It’s okay to be afraid. Some fears are healthy. For instance, I fear Black Bears and Grizzlies, and if I’m ever near one of them I plan to seek safe shelter ASAP. That’s a healthy fear. Then again, other fears aren’t rational—like those to which writers are subject.
Along my road to writing, with eight published novels and a non-fiction book under my belt and more under contract, I have learned not to be afraid of some things. I’d like to share three of them with you, and hope that the writers in the audience will see my logic and join me in discarding these three fears out of the many that plague us.
Abingdon, May 2015
The blank screen: People frequently ask me, “Where do you get your ideas for your books?” Ideas are all around if we start with the two magic words author Alton Gansky
taught me years ago: “What if?” For example, while reading Robert
Frost’s words about home being the place where they have to take you in,
I thought, “What if a doctor fled to her hometown, only to find that
someone there wanted to kill her?” This gave rise to my first novel, Code Blue. Other questions led me to write Medical Error (my step-son’s paranoia about identity theft), Diagnosis Death (charges of mercy killing brought against a colleague), and most recently Lethal Remedy (a retraction in a medical journal of fabricated drug research). So ideas are all around us. Writers need not fear the blank screen—only our unwillingness to fill it.
Agents and editors: The current climate of publishing requires that a writer either self-publish (which is the subject for a different blog post) or acquire an agent to act as advocate with editors and publishers. The latter is tough, because we tend to hold agents and editors in high regard. We go out of our way in our dealings with them to put our best foot forward. But once I had an agent and a contract, I noticed these were real people, not demi-gods to be placed on a pedestal. And if I said something wrong, I wouldn’t be cast into utter darkness. I can truthfully say that my agent and my editors have become my friends. My advice to as-yet-unpublished writers: be respectful of these people, don’t be fearful.
Reviews: After the publication of my first novel, I checked my Amazon rankings almost every hour. I set Google alerts (it’s free, folks) to notify me every time the book was mentioned on the Internet. I exulted in good reviews, descended into the depths of depression with the bad ones. I even pestered my publisher for sales figures, only to be told that the information wasn’t currently available. But eventually I got tired of it all, so I stopped worrying. A good friend once loaned me a tape about success, and one line stuck with me: “I cannot expect to be universally loved and respected.” So when I run across a bad review, whether on a bookseller’s site, a blog, or in social media, I shrug it off. And I try not to make too much of the good reviews as well. I write because I believe God has some messages He would like me to share. Beyond that, it’s out of my control.
So there you have them, three things I’ve learned not to fear on my writing journey. How about you? Are there still things in your closet and under your bed that make you nervous? Don’t let them make you afraid. Meet them head-on. Or, better yet, incorporate them in your next story. That’s another way to deal with a blank screen.
Dr. Richard Mabry
Dr. Mabry is a retired physician whose writing career began with his non-fiction book, The Tender Scar. He now writes “medical suspense with heart.” Fatal Trauma is his eighth published novel of medical suspense.
A past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, he is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. His medical thrillers have won the Selah Award of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, and been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award, Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. His work has received glowing endorsements from numerous authors and rave reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. In addition to writing novels, Dr. Mabry’s articles and meditations have appeared in The Christian Communicator, In Touch Magazine, and The Upper Room.
Dr. Mabry has taught extensively, including the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, and numerous groups and venues throughout the Southwest.