I don’t know why I’m surprised when freelance writer or a potential writer is afraid in the beginning, afraid to submit queries, afraid to contact clients, afraid to call editors, afraid to submit to agents, or, come to think of it do any of the things a freelance writer needs to do.
The family story is that I started talking about wanting to be a freelance writer in 6th grade. That might even be true; that was the grade I discovered reading. I picked up some almost bodice-ripper novel and was entranced. I soon discovered I could escape into a world quite different than any I had so far imagined. Soon I stumbled into science fiction and I was hooked on reading. So it could be I also decided I wanted to write then. It makes a good yarn.
What I do remember is sometime as an almost teenager I discovered the magazine Writer’s Digest in our local drugstore. I devoured it and connived each month to buy an issue without my parents or friends knowing I was interested in… gasp… becoming a freelance writer. I was afraid I’d be laughed at.
Once I started driving I was able to sneak off to book stores and buy magazines and books about writing. Notice the self-involvement; I was sure someone was watching and would someday should out to the world that “Anne is trying to be a freelance writer!”
I did some writing. I remember I always had a typewriter available (this was way way before computers) so I could submit, but I didn’t.
I did work and write in my father’s real estate business. In fact, looking back I did a whole bunch of good writing there. I wrote our sales letters, my father’s weekly column for the L.A. Times and most of the classified ads for our firm. But I didn’t think that counted. It was too easy for me to do, and I wasn’t getting paid, so in my mind it didn’t count. What nonsense!
I didn’t actually submit anything at all until my early 30s.
I wrote two articles, one for Family Circle and one for Woman’s Day. I got them each in a properly addressed envelope with an SASE. But I couldn’t bring myself to put them out so my mail person could pick them up. Have you ever thought how much the person who delivers your mail might know about you?
So I got in the car with the thought of driving to the nearest mail box – but my fear was sill too strong. I actually had to drive to a post office in a neighboring town. According to Google Maps it was about 9 miles and today would take 12 minutes. I know the road wasn’t as good as it is now; I suspect it was closer to 20 minutes. It doesn’t matter.
I do remember I knew I was acting nuts. I also remember literally shaking as I put the two envelopes in the blue mail box outside that post office. I didn’t feel any relief or pleasure until I was about half-way home. Then I began to suspect I’d done something truly important for me.
The point is two fold:
- I was scared to death to actually mail my articles.
- I found away to start submitting my writing.
As I look back I see all sorts of self-worth issues… many of which come from some sort of misguided self-importance. No one would have laughed had I mailed them at home because no one was paying attention. None of the clerks who sold me writing magazines and writing books were remotely interested in what I was trying or not trying to do.
I don’t really know today what was so frightening to me. I am glad, no, grateful that I managed to push through it.
How have you pushed through your fear of writing?