have had to endure, I knew, instantly, that this particular phrase was given in friendship with only the best of intentions. I could have chosen to see it differently, and called up my past as justification, but instead I chose to see it and accept it, exactly how it was offered.

      Another message can be learned from this: YOU are in charge of your own emotions, no one can MAKE you feel anything!

      How’s that for empowering? 😉

    1. I think the hardest part of dealing with our fears is holding them inside and hiding them away from the world. I think the more we share our fears, the more we get them out of ourselves and into the bright sunlight, the smaller they’ll look and the easier they’ll be to overcome. Kudos to you for outing yourself, Elizabeth! That was a big step…keeping pushing forward and keep your head up. We’ll get there together 🙂

  3. I was fearful when I first wanted to write and it would take months for me to eek out a chapter, all the while cringing as I hit each key thinking it sucked and who was I kidding? Then in 2009 I did NaNo, and it helped me kick the self-editing fear monster to the curb. I then did it again in 2010, which is my current WIP and during the early revision stages of my WIP I was too stupid to be fearful, but since joining the blogosphere, um, yeah. Make that a hell yeah. I think that’s why I’m dragging my feet on finishing this fourth draft and saying it’s final enough to query.

    1. Look at you Angela! You rock! I think a great way to help yourself get through this last draft is to focus on how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished. If you can get through all of that (and you did!!) you can easily finish this last part. Like I told Carrie Spencer, I’ve been reading a lot about being able to achieve goals, and trick your fear, by breaking them down into bite sized pieces. Just break up this last draft into bitty bits and conquer each of them one at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful new book ready to submit ~ WOOHOO!!

  4. Kate,
    Yes, I have struggled with fear. I still do from time to time, but it helps me to know other writers wrestle with it, too. It passes. Comes back out of nowhere, and goes away again. Just one of those things.

    1. Hi Gerri! It’s definitely something we all struggle with, and it’s funny to think that we’re alone in it, isn’t it? Fear is an integral part of our emotions; its helped us survive for thousands of years! Of course we all have it. But part of fear is feeling alone, and I think a big part of being able to manage it is reaching out and knowing on a conscious level that we’re not alone. It’s even better when we’re able to connect and help each other through it.

  5. Now see, look at this blog… I might have to tack on a little addendum.

    When it comes to fear and writers, you are NOT special. We ALL fight it (why do you think we did the Fear series at Writers In The Storm?).

    BUT, when it comes to having the cojones to stand up when fear knocks you on your can, you are a very special treasure.
    Very few people have the courage to look their fears in the face and say “You will not win.”

    Bravo to you, my friend!

  6. There are certain times in life when it is a comfort knowing that we are not unique. So glad you had a chance to chat with someone who could encourage you that way!

    (Totally jealous of your time spent with Jenny. 🙂 )

    1. Absolutely, Amber! We are each of us unique and special in our abilities and gifts, but when it comes to the scary stuff, it’s important to remember that we all have to deal with it, AND that we can help each other through it.

      Oddly enough, I’m sort of jealous of myself for getting to hang out with her ;P

  7. I sooo get this. My husband sat me down the other day and told me to stop picking at my story and just send it out. He asked me what’s the worst that could happen? They say no and I’m still in the same position. At least I’ll have tried. I think my need to make my story perfect is partly about fear of sending it out. I love this post. It’s very timely for me. Thanks.

    1. You’re welcome, Trish! You’re husband is absolutely right, as you know. Rejection may sting a bit, but its not permanent. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” In the meantime, you’ll learn more about this business, but also – and arguably more important – you’ll learn more about yourself.

      Ok, don’t throw anything at me, but I almost wonder if maybe its better to be rejected at first – that way we can get it done and over with and move on, y’know?

  8. Great post!!
    That fear is SO much a part of what I go through. And you’re right…we’re not special in that. I think we all have fears like this, especially when it comes to writing.
    I find for me, writing can be very personal. Even when it’s fiction, there are some elements of truth buried in each piece. Besides that, it’s a huge RISK to put your work out there. Your baby. And what if they don’t like it? What if they say something bad about it? What if? What if…

    I find the only way I can deal with fear is to face it head on. If I’m scared of something, it’s clearly something I need to deal with. And the sooner the better. It’s absolutely terrifying to face the fear, but if I don’t…if gets worse. And something I’ve learned…almost every single time, I’ve ballooned the fear in my head and what ever it is I’m scared of, isn’t really that bad at all.

    Awesome post!

    1. Thanks, Elena! You’ve hit the nail on the head: more often than not, we “balloon” the fear in our heads and make it much worse than it actually is. I’m guessing its mostly because of how much we have invested in our work. We pour our hearts and souls into these works – or, at least we should. So it IS a huge risk, and a potentially painful one – if we let it be.

      So what if that particular agent or publisher rejects my book? It’s not the end of the world and there are MANY more out there who WILL like it. And, they may not have rejected it because they didn’t like it…perhaps their work load is too full, or perhaps there are bugs that need to be worked out. Better to get the bugs worked out than to disappoint my readers, right?

      I think we all have more control over how we see our fears and how we respond to them than we realize. Now, I need to keep saying that so I believe it on a cellular level, but rationally I think it is true. I strongly believe that no one can make us feel anything about ourselves – good or bad – without our permission, so why would our fears be any different?

      There’s a thought…

  9. Oh Kate what a wonderful post! And well, yes, Jenny Hansen is a great motivator. But I loved the way you shared your feeling with us about your own fear. It always helps to know that we all suffer from this.

    My fear really didn’t start until I stepped out into the world with my blog. I haven’t been able to write on my novel since It’s like the whole thing has become real and I too afraid to put myself out there. But I’ve always had a problem with that.

    Okay, this is interesting. I’ve just spilled my guts here and I don’t even know you. LOL. This is a revelation. It was a good thing you wrote this for me. Well not just for me because I’m really not all that special! 🙂

    1. Yay, Karen! Look at those glorious guts all over the floor, good for you! You’re right, you’re not special – You Are Not ALONE! Hmm…sounds like a certain Social Media Expert I know…

      It IS scary having the spot light on you. I am not all that comfortable with it myself. But, if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to suck it up. That’s what I keep telling myself: Suck. It. Up. And: Just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and click, “Publish.” LOL

      And when you think about it, no matter what profession you choose, or even a sport, in order to achieve success, you have to acclimate yourself to the bright spot light above you. Right?

  10. It’s so reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who freaks out every time I hit a milestone, Kate! I understood 100% what Jenny meant when she said, “You are not special.” You are not special in your fear, your panic, your voice of self-denigration, but you (and we all) are truly unique in passion and talent. Like Jenny says, we must fight our way there and not give up.

  11. I worked on a university newspaper with a reporter friend who obsessed over everything she wrote; she worried about where she was on her career path; she agonized over whether or not to change jobs.

    One day, though, she wrote something I’ve never forgotten: “When I realized that I’d never be the best, I got better.”

    1. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, eh, Ken? I realized the truth of her statement myself over the last year or so. The more I relax and focus on one thing at a time, the more relaxed and happier I am. Go figure.

  12. Excellent point, Kate. I think knowing we are not alone in facing the fear as writers helps to put it in perspective. I think we all face fear at some point in time. And fear can be good as well. It keeps us on our toes. We just have to be careful that we control it and not other way around. Your post reminded me of an article I wrote a while back. I put a link to it and to yours in my blog tonight. I originally wrote the article because I wanted to help a friend. Writing about fear and the reasons for it actually helped me, too. I think there was a lot of me in that article and I didn’t realize it until I was finished writing it. I’ve been more productive and focused in the last year than at any other time. My friend benefited too! 🙂

  13. Don’t you just adore Jenny for getting straight to the point and finding a way to make you feel normal? I had a similar conversation with her about fear and she put me at ease. And then told me to push through it! We all need the reassurance sometimes that we are in this together and at the same time, a little shove to get at it!
    Gotta love it!

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