Today, we’re talking about fear—specifically in the realm of publishing.
Of course, fear is everywhere lately. Fear over Covid-19. Fear from a plummeting economy. Fear about this new shifting weight of uncertainty that has draped over every aspect of our day-to-day lives, like a sheet being pulled over a corpse.
For now, I’ll simply talk about a specific fear of mine (mostly, because I feel that my fear is rather tame and inconsequential, compared to the myriad of heavier, more dire fears that are currently plaguing so many others).
For me: I fear that fiction is dying. And since I’ve chosen to make fiction-writing my profession, that fear has grown tendrils and claws. Every day, the feeling stretches a little more, reaching out and probing other aspects of my psyche—those parts of my brain where I worry about finances, about pride, about my children’s futures.
I don’t want fiction to die. In this rough and (often) cruel world, the written word is beautiful, fragile, pure. How the words are used isn’t always so, but the medium itself? Divine.
Writing is a textual representation of human thought. It’s pretty damn amazing, when you think about it.
But in today’s pandemic-stricken world, who has time to read? Certainly not parents, who find themselves struggling to occupy their now school-less children. And certainly not children, who find themselves inundated with so many forms of audiovisual engagement that something as plain and simple as prose on paper (or words on a screen) likely seems downright absurd.
Perhaps, then, it’s the non-parent, non-adolescent humans who might save the written story? They’d have the time to read, after all. (Some of them, anyway.)
Or maybe they’d rather watch Netflix.
In any case, I fear that the current state of the world is nudging people even farther away from written fiction. More than ever before. Bookstores are closing, or have already closed. Publishers are letting go of their staff. Literary agents are closing their submission inboxes.
And here I am, just finally—finally—starting to find my writer’s voice, after so many years getting battered by the craft.
On the bright side, I find that the mind works much like the body does. In the body, an injury triggers a healing response. An infection prompts our white blood cells to counterattack. Similarly, in the mind: fear sparks courage.
I believe it’s a form of self-preservation, in a psychological way. To counteract all that fright, the mind conjures up forms of bravery. Light to battle the darkness.
In me, that courage has taken on the form of writing (and submitting) new stories, faster than ever before. I have four stories out on submission at the moment, and another soon on the way.
And the novel I’m working on is, if I’m allowed to say, quite possibly my best work yet.
So I’m feeling brave, in the face of fear. Or, at least: I’m trying to put on a brave face.
In the end, though, it might be as simple as this: keep busy, and you won’t have time to fret.
It sounds like one of those empty platitudes you’d find on the inside of a Chinese fortune cookie. Though, sometimes those fortunes are right.
So, yes: I am afraid. I am keeping busy. I don’t have time to fret. I hope the same is true for you.
Here’s another awkward departure: so long, my practical pal.