What’s Wrong With Me and My Comfort Zone

Didn’t make the finals of The CWA Debut Dagger 2009 Contest sponsored by The Crime Writers’ Association in the UK. Disappointed? Yes I am because the fifty pages of WHAT CAME BEFORE seemed pretty good to me.

Of course, I wrote the dang novel and mine is a typical authorial response. It’s either adorations for one’s own work-in-progress or clear unadulterated loathing. But I don’t hate this novel. I love it and I’ve been back at work on it. There’s no reason I can’t get this sucker finished. None. Other than fear of finding out it is, after all, shit.

But I’ve learned to accept rejection as part of my personal scheme of things. I’m comfortable with rejection. I can deal beautifully with it. So does that mean I’m more comfortable with failure than success? Is it possible that there’s a deep groove in my programming that keeps me locked down when the prison gate is wide open? How can that be? Or is it just as simple as FEAR.

Is it the only thing that stands in my way of getting this novel ready for submission? I complain of daily distractions from my REAL life, but there’s only one reason I haven’t edited it, shaped it, laid in the good thematic, pay-off, symbolic stuff that’s in my head. FEAR. I have it in spades.

The question is, is it fear of failure…or success?


  • No one will like it.
  • I can’t sustain it.
  • I’ll write myself in a corner, fall into an abyss, get lost in the maze, give up.
  • I will offend African-Americans, Hispanics, the Japanese, and whites since it’s an LA story and has to be authentic.
  • I will fail at authenticity.
  • I will constantly repeat myself.
  • I will write something so ridiculous that there will be a plethora of holes in walls throughout the world from readers hurtling my tome across the room.
  • I will be embarassed and humiliated.
  • I will be discovered as a phony, poseur, a pretender.
  • People won’t read it. (Well, the main reason to date is no one will read it because it’s locked up in my computer while I’m busy taking naps and playing Spider Solitaire).
  • I can’t write anything longer than 2000 words that will sustain interest.
  • Basically, I suck.

But the novel’s not bad. Really. And I have to keep remembering my plan, a small step (or chapter) at a time.

What about FOS?

  • If I succeed with one novel, I’ll never be able to write again.
  • Everyone I know will think they’re in it.
  • I’ll be sued and ridiculed.
  • I won’t be able to get anything else done.
  • I’ll fail at booksignings and have to replace everyone’s books because I’ve misspelled my own name.
  • I’ll offend book sellers and fans because I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.
  • I’ll have to lose weight so I’ll look slick and successful and won’t get tired on book tours. (Ixnee on the an-pay akes-cay.)
  • I won’t be able to wear black because it’ll be too hot in Tallahasee.
  • Oh, worse! I’ll have to leave my house and be kind to mean people.
  • I’ll be permanently out of my comfort zone!

Natalie Goldberg once said that the closer we get to breaking free of our comfort zones, the more deeply-buried fear will fight back. So maybe all this angst is a good thing???

Special NOTE: I may need to keep making these declarations of inadequacy for a few more days. It’s obnoxious. I know that. But what’s a public forum good for if I can’t use it to browbeat myself into action?

4 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Me and My Comfort Zone

  1. Madeline

    Hang in there, Gay!

    Your line about misspelling your own name at a book signing cracked me up. (Of course, now I have to add that fear to my own list! Ack!)

  2. Sarah Hilary

    Oh, Gay! Your lists are EXACTLY how I feel about my novel. EXACTLY. But know this: you are a talented and patient writer and What Came Before is a terrifically readable story. You just need to chip away one bit at a time at that wall that’s building in your head. As soon as I can be, I’ll be back in the buddy zone, setting targets on our blog and Getting Black on White. You can do this. WE can do this. See you soon.

  3. sylvia

    I definitely suffer from fear of finding out. And after four-fucking-months of edits (AND I AM STILL NOT DONE) I am feeling somewhat … frustrated in between bursts of “this is the best thing I’ve ever written” quickly followed by “but what if that’s true forever, wouldn’t THAT be depressing”.

    I think you are on the right wavelength, though. I think about the novels I love and I really do not believe that the authors found them easy to write. Part of the strength of the writing is breaking out of comfort zones. This is NOT comfortable and it’s not supposed to be.

    I don’t think this novel is everything I dream that it should be but I do know that someone else could not write it on my behalf and I know that I am writing it as best as I know how to.

    That has to be enough.


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