Paralyzed by Fear


The fabric has well-defined folds and wrinkles from being squashed under a stack of tablecloths and placemats. It’s a batik I created somewhere around 1985. I’ve kept it because I enjoyed the experience of making it and love its colours, but it has resided in a drawer hidden under table linens for all these years because I felt it wasn’t good enough to display.

"Moonrise" - Batik by Carol Garvin


Early last week agent Rachelle Gardner wrote about not being able to hit ‘send’ when it comes to submitting our writing. “What holds us back?” she wrote. “It’s our fear of failure. As soon as we put it out there, we become open to rejection. What if we did it wrong? What if it’s not good enough? What if someone says it’s horrible? Can I handle that?”

‘Paralyzed by fear’ may be a cliché, but when your finger hovers over the ‘send’ key and, with a mind of its own, refuses to engage, what else do you call it? Reluctance? Nervousness?  Timidity? They’re too tame. It’s fear all right.

I rarely enter writing contests, but in three of the years that I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference I submitted entries in the associated contests… and finalled each time. It isn’t a contest that offers feedback so I’ve never known what the judges liked or what they thought was lacking. One might think the obvious next step would be to submit to contests that do offer feedback, but I’ve become familiar with the Surrey Conference. Anywhere else is out of my comfort zone.

In my comment on Rachelle’s post I said, “I think I’ll recognize God’s prodding when it’s time to make the move.” Immediately after leaving her site I clicked over to Ann Voskamp’s blog as my last read of the day, and found this among Ann’s words: “We’re in the God zone when we’re out of our comfort zone….” Now, if that isn’t prodding, I don’t know what is!

“Don’t wait for perfection,” said Rachelle. “You want your work to be as strong as possible, yet you can’t just wait forever, always saying, “I can do better.” At some point, you’ve got to listen to your gut when it tells you, “This thing’s good to go.”

So-o-o-o… this past weekend I polished required submission material to a sheen, and sent my entry off to its first “uncomfortable” destination, a contest with written critiques from multiple judges.

It wasn’t easy. I stared at that ‘send’ key for a long time. But it’s done, and now I’m about to take an iron to the batik. Then I plan to get it framed.

Are there obstacles that prevent you from moving ahead into your desired tomorrows? What will it take to overcome them?



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

23 thoughts on “Paralyzed by Fear

  1. Congrats on hitting “send”! It’s scary out there in the God zone, but I expect that’s where most of our growth happens.

  2. On, Carol! I absolutely loved this post. As a freelance writer, I’ve become accustomed to hitting “send” all the time to submit my articles. I’m guessing that has made it easier for me to ship off queries for my creative writing, but I do, indeed, pause each time before I do. I think to myself, “Is this ready?” And then if I think it is, I go for it. Glad you are too. 🙂

  3. Hurray that you took that step!!! I hope your feedback is amazing. My step into fear is speaking at a conference in two weeks. I am not close to perfection at all with this, so afraid but feel it is where God would have me be:) SO I am trusting Him.

  4. Love the batik! Find a wall and hang it. (Depending on size, of course.) I’ve seen lesser efforts displayed in art galleries. You are one talented and creative lady!

  5. I finally recognized mine 🙂 And I’m fighting it every word, sentence, adjective, et al…as you know, only too well. If (and when) I get to the -30- on this one, dear friend, we will celebrate BIG TIME!


  6. This is wonderful – I lost a hold of your blog address for a while so I’m so glad to find that you’ve now added to blogger/google profile. Thanks for this encouraging article. I’m not a perfectionist yet as I am still a newbie at all this but I do have that tendency in other areas.


  7. Wow Carol, what a post! Loved it. You are absolutely right about being in our “comfort zone”. I have my own story about that- 😀
    I am so proud of you—-I sometimes imagine myself (before hitting send) holding my nose and jumping into the deep. Will I sink or swim? Sometimes we have to jump off the dock before we can swim though, don’t we?
    Hugs, blessings and praying!

  8. Great post, Carol. Congratulations on conquering your hesitation. If I ever get to the place where I’m ready to send off my MS, I’ll find out if my finger freezes on the send button.

  9. Good for you, Carol. I’ve hovered over a many fearful send button. It does get easier. But it’s all about balance. Do look for those sites that give feedback because that in itself is a learning curve. Best of luck, Carol. I have no doubt whatsoever that your work will find a home. It’ll be as natural as God bringing us together.

  10. Good for you, Carol! Sometimes we have to jump in with both feet and wait to see what happens.

    I recently encourages another author, who is very shy about publicity, to sign up with another writer who was looking for authors to interview for on her website as a way of giving back. This writer is well established and has a substantial following. Great idea by the way. Reluctantly, my friend took that plunge, sent off an email to say she would be interested in being interviewed, and I was happy. It was not until the next morning that I realized that although I had encouraged her to sign up for an interview I had failed to take my own advice. I knew why. It was also outside my comfort zone to approach this writer. I know it may sound silly, but it’s how I felt. Being the person to make the first move is difficult for me.

    You’ll be happy to know that I also took the plunge and am on her list now.

    I loved the little prodding you got, by the way. It’s nice to know that if we aren’t looking out for ourselves, someone else is, and we’d best be paying attention. 🙂

  11. I see I’m not alone in my tendency to hesitate. 🙂
    Shari – I expect you’re right. If we don’t risk, we won’t move out of the comfortably familiar, and there’s not much new to be learned there.
    Dina – Freelancing gave me a lot of experience in approaching editors with proposals but for some reason I never felt there was as much at risk as in these murky waters of fiction publication.
    Fearfulgirl – A little hesitance can be a good thing if it makes us take the time to go back and double-check for readiness. It’s the paralyzing “I can’t do it at all” feeling I have to fight.
    Terri – I have a feeling you’ll do very well at that conference! You wouldn’t have been invited if you hadn’t previously proved your ability. Attendees won’t expect you to be perfect. They’ll appreciate hearing what you have to say if you give it to them honestly. Remember, your safety net is under you. 😉
    Judith – Thank you. I’ve taken pleasure in an assortment of artistic endeavours through the years but have only stayed with a few.
    Elderfox/Earlene – It’ll be WHEN, not if, and yes, a celebration will definitely be in order.
    Tianyu – I’m glad you found your way back. I welcome your comments here.
    Katt – LOL! Yes, it’s hard to swim the distance while still standing on the dock!
    Carol Ann – Even sending mss off for critiquing can be stressful, but I know it’s a necessary part of the process.
    Joylene – Your encouragement always means a lot, thanks. I know you’ve ‘been there’. Just last week we finally managed to establish a novelists’ critique group in town so that adds another welcome area of support.
    Laura – You made me laugh! Yes, often it’s easier to give advice than take it. Glad you’ve stepped out there, too.

  12. A fantastic post, a terrific synthesis of what you read. It’s making me think…

    Blogging has made pressing “send” easier (but not easy). Still, some of my (smaill but) best rewards have come from quick queries that I didn’t over think. CBC Radio interviews, etc.

    Here’s to being out of our comfort zone.

  13. Thank you. I’m finding your posts are just what I need right now. This one resonated with me in more ways than just my writing–I finished reading and burst into tears.

    Here’s to overcoming fear!

  14. Moving outside our comfort zone is always hard. Congrats on sending off that contest entry!

    I don’t think fear is what holds me back anymore, though it was a major factor when I first started writing. Now I seem to lack motivation. As you mention, I’m comfortable with what I’m doing–so I keep doing it. I guess it’s time to push a little harder toward my goals.

  15. Thanks for all your comments. I don’t imagine anyone appreciates being shoved out of their comfort zone, but as Shari said earlier, it’s probably where most of our growth happens.

  16. “Moonrise” is beautiful, as are all your blog posts. Congratulations on sending your submission. I’m sure it wasn’t easy and can only imagine what a relief it must’ve been when your finger finally did hit “send.” Repeated exposure is the only way I’ve been able to desensitize myself from some of my fears. Not easy. But effective. I have a lot of work to do. : )

  17. Carol, I finally got my first contract, two actually in February and it took me days to sign them! Once I signed it was official. The moment I had anticipated, desired, feared all of these years. It took a good measure of prayer to finally do it. I’m so glad I did!

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