On Trying Not To Be Scared…

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who famously said ‘do one thing every day that scares you’. Good advice for writers, especially, because lots about being (or trying to be) a writer, is pretty scary: writing something new, reading your work out to a group, asking for feedback, submitting your work, phoning an editor…. [more about that in a minute…!].

When I went to Martin Davies’ one-day workshop last year, on writing a novel (ahem, nearly a year later and I still haven’t started!), we deduced, from a round-table exercise in which everyone had to admit why they hadn’t yet written that novel – that it was FEAR that was holding us back. I wrote about it here. So if you can get over the fear, perhaps you’ll write that novel?

I reckon, this week, I’ve had enough scariness for a little while.

On Tuesday, me and ‘Mr People’s Friend 2011’ (yes, the photo I sent in of him holding a golden eagle has been published on their letters page! Whoops! I was thinking of not telling him – out of FEAR – but in the end I showed him the picture. He took it quite well. I think. Well, I’ve offered to share the tea caddy and the packet of tea)… anyway, last Tuesday we went to London on the train for the day and, as we had free tickets to the London Dungeon, we popped in there for a bit of terror and scariness.

I am not a brave person. I don’t like being jumped out on, I don’t like the dark, or spookiness or amusement park rides where you drop twenty feet in two seconds… hmmm, and that’s exactly what I got in the London Dungeon. I’ve never screamed so much in my life! I was even scared when I went to the Ladies, in case a ghoulish figure was in there, or someone knocked on the cubicle door! (There wasn’t and they didn’t).

But, I have to say, in the end, I really enjoyed it. And there were lots of laughs (there are actors and lots of ‘audience participation’ – which is great as long as you don’t get picked on!). I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises if you decide to go. But hey! I can recommend it – and do you know something else? This might sound a bit silly but – I felt a little braver by the end!

My other bit of scariness goes like this:

I’ve been politely chasing a response to an article which I submitted to a magazine last year. At the time the editor told me he ‘might’ want to use and could he please hang onto it until he knew? All my emails had disappeared into a black hole, with no response and I honestly was on the point of giving up, but suddenly, last week and within five minutes of me emailing him one last time, I had an apologetic email and a request to GIVE HIM A CALL.

Eeeek! I was SCARED! Him big important editor – me, little wannabee-writer! (I know that’s not the right attitude but that was my first thought!). My second was: what if he wants to tell me off for hassling him? I ran up and down the stairs a few times to get rid of all that nervous energy, before I could pluck up the courage to call the number (he had apparently tried to call me, but I’m ex-directory).

Anyway, it was good news. Not scary at all. He definitely wanted to take my article. And three others that I’d pitched to him. And, if I can come up with the goods, he’ll take more from me over the coming months. Result! I still haven’t quite come down to earth. Or maybe that’s just the after effects of that plunging ‘hangman’ ride in the London Dungeons…! (aaaawoooooh!)

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11 Responses to On Trying Not To Be Scared…

  1. Well done on getting over the fear – especially as you were rewarded with a batch of acceptances!

  2. Keith Havers says:

    Congratulations! Your persistence paid off.
    And that’s a good tip for getting rid of your nerves. I’ll try running up and downstairs myself next time I have to do something I’m scared of.

  3. Hi Helen,
    I’ve got that issue, saw your photo today, it’s good. Great news on the acceptances. I’d have been scared as well. Love the running up and down stairs tip. Bet he thought you were a heavy breather….

  4. Stephanie Holliday says:

    Congratulations – what a result! That saying ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ is so right.

  5. bigmammafrog says:

    Congratulations! You must be thrilled!

    Perhaps I should take a leaf out of your book. I’m supposed to be collecting a writing prize very soon. I don’t have a problem with this as such, but the trouble is, I’m expected to READ OUT LOUD TO AN AUDIENCE, something I’ve never done before. When I was invited I made excuses (I am genuinely double-booked on the evening, but it could be resolved). I’m now thinking I really should go for it, otherwise I’ll never ‘get out there.’ Eeek! How bad can it be?

    • BigMammafrog – firstly, big congratulations on your writing prize! (I’ve just clicked onto your blog and read about the phone call you had to tell you – great post!). I once won a poetry competition and I didn’t go along to collect the prize, not really because I was scared, more because it was in the middle of the day and I thought I ought to be at work instead. I have ALWAYS regretted that (I could have got out of work and it was probably really disappointing for the organisers – something I didn’t really consider at the time). You can never get that moment of ‘glory’ back again and, let’s face it, as writers we often have very few moments of glory – why shouldn’t you enjoy yours?!! I am sure you won’t be the only nervous person. As you say, if you don’t go for it you’ll never get over that ‘first time’, which is bound to be the hardest. My tips (I’ve done this a few times now and it gets easier the more you do it)… 1. Practice reading your poem out (lots of times) – either alone or, preferably to a friend/partner. 2. Try to read SLOWLY – it’s really tempting to rush through it when you’re a bit jittery. I write ‘SLOW DOWN’ in the margin a few times, which helps. 3. Introduce your poem to the audience before you read it out – just a sentence or two will do – perhaps why you wrote on this subject, or what inspired the poem. It helps to ‘prepare’ the audience for the kind of poem it’s going to be and also helps them to ‘understand’ it, if it’s complicated! Believe me, they will appreciate it. 4. If there’s a microphone – use it. There’s nothing worse than people not being able to hear you. Of course, there may not be that many people or the room may not be that big, so a mike may not be needed. Might be worth finding out beforehand a) how many they are expecting and b) if there will be a mike – so there are no surprises! But if there’s no mike, really try to project your voice, so everyone can hear you. And finally… smile and enjoy your applause!! You can do it! Let me know how it goes and good luck!!

  6. Lunar Hine says:

    Congratulations to both of you, and good luck bigmammafrog. Off to look at your blog now :o).

  7. bigmammafrog says:

    Just to say, I was brave (fearless for me) and I did it! Yes I collected my prize and I read not one, but two poems! tbh after spending an hour lost in NW London (first time I’ve driven into London, possibly the last!), the reading was comparatively stress-free. There were about 20-25 people there, everyone was incredibly friendly and it was a lovely little venue (Hendon Library Cafe).

    They’re hoping to put on more poetry events so if you’re local and poetry is your thing keep an eye out.

  8. Stephanie Holliday says:

    Good for you. It will be easier next time I’m sure. I used to drive from Hertfordshire to Hendon for college – I got lost time and time again!

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