Today I return to a theme that has been a constant for much of my life; that of the fear of rejection. Indeed, anyone who’s ever read anything I’ve written will have glimpsed the “if only” theme in the background. They will also have seen that, rather late on in life, I have actually been able to change things, pretty fundamentally. Yet, anyone who really knows me will have gathered that I do still hold myself back. So, how does this manifest itself?
Firstly, however, I’d like to start with apologies for any arrogance or conceit that comes across in regard to what I actually have achieved. In the main it’s anger at the fact that, at each stage, what I saw as a destination, a mark of some achievement was, in fact, just another step along the way before another big change. It’s taken to my 70’s (where did the time go?) to face up to the final hurdle. The first stage of which was to acknowledge that deep seated fear for what it is. So there, I’ve said it and, what’s more, it didn’t hurt, although it did make me feel uncomfortable. So how, you might ask, does someone who, for years, has stood up in public to talk about his life and what he’s done, overcome that fear of rejection when facing an audience?
Well, it’s quite simple, I have my prompts. Without them, I’m lost, with them, I’m actually quite an accomplished speaker. When I’m at my best, I may not even take them out of my pocket. However, the knowledge that they’re there is what counts. With them, I can ad lib knowing that I can return to base at any time. The funny thing is that when I’m at home with Gaynor, I often make her laugh with my soliloquies and funny voices, yet I can’t do that in public, unprompted. It’s as if I need some sort of supportive environment in which to flourish. Something that I recognise to be the case.
So, what about my real love, writing? After all, it’s what I wanted to do for 30 years yet managed to persuade myself that I couldn’t. Yes, I had a way with words but 60,000 of them, that was a mountain and one that I was incapable of even attempting. Yet I knew that there was a powerful imagination that, along with that way with words, provided me with the necessary ingredients. I also knew that I had the story that I wanted to write; that of my life. So it was that, in my early 60’s, I decided to do just that. The secret, if there was one, was in discovering how. At which point I remembered the words of an author who, when asked how someone who’d never done it before, could begin, replied, “Well, you could start by writing!” So that’s what I did and, each time I found something else to do, making a cup of tea or washing up, I went straight back to the computer. With that persistence, the block was removed and the words appeared as if from nowhere. A week or so later, I‘d written nearly 20,000 words and become a writer.
Since then, I’ve written and published four books, all nonfiction. Yet that, much desired, novel remained out of reach. I had no framework around which to structure those words, merely them and my imagination. It was then that I recalled an incident that Gaynor had described when Ellie, our daughter, was a baby. That became the door to my thoughts and I wrote the story that became, “Finally Meeting Mum”; someone who, by then, had been dead for 70 years. It is, even if I say so myself, a good read. Moreover, there are now two other books nearly finished and a second novel also started. I have become an author and that feels really good. And my point is?
The point is that, despite the reviews, I have proved to be completely incapable of marketing my books. It’s as if the writing and publishing were enough in themselves. Yet I know that’s just a defence mechanism, an excuse. In fact, it’s the fear of rejection that holds me back. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be trying hard to break the mould. You will note that I say “trying” and I know that I’ll do that. That fear is sufficiently deep rooted, however, that, despite all the evidence of my own accomplishments to the contrary, that fear lies in wait. This time, however, that’s all it will do. I, on the other hand, will be making sure that I do my bit by overcoming it.