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Freelance Writer’s Fears & Query Letters

freelance writing fearYears ago I attended an art opening by an artist I knew fairly well. She was one of three or four artists at that opening. As I climbed the stairs to her exhibit, there she was, looking lovely and a bit scared standing right smack dab in front of one of her largest paintings.

I was struck by her vulnerability and my thought was “I’m so glad I don’t have to stand, live, in front of the words I write.”

One of the results of that experience was it put my own fear of writing into some sort of perspective. It made my trip, years before, to a town 20 miles away to mail my first queries seem almost silly.

Except! That’s what it took to get those first queries in the mail!

When I listen to writers today I recognize many of their fears, even though I no longer suffer that way.

Oh I don’t like rejection much, but it no longer gives me a migraine or puts me to bed eating cookies. When I send a query I know it’s a good one, even if it gets rejected. When I present a proposal to a potential client I know the price is a reasonable one, even if it’s more than that person can afford. When I raise rates or set a rate that’s higher than I’m used to, I’m totally okay with the results. When I write a blog post it’s okay with me if someone doesn’t like it, or several someones.

How did I get over the fear?

So how did I get over these fears that used to plague me? 

When I sent those two queries off from the neighboring town they had Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes in them. In due course, probably two or three weeks later, both arrived back in my mail box. I felt two things – fear and hope that the magazines might buy, and total lack of surprise to find pre-printed rejection slips.

I also felt some sort of nascent pride because I knew I had finally followed the whole process through from idea, through writing and submitting the query to rejection. When those slips landed I understood I had somehow accomplished something important.

If you’ve followed this blog you may remember that I actually posted both rejections on my wall, as a badge of honor, for that’s exactly what they were.

I began to appreciate the value of doing stuff in spite of my fear of the results.

“Just Do It”

In 1988 Nike captured the essense of doing stuff regardless of fear with their “Just Do It” slogan. In a .pdf by CFAR (Center for Applied Research) spells out the history of that slogan and says, in part:

The “Just Do It” campaign seemed to capture the corporate philosophy of grit, determination and passion, but also infused it with  something hitherto unknown in Nike ads—humor. Nike had always been known for its “detached, determined, unsentimental” attitude. (Emphasis mine)

Grit, determination and passion are what writers need. Persistence, and a refusal to be stopped, particularly by internal demons.

Fear as protection

One of the things that’s true about fear is that we have it for good reasons. Fear is designed to protect us, probably more from saber tooth tigers than whatever we imagine an editor might say, but protect us none-the-less.

A technique that works for many is to write about that fear. Detail what’s preventing you, for example, from dratfing, finalizing and submitting a query if that’s the fear. Spell out what you’re afraid of… rejection? Shame? Something else? Write about whatever it is in some detail.

Our willingness to write about our fears seems to tell our minds it’s okay to examine them for the real truth. More often than not after a session or two you’ll begin to see that the fear, while created to protect you from embarrassment or something similar, is “protecting” you from getting where you want to go.

The fear isn’t exactly silly or unfounded, but it is unnecessary, even harmful. Once we see exactly how it is for us, and it’s different for everyone, it’s much easier to let it go or push through it and just get whatever it is done.

That’s what I was doing when I drove to the next town. I knew it made no sense, except that right then I could find no other way to do it. So I pushed through the fear and got those queries mailed!

It worked. Not in the sense of making a sale at that time of course. Even more importantly my fear of writing queries was never enough to stop me again, and over time and practice reduced until it went away entirely.

Learn to let go of the fear of query writing in the upcoming Finally! Get 3 Queries Written & Submitted in 4 Weeks Workshop!

How do you overcome your fears?


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by beckysnyder

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • I’m no longer intimidated by writing the query. The online Marketing class I took in 2009 helped me with that. I do still feel a tinge of disappointment when a rejection arrives though 🙂 have you noticed how some editors and publishers tend to soften the blow with a few words of encouragement? Helps…
    Clara Freeman recently posted..Golden Years of Poetry from Clara54…My Profile

    • Yeah, the encouragement when it’s there is delightful. Glad you’ve mastered the query letter Clara.

    • If they’re encouraging you, especially if it’s critiquing, that is GOLD. It means they think your writing is worth the time it took them to make a comment, even if the piece isn’t quite right for them. Of course, that’s not as good as actually getting a check!

  • Michael Davis

    It’s been said that anxiety is uncertainty multiplied by powerlessness.

    The more we sit and worry about what might happen and don’t try anything, the more unsure of ourselves we feel. It’s a vicious cycle.

    When you take action, you take back control.

    You are brave enough to experiment with the world and see what happens.

    Instead of worrying, send out some query letters. You’ll see that after they get rejected, you don’t die.

    If you write much, you’re sure to make a mistake sooner or later. I’ve made some grand ones.

    You’ll discover there is no universal editor network that will be notified never to hire you again.

    You will live to write another day.
    Michael Davis recently posted..Argan Oil Benefits are Too Many to Mention…My Profile

    • Micheal, I recognized the ‘sitting and worrying’ making it worse! Even standing up when I’m in one of those places helps.

  • I get over my fears by just doing whatever it is I want to do. If receiving a rejection letter or two is the worst thing that happens to me in my life, I’d like to think I have a ‘blessed’ life. It’s not the end of the world. And thanks to the internet, you can self publish books and articles. Heck, you could even start your own online magazine. 🙂
    Amandah recently posted..Sink Your Teeth into Better Content Writing with the Vampires from True BloodMy Profile

    • Yes, there really is much more opportunity for writers today with the net than ever before.

  • Sandy

    Great post, Anne. I would add, “Take a deep breath … and then … just do it!”

  • Love this story, Anne. Isn’t it like most things worth learning in life?The first time we tried to ride a bike without training wheels and the exhilaration we felt when we did it!

    Just do it has always resonated with me and I appreciate the reminder. Inspiring. 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Business Writing Hits for the Summertime BluesMy Profile

  • I had to make like Nike and just do it. The lack of action only stops me from getting closer to my dreams and it definitely hinders progress.

    Also, there are two books I recently read that really boosted my confidence: The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill and The Well-Fed Writer (WFW) by Peter Bowerman.

    Bowerman told you who to call at organizations, what to say, how much you should charge, the types of projects you can request…It was great. He also said that 80% of the people you call won’t want your information. How could you not have confidence knowing that most people won’t want your services, but you can always ask if you can forward your company information and portfolio?

    Knowing that a closed mouth don’t get fed and that I have nothing to lose makes it easier to overcome my fears. And besides, it’s no fun being like the majority.
    Marcie recently posted..All-Star Authority Lineup in 62 Posts to Overcome Blogger’s BlockMy Profile

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