Writers–Facing Your Oogie-Boogie Man

Fear. Ah the four-letter word that has the power to kill all of your dreams, the proverbial “Oogie Boogie Man” to all writers. The interesting thing about fear is that it can be so subtle we don’t even realize how much it has permeated our lives. At the end of this month (Lord willing) Who Dares Wins Publishing will be releasing my book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. In this book, I give you a blueprint for a solid platform that is easy to maintain and grow and help you form a brand. That is the simple part. The tough part is what you must face before you ever sign up for a FB account.

Fear.

One of the largest reasons many authors fail is fear. Namely, fear of failure. A few weeks ago we discussed what it meant to be a brand. If you haven’t read this blog, I highly recommend it. One of the largest stumbling blocks for writers is, of all things, using their name.

Writers loooove monikers. Why? Because we are creative souls who feel too confined to tweet using the name of our human self who happens to be trapped in a boring plane of existence?

Maybe.

Or maybe it is because we are afraid to fail. When we put our name on something, we claim it for good and for bad. If all goes well, we are eager to jump in and shout, “That was me! My idea!” But what about when we are facing the unknown? When we cannot count on things turning out rosy?

I know that when I first made the decision to become a writer almost a decade ago I met with massive resistance from friends and family who could not understand why I would walk away from a lucrative career in sales to be…a writer? I am sure they had shared visions of me wearing a beret and hemp sandals, chain-smoking and writing bad poetry in front of Starbucks. And I can laugh now, but those were some dark times.

One year I was buying designer clothes and traveling the world. The next year? I hoped I could scrape together enough loose change to afford a box of crackers, because I’d paid rent and didn’t have any money left for food. I slept on the floor because I didn’t own a bed. My family didn’t speak to me for almost four years. To them, I had thrown away a $50,000 education to pursue a pipe dream.

And on some level, I think, I did too. I don’t think I bought the idea that writing was a genuine career pursuit. Deep down, despite what my cheap business cards said, I felt that I was a hobbyist. I didn’t have a long list of published works to validate who I was and it showed.

How?

I hid behind a moniker…texaswriterchik.

It took years for me to use Kristen Lamb. Why? Because I had to find the courage to name and claim my destiny. I had to rally the courage to dare to dream and take it on the chin if it went to the dogs. Not easy! It is still terrifying, but I sally forth anyway, even when I want to curl in a ball on the couch and forget about being a social media expert. I have all of you and your comments to keep me being brave, to keep me encouraged. 

How many of you are on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter using cutesy names? I am not here to upset anyone, but to challenge you and help you grow. Professional best-selling authors don’t use quaint monikers. They display their real name proudly. Do a Twitter search for all the top authors, no matter the genre, and you will see my point.

@AnnaDeStefano @Bob_Mayer @ChristinaDodd @JoeFinder @JamesRollins @TeresaMedeiros @Allison_Brennan

If you are writing with the goal of being published, then you need to take this huge step and face your fear. If you don’t, all your activity on social media is doing little to nothing to build your platform (and it is never too soon to start constructing a platform). If you want to be a published author, then it is good to start acting like one. It will shift your mindset and peel away your excuses.

Texaswriterchik didn’t have a business plan, a budget, or write three hours a day no matter what. KristenLambTX, however, does. Changing my name made me accountable. Once my NAME was on that dream, I suddenly felt the pressure—YIKES—but now I also could claim the credit—YAY!

Fear can undermine your success. It can waste your time branding a moniker. It can keep you spread too thinly by trying to write in all genres and never picking one and getting good at it. Fear can make you feel so overwhelmed you don’t even try. Fear can keep you from ever realizing what you could have been…

…unless you make a decision.

Bob Mayer talks about courage in his book Who Dares Wins. Bob always reminds us that courage is acting in spite of fear. Notice he doesn’t say that to be courageous you won’t feel fear. Fear is a very real and highly valuable emotion. Only sociopaths live a life devoid of fear.

Courage is feeling fear…then doing it anyway.

I am looking forward to helping you build a solid social media presence that is effective and easy to maintain and grow. That is the part I can do. But the facing down the fear part? You have to decide. Nothing worth having is easy. We all have our fears, but we also have a wonderful community of other writers who can empathize, and who are great for immoral support. You don’t have to face the Oogie-Boogie Man alone.

So what are some fears you have overcome? What are some fears you need to overcome? Tell us about it.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

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Need help facing your fear? I highly recommend Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer workshop. Bring out the warrior inside, and sign up today. Bob also offers an on-line Warrior Writer so no excuses!

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  1. #1 by Jamie D. (@JamieDeBree) on June 8, 2010 - 9:07 pm

    I’m pretty used to “owning” my mistakes – I make plenty.😉 The reason I didn’t use my real name for a long time though was fear of discovery. What does one do when you finally start building a name for yourself all over the net that has nothing to do with the day job, and the boss or co-workers stumble across your web site, or all the other sites you maintain a constant writing presence at? It’s daunting, even for someone like me who’s pretty careful to watch what times of day I spend on soc. media sites…especially considering the stigma that surrounds writers at work. Typing a document? You must be working on your writing/shirking work. Write romance? How cute. It’s hard to put yourself out there knowing that the discovery that you have this whole complete other job that few people take seriously could change or even undermine people’s professional opinion of you. I have enough issues just as a woman in a male-dominated profession…sadly, writing doesn’t really add to my credibility with IT guys and politicians.

    I’ve gotten over it enough to build my name up as a writer…but that doesn’t mean it’s not a constant worry in the back of my brain, which is why my day job casual title is attached to all my bio’s too – just in case people I work with stumble by.

    • #2 by Kristen Lamb on June 8, 2010 - 9:12 pm

      I knew I could count on you, Jaime. Yeah, I had a hard time owning up to being a social media expert and using my NAME. Gasp! Even though I taught the subject, it still felt…false. I still struggle with it, but according to Bob’s blogs, dfeeling like a fraud is another common fear.
      Thanks so much for sharing! Will anyone else be brave enough?

  2. #3 by Jess on June 8, 2010 - 9:46 pm

    I’ve always used my name. In fact, even though I knew I wouldn’t be good enough for a while, I got my domain name and began using it. The blog isn’t great, the content varies by year, and it doesn’t see any visitors, but it IS the first thing that comes up if you search my name, thanks to 3 years of maintaining it. The second thing that comes up in a search for my name is my twitter, which I use a TON, and is also under my name. So when I’m ready, I’ll at least have that stuff established.

    My bigger fear, I think, is the change that comes with success, not so much failure. If I’m not getting an agent or a book deal, I tell myself I’m still learning, I’m not there yet. It doesn’t have to be real to me if I don’t want it to be. But once I do land that agent? Lordy. I can’t tell if that nauseated feeling is excitement or terror, but I suspect both.

  3. #4 by Jenni Holbrook-Talty on June 8, 2010 - 10:01 pm

    I’ve pretty much always used my “name” whether it be my birth name, Jennifer Holbrook, or my married legal name, Jennifer Talty. There are valid reasons to use a pen name, and Jenni Holbrook has servd me well with Romantic Suspense. I will say, I’m debating on changing my twitter name to JenniHolbrook-Talty, only because all my other things use that, but not sure yet. In the writing world, I’m Jenni Holbrook and now I’m not talking about fear, am I?

    You talked of making a decision. I’m always afraid I’m going to make the wrong decision. I then waffle, unable to make a decision, hoping someone else will make it for me. I’m getting better, however, this fear tends to cripple me and I waste time wondering, worrying about every possible little thing, instead of making a decision and if it doesn’t work, then make a different decision. If that makes any sense.

  4. #5 by Thom on June 8, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    My biggest fear is that I’m violate all the “rules” writers talk about. I tend to write in a conversational style. Maybe that’s my problem, I want to write the conversation in my head, and I don’t spend time to make sure the grammar is perfect. Working on it though.

  5. #6 by Bob Mayer on June 8, 2010 - 11:51 pm

    I like what Michael Hague says: “I’ll do whatever it takes to become successful as a writer, just don’t ask me do . . .” When you fill in that blank and do it, is when things will change for the better.

  6. #7 by Marisa Birns on June 8, 2010 - 11:53 pm

    I use my real name everywhere, partly because I could not think of something wonderfully imaginative!🙂

    I write short stories for now and post link to them on Twitter. Always worried that people who do go to read will say something along the lines of, “What! You stay home to write and THIS is what you can do?”

    So far, no one has said that, but . . .

  7. #8 by Kara on June 9, 2010 - 12:44 am

    This post came at the perfect time for me. I’ve
    been trying to decide if I should use my real name or a pseudonym as a writer and on Twitter and blog comments. I want to use my real name and I agree with your points above, but a scary “stalker” incident when I was a teenager makes me guard my privacy and anonymity. I change my mind from day to day and minute to minute about which name I should use. But this post is making me think I should just go for it and use my real name. I took my first step by using my real first name for this comment, yay me!

    • #9 by Kristen Lamb on June 9, 2010 - 1:20 am

      LOL…go Kara! Yeah, the funny think is that if a person is motivated enough to be your stalker, probably not going to slow them down with a name change unless you plan on going into hiding as well and never do a book signing or speaking engagement. Just plan for success. I hear big burly men named Bruno can be hired relatively inexpensively😀. Thanks for sharing and so glad this post helped!

  8. #10 by Terrell Mims on June 9, 2010 - 2:28 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I do not fear using my name. Sometimes my fear comes from writing a less than stellar product or being one of the 93% who never reaches a second book, but I push those hindering thoughts away. I will be part of the 7% (thanks to you.) It will be done with perseverance, hard work, being professional and above all no fetal positions and Lovespell😉

    • #11 by Kristen Lamb on June 9, 2010 - 3:50 pm

      Terrell, you always know how to brighten my day. To any of you reading, Terrell will be the first of my Warrior Writer Boot Camp to complete a novel using our techniques. He managed to craft and write his entire novel in five months. Whoo-hoo! Rock on!

  9. #12 by Bluestocking on June 10, 2010 - 3:09 pm

    I’m definitely hiding. Since I’m still unpublished, it’s hard to own being a writer and have nothing to point people to. Hence the alias. Plus, if I do never make it, no one will be the wiser. I’m very private like that.

    I do think there’s tremendous benefit to coming out of the closet (so to speak) and saying you are writer, but until I have at least one publication to back it up, my alias will stay.

    • #13 by Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2010 - 5:28 pm

      LOL, well thanks for sharing. It is a process for sure. I didn’t jump out and claim Kristen Lamb right away either. But, permit me to point something out in the reasoning here, because it is pretty common. No one is going to force you to do anything until you are comfortable, btw.

      Most 1st novels fail. Actually 9 out of 10 fail according to the BEA. Why do they fail? Because the writer can’t write? Sometimes. But almost all the time it is due to the lack of an existing brand/platform. The novelists try to sprout a wide readership out of the nothing.

      If you go and read my blog on branding, you see how vital using your name is to creating a platform. The author who intends on being successful doesn’t wait until the book is on the shelves to start marketing. That would be like Hollywood releasing the film and THEN putting out ads and trailers. No! They start pitching a movie before filming is even finished.

      Be careful of the self-fulfilling prophesy.

      I fear I will fail so I don’t use my name. But in not using my name, I hinder any effort to build a solid platform. By not using my name, I have created the same situation (lack of brand/platform) that has been proven to KILL 9 out of 10 novelists. Ergo, I have set myself up to fail, the very thing I feared to begin with.

      I would advise reading Bob’s Who Dares Wins. It gave me a lot of tools to help me realize fear, face it and then deal with it. Everyone is in a different spot in their careers, but if we want to be successful authors we must accept that we will be continually facing failure. Even if we publish the first novel, what about a second? And then there are good reviews and bad reviews. And if a book does really well, what about the next book? Anything less than the prior book could be viewed as a failure.

      You were brave to comment. Start working that bravery muscle in small ways and get out of your comfort zone. And hey, we are here to cheer you on and be by your side,😀.

  10. #14 by Holly Crochet on June 28, 2010 - 7:06 pm

    I am not afraid to use my name, but the thoughts I do fear are “Am I really good enough to write for adults?” I have written a children’s book, and have other stories for children. This felt a safe place to start! I am writing a series on some true events that are funny (I think), and helpful without being preachy, (I hope.) I would like them to be humorous, as humor is so badly needed in this world. Laughter is “good medicine” as it is said. “Am I really funny?” “Would others like my humor well enough, and appeal to enough people to make a book a success?” I would really like to be a writer similar to Erma Bombeck, but its scary. Who can match Erma? I am grateful to have found this site, and step out. The baring of your creative self feels like revealing your soul to a world that would quite cheerfully shred your tender self into tiny bite size pieces, and leave the rest to the buzzards.
    Thank you for listening!

  11. #15 by Sarah A. Wagner on July 17, 2010 - 1:34 pm

    After reading this, I registered domains in my name. That’s an administrative baby step compared to putting together that business plan you mentioned and starting to execute it or filling my new sites with content (gasp), but it doesn’t really reflect what a significant mental and emotional step using your real name represents. It’s like sending personal invitations to a party you’re throwing and being afraid no one will come. Who doesn’t fear investing time and money in decorations, party favors and a buffet only to end up sitting alone, knowing people are walking by but no one’s coming in. At work – like many people perhaps – I believe that if I do my job well, others will notice and voila, I’ll be rewarded. That happens, sure, but I’m finding that a healthy dose of self-respect, self-worth and a smidgeon of confidence are needed in order to inspire others to repspect, value and feel confident about you, too. Using your real name is one of the ways to start. Thanks for the reminder and pep talk!

    • #16 by Kristen Lamb on July 17, 2010 - 1:50 pm

      What a great analogy. Yeah, it is truly terrifying for sure😀. Great luck and let us know where your domains are so we can attend the “party.”

  12. #17 by Amanda on January 10, 2012 - 11:44 pm

    My fear is what will I do if I ever get published & successful all in one leap?. My family and I like our privacy & my common-law husband has learned that being know is not always a good thing. Also I’m currently having major problems (read at a standstill) with my antagonist. And becuse I’m having problems with Blake (my antagonist) my story is not conflicting enough & doesn’t have the pace I want. There is a common known writer’s adage “write what you know” & I’ve never been truly antagonistic with anybody, so you can see my problem.
    Aswell I’m not really scared to use my real name, but throughout my life people have always had an issue with my surname Yaworski; how to spell it, how to pronounce it, etc. So I’ve thought of using my CLH’s last name Lewis but then I have to ask myself if it’s too common… Amanda Yaworski or Amanda Lewis. Also when u search a name as common as that you inevitably find a criminal that was in the news😦 . So finally I was thinking of using something simple, easy to remember & I won’t mistake it… Amber Lewis. What do you think???

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 11, 2012 - 9:00 am

      Yaworski is the better choice. We don’t have to be able to say it, just recognize it and that name is far more memorable. Just think Evanovich😀.

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