A friend of mine once told me a story about an old woman during a flood. She prayed and prayed and prayed to the Lord for help. Soon after this a big truck with wheels high enough to get through the flood waters came by. The woman refused to get in saying, “The Lord will provide!”
The flood waters came, and the woman had to evacuate to the upper level of her house. A boat came by, but she refused to get in. “The Lord will provide!”
The flood waters kept rising and the woman had to climb out the window to her roof. A helicopter came by, but she refused again. “The Lord will provide!”
Eventually, the flood waters swept the woman off the roof and she drowned.
She arrived at the pearly gates and she said, “Lord, I don’t understand what happened. I prayed and prayed. Why didn’t you provide for me?”
“My darling child,” He said as He placed a tender arm around her and ushered her into heaven. “Who do you think sent you the truck, the boat, and the helicopter?”
I tell you this story because I missed a BIG opportunity this week. I’ve been cleaning up a short story that I had intended to sell to a specific magazine. This magazine loves giving writers their first publishing credit and helping them get on their way. Based on the other work I see in it, my story would have a real shot at getting in, and it would be my first paid writing credit. I’ve finished the story, except for two to three hours for a final pass, then it goes on to my editor. Once she gets it, it will be 6-8 weeks until it’s ready to pitch.
I haven’t finished it for the worst of reasons: something called completion fear. Completion fear keeps me from finishing a project because when I do complete it, I make myself available for judgment. The logic is that if I don’t finish it, I can’t be judged. The fallacy in that logic aside, the idea that I might pass whatever judgement is out there never sinks in beyond the superficial logical level into my heart.
I don’t know when Completion Fear first hit me, looking back, the first time I remember experiencing it was in High School. I was a leader in the high school band, but I was afraid of practicing where *anyone* else could hear me because practicing opened me up to judgement. Now days, I suppose they call it other fancy names, but at its heart, it is the fear of judgement and of found wanting. I have allowed it to cripple me and cripple my writing.
Now that I’ve realized what’s holding me back, and I’ve determined to finish the work, I’ve also received word that the magazine is closing up shop. I missed my opportunity. Now, I can blame this on my ADD, or my unhappy childhood, or the state of politics today, or the color of my socks. But the result is the same: I delayed and lost out. Rather than waiting for the Lord like our hypothetical woman above, I let completion fear get the better of me. But both of us lost for the same reason; the Lord provided, and we let that opportunity go by.
Now that I’ve identified the Completion Fear, sometimes called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (common in people with ADD), I’m going to face that fear and fight it head on, right?
Wrong. I’m a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor.
I’m going to do an end-run around it. In finishing the story and sending it to my editor, I’m not taking the step of having it judged, I know and trust my editor as a person. When that step finishes, then I can face the judgment of publishers with a solid edit standing in support of my efforts.
So much of life is accomplished in the small steps we take. Identifying this fear or figuring out how to deal with it is one, but it is just the first. You may have noticed that I’m starting to put some of my older works online in addition to the Friday Flash Fictions. Opening up in this blog is another small step to sneak around the monster. I’m not big enough to attract trolls, so this is safe. At least I hope it is.
So much of life is accomplished in the small steps we take. Step one- figure out what’s wrong, step two, sneak past it. Would somebody please do a stealth check on my ability to sneak around the monster of completion fear? I’d prefer to not roll for initiative on this one.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What holds you back and what can you do to either push through it or sneak around it?
I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.