Tag Archives: fear

Don’t Call Procrastination Laziness. Call it Fear. (PART TWO)

In part one of this two-part blog series, we talked about the difference sections of the human brain—the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex—and how they each affect our decision-making processes. We discovered that our unconscious, compulsive, automatic fear of things unknown is created in the reptilian portion of our brains. And we discussed that any of the irrational concerns we may have about book publishing, sales, and marketing are variations of the exact same thing: the reptilian brain’s unconscious, automatic “fight or flight” survival instinct triggered by its fear of the unknown.

Instinct is a good thing that serves a valid purpose in our lives. God gave us all an instinct for a reason, and we should pay attention to it; but, whenever your fear of the unknown has you avoiding potentially advantageous opportunities simply because they’re new to you, then it’s time to consult with your more evolutionarily advanced neocortex—the logical, rational portion of your brain—by writing your fears down. Articulate them to yourself in writing. Read them out loud to yourself. When you do this, you’ll begin to see just how irrational many of those fears really are.

Fear #1: What if it’s a bad idea?

I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve sat and had a coffee with who have sheepishly shrugged their shoulders and said, “It’s probably a stupid idea. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.”

To which I always reply, “How long have you been thinking about this idea? When did it first come to you?”

For many of them, the answer is, “Several months.” For others, the answer is, “Several years.”

I always tell them the same thing: “An idea is a life form of its own that wishes to be expressed. It wants to be given life, and it has chosen you as the conduit for its life. That’s a gift . Accept this gift and use your God-given talent to give it the expression and life it craves. The fact that you’ve been thinking about this idea for several months or years tells you that it’s not simply a fleeting thought. It’s a real living, breathing thing.”

As an entrepreneur starting my own book publishing business, and writing and selling my own books, I had my moments when I thought to myself, “Maybe this is a bad idea.” I’m just like you. What I did, in those moments, was seek out inspiration from other people who had succeeded before me, to help me push through that fear and self-doubt. I read books. I watched videos. I used whatever tools I could find to help myself move forward.

One of my most cherished sources of inspiration is a video of Sara Blakely (2011), the founder of Spanx, Inc., speaking to a group at The Edge Connection in Atlanta, Georgia, about how she built her hosiery company from a mere $5,000 initial investment into a billion dollar empire in a short ten years. Very early in her presentation, she describes listening to a speaker at a convention who stated that he would prove to the room, in only four words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! Sara herself eventually went on to prove to the many early doubters, in only two words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: FOOTLESS PANTYHOSE!

I highly recommend this video of Sara Blakely to all authors who doubt themselves and their current ideas—whether it’s a book topic idea or a sales idea you have for an already-published book. It is a beautiful example of what’s possible when one pushes past that instinctive, reptilian-brain fear and perseveres in the achievement of a goal—any goal. For those who love humour, you’ll enjoy this video all the more. This woman is not only inspirational; she’s downright hilarious. I truly admire her on so many levels.

Fear #2: What if nobody reads it?

Well, then nobody will read it. And you’ll be no further behind nor any further ahead than you are today. You’re surviving right now, right? Fear busted.

Fear #3: What if people read it and don’t like it?

First of all, if people are reading it, that’s a good thing! That’s the ultimate goal!

Second, accept the fact that you’re entitled to your own opinions— and so is everyone else. Once you can do that, you’ll experience a freedom you’ve never experienced before.

When I published my first book, everything was quite new to me, and I had an expectation (possibly an unfair one) that my friends and family members should support me 100 percent and compliment me on my book, no matter what they thought of it. Luckily, that did happen with my first book. Everyone around me was very supportive.

Unfortunately, when my second book came out, it was a different story. I received an unexpected criticism from someone dear to me that left me shocked, hurt, and unsure how to react. I’ll be honest; it took me a couple years to come to a place where I was willing to put myself out there again. During that time, I had to rethink my expectations of those closest to me and find a way to remain confident in myself and my craft regardless of others’ opinions.

In retrospect, I’m glad I experienced that criticism so early in my publishing career because it taught me a valuable lesson about how I should measure the true merit of my work. A few times, I’ve had to ask myself the question: What is the truth here? Is it the joy and enthusiasm I felt when I held a printed copy of the book in my hand for the very first time? Or is it the self-doubt I felt when someone criticized it later on? Which one of those two moments will I use to determine the value of my book?

A wise woman named Lisa Nichols once said:

Oftentimes, you give others the opportunity to create your happiness, and many times they fail to create it the way you want it. Why? Because only one person can be in charge of your joy . . . and that’s you. So even your parent, your child, your spouse—they do not have the control to create your happiness. They simply have the opportunity to share in your happiness. Your joy lies within you.

A beautiful sentiment, don’t you think? I believe the same can be said for self-confidence and faith.

I’ve gone into every book project since then with a new set of expectations that take the pressure off both me and those around me. It’s always nice when people acknowledge a new book with a hearty congratulation, but I’ve decided that’s where their obligation ends. I no longer base a book’s worth on whether others read it, agree with it, enjoy it, or discuss it with me after the fact. The truth I try my best to hold onto is the joy I felt when I held that first printed copy in my hand. I hope you will do the same for you. I hope you will find a way to hold onto your enthusiasm even if you come up against any criticism along the way—whether it’s from friends, family members, reviewers, or anyone else. Keep writing! Keep the faith!

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Don’t Call Procrastination Laziness. Call it Fear. (PART ONE)

From the very beginning, one of my primary goals has been to ensure that all authors have access to professional-quality book publishing, sales, and marketing—even those who can’t easily afford these services. Every year, I’ve offered this opportunity to them in the form of simple contests and free giveaways. But, far from helping more authors transform their dreams from the invisible into existence, this exercise has instead provided me with some very interesting insight into the mind of an artist. It has made me rethink my whole strategy and tweak my focus so I can help these people in hopefully more effective ways.

In part one of this blog series, we’ll take a closer look at the experiment, the result, and the subsequent conclusion I came to regarding what is stopping people from moving forward with their books. In part two, which will follow in a few days, we’ll look at some effective strategies an author can use to work with his or her own brain rather than battling against it. Success as an author is just around the corner once you can conquer this.

The Experiment

The first year, I took out a specialty insurance policy which allowed PPG to offer authors a chance to win $100,000 in cash if they referred aspiring authors to us who ended up purchasing one of our book publishing packages, if they purchased one of our book publishing packages toward the publication of their own book, or if they could prove they sold fifty copies of their already-published PPG book in a bookstore consignment deal. Long story short, there were very few entries into this contest and nobody won. I deemed this experiment unsuccessful because it didn’t drum up anywhere near the new business I had hoped for; and, I attributed that lack of interest to the fact that it required people to invest a significant amount of time or money upfront for a chance to win, and that it was only a chance instead of a guarantee that at least one person would win.

So the next year, I offered a chance to win $5,000 toward a professional PPG publishing package to all Canadian adults aged eighteen years or older with a guarantee that one person would win. This time, no one had to pay any money upfront. People could qualify for more than one chance to win in various ways: by liking our Facebook page; by following us on Twitter; by subscribing to the PPG Publisher’s Blog; or by joining the PPG Writers Forum. I figured there would be much more interest across the country—and there was—but something curious happened. Despite the fact that we had quite a few contestants and one seemingly solid winner, a book was never published as a result of this contest.

The Result

Despite being given the opportunity—the written guarantee!—to have a professional-quality book published free of charge, in which 100 percent copyright ownership of both the written words and the artwork produced for that project would remain with the author, our winner still procrastinated on publishing the book for several months. Halfway through the year, we had a conversation about this. I expressed to this author that the prize was to have a book published within the year; and if we didn’t begin the publication process within the next month or two, it would be impossible to have it completed within the year, which would render the contest null and void. I provided a deadline that the winner agreed to meet; and it was also agreed that if we didn’t begin publication of the book by that date then, out of fairness to the other contestants, the contest would be re-opened to them.

The winner procrastinated some more . . . right past the agreed-upon deadline. So, a letter was sent out to all of the contestants (including the winner) offering everyone one more crack at this prize. (This letter was also posted publicly on the PPG Facebook Page.) Due to the lateness in the year, everyone was given two weeks to submit their properly-formatted manuscripts and artwork to PPG in order to qualify, otherwise the contest would be deemed null and void. Four of these contestants (including the first winner) expressed a solid interest and said they had books ready to go, so it was hopeful for one gleaming moment in time that we might have ourselves a winner. But guess what happened? Everyone procrastinated past the deadline. No one submitted their work. The contest was deemed null and void.

I can vividly recall one of these contestants using the excuse of limited time. “It’s going to take me four hours to put together everything you need in order to submit my book to you. I don’t have that kind of time right now.” I’ll admit I was not only shocked by this but also a little annoyed. I didn’t respond to the comment. I didn’t know how to respond to that, because I found it so perplexing that someone would abandon $5,000 in free cash for only four hours of work. It was the equivalent of me paying that person $1,250 per hour to do what needed be done to get that book ready for our professional publishing process; and yet, this contestant still wouldn’t (couldn’t?) do it: nor would any of the others.

The Conclusion

I’ve come to realize that an author’s procrastination has very little to do with him or her being too frugal to invest the amount of money that is necessary to produce a professional quality book; because, even when given the opportunity to do it for free, many people still can’t bring themselves to do it. And it has even less to do with simple laziness. This is about fear. Only an intense fear of something can prevent an author from publishing and selling his or her book. But a fear of what? That’s the question.

Or maybe a more accurate way to word that question would be, “What exactly causes fear?” And perhaps the answer is simple genetics—a surplus, irrational “fight or flight” survival instinct that is still present in the human brain even after thousands of years of evolution. According to an article titled The Brain from Top to Bottom, written by Bruno Dubuc and posted on McGill University’s website,

The first time you observe the anatomy of the human brain, its many folds and overlapping structures can seem very confusing, and you may wonder what they all mean. But just like the anatomy of any other organ or organism, the anatomy of the brain becomes much clearer and more meaningful when you examine it in light of the evolutionary processes that created it.

Dubuc goes on to compare the three components of the human brain: the reptilian brain; the limbic brain; and the neocortex. Of these three components,

The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive.

Your unconscious, compulsive, automatic fear of things unknown is created in the reptilian portion of your brain. It’s purely instinctual, just like reptiles. They don’t “think” or “rationalize” things through. Nor do they have any sort of emotional response to things. Reptiles simply react out of their natural survival instinct. When they are faced with a common situation that’s known to them, they either live in/on it . . . or they eat it. When they are faced with a potentially threatening (unknown) situation, they run and hide. Theirs is a pretty simple, straightforward existence.

Instinct is a good thing that serves a valid purpose in our lives. God gave us all an instinct for a reason, and we should pay attention to it; but, whenever your fear of the unknown has you avoiding potentially advantageous opportunities simply because they’re new to you, I encourage you to consult with your more evolutionarily advanced neocortex—the logical, rational portion of your brain—by writing your fears down. Articulate them to yourself in writing. Read them out loud to yourself. When you do this, you’ll begin to see just how irrational many of those fears really are.

There are the fears that come up before you’ve published your book, and then the ones that creep in during the publishing process itself. And if that’s not enough, once you get past those and actually publish your book, then there’s the fear of book sales and marketing to contend with—the anxiety you feel at the idea of exposing yourself publicly. Julia Cameron put it best in her book titled The Artist’s Way when she wrote:

Do not call procrastination laziness. Call it fear. Fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing. The fear of failure and of success. The fear of beginning at all. There is only one cure for fear. The cure is love. Use love for your artist to cure its fear.

All of your concerns about book publishing, sales, and marketing are variations of the exact same thing: the reptilian brain’s unconscious, automatic “fight or flight” survival instinct triggered by its fear of the unknown and coupled with its inability to feel love. That’s it. That’s the cause right there.

My goal in writing this blog entry is to do my best to put your reptilian mind at ease so you can use your neocortex more effectively in the successful publishing, sales, and marketing of your book. In fact, you’re going to use more than your logical neocortex. You’re also going to learn how to put your emotional limbic brain to good use so you can appeal to others’ limbic brains to get them to buy your book after its been published.

As Zig Ziglar, a well-known and often-quoted American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, so aptly stated, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” The most effective salespeople appeal to their customers’ emotions to sell their products and services. I hope to teach you some effective ways to do this so you can publish that book at long last and enjoy more commercial sales success as an author. That is my intention.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2016 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.