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Fear of Success!

For years, I would take low paying jobs, and not really understand why. It was like I was avoiding a “success” career track, and jobs underutilizing my skills felt safer or more comfortable.

Then I began to build a very successful career, almost in spite of my efforts to avoid it.

I was working in the oil industry, and got to the highest pay level for my profession. I suddenly got tired of the work, and quit.

I never could understand what was happening for many years.

Then I uncovered a violent incident from my childhood. My Dad let me know it was dangerous to be successful, or to think I was “better than him.”

I’ve worked hard to turn this pattern around.

The thing that has changed – how quickly I can recognize the pattern and let it go when it crops up.

I’ve been writing promotional scripts freelance, for whiteboard video scripts. It is a LOT of fun – I get to weave a story into the description of the product or service.

Recently, I have worked on:

-A community center for inner city Los Angeles

-Scripts for natural cholesterol, blood pressure and sleep aids

-A large scale initiative to develop homeless shelters

-A program to help college students focus and succeed

-A lot of other projects of a more commercial type

It’s a blast! I’m really enjoying myself, and I am very good at what I do. My creativity is in explode phase, and each project is a new challenge, so the work never gets stale.

A couple of days ago, I realized that the past month was my most successful ever, and that I was crossing a threshold to make this a very successful writing career.

Then yesterday, I could feel myself pulling into “it will never work out” feelings.

I realized that those feelings weren’t based in reality, and indeed – the opposite was happening. I was in reality becoming very successful!

I stepped out of the Fear of Success pattern and disengaged from it.

It took until today for me to realize what a huge deal this is.

The pattern will no doubt crop up again, but I have a way to get out of it. Instead of just living in the pattern, avoiding success, and not being aware.

Now I can succeed, and not try to run from it!

This feels very very good!

:)

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I have been working on final edits for Healing The Writer – A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD for the last month. An editor gave me tremendous feedback to help tighten the manuscript, and I’ve been making great progress on making those changes.

I have known that it would be a big deal to finish and publish this book, because it would directly expose the lies of my grandmother to the light of day, thereby robbing much of their power. It would also contradict her messages about being a writer. I will reclaim a lot of power by publishing this particular book, because of the subject. Even my doctor said “this book is a big deal.”

When I was 8 years old, my grandmother told me if I ever became a writer, they would “call me crazy and lock me up.” She reinforced the message in pretty hideous ways, which included saying the doctor she worked for could have me committed to an asylum, and then showing me what it would be like.

In one section, the editor suggested I might need to dig further down to get in touch with my experience of the worst abuse. I thought I already had, but as I worked on editing that section, I wrote additional content that was the how that little boy felt, at a deeper level than I had ever gotten to it. Later I had a “feeling memory” where I got in touch with what happened to me on a very visceral level.

I feel different about it now. A therapist I worked with for many years emphasized that we had to expose the lies. He used an analogy several times – he said it was like the old movies where Dracula could never face the light of day. If he did, he would wither up and die. I have experienced that effect a number of times, where facing an abuse will suck a lot of power out of it.

I’m in an interesting place. I feel lighter. I am more ready to publish this book. I’m astonished by how healing this process has been.

It feels like a huge victory, and I’m letting it sink in.

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I’ve known for years that I don’t write on a daily basis. It’s better for me if I let thoughts and ideas percolate, and they fall onto paper when they are ready. That is especially true with the next memoir I’m writing, Healing The Writer. I recently posted that I had sent the manuscript to an editor in New York City for a critique. She came back with two major areas I needed to refine. I saw what she was saying, and just leaned back.

I didn’t try to force ideas to the surface for how to handle these manuscript issues. I let them percolate, and didn’t see anything for about a month. Then in a short time, how to handle both issues came to light – and it was easy.

Issue 1 – This book contains several inner child exercises. I write from the adult perspective, and answer from the viewpoint of the 8 year old child who got so badly damaged by my grandmother. The editor pointed out that I needed to make greater distinction between the adult and the child when they were speaking. The child sounded very adult in the ways he responded. I needed to hear the voice of the child more clearly.

Solution – I have been writing freelance articles for the last 2 and a half years, and a while back the client said they wanted some of them written from the perspective of a woman. I found a way to make that mental transition. I wrote a little more from an emotional construct and not as linear, and had a warmer perspective to how I constructed sentences. Suddenly I realized – if I can write from the perspective or a woman, I can sure hear the voice of that 8 year old. “Cool! That’s really neat!” I’ve already rewritten the first inner child passage, and know how to hear the rest to make sure it’s the child speaking.

Issue 2 – The editor said there were a LOT of characters in the book. She said it was hard to keep track of everyone. Part of that is because the book covers 30 years, and there were just a lot of people who came through my life and had an impact – enough that they needed to be in the book. I cut down on the number of people where I could, and then leaned back.

Solution – I decided to differentiate the more important characters by describing them more vividly. It would bring those people to the front in people’s minds, and make them more memorable. The who only had a brief part would be described less.

Instead of: My friend Barry

It became: Barry was one of the most multi-faceted people I’d ever been around. Though he was big, bearded and looked like a mountain man, he was very well read and extremely intelligent – he could speak knowledgeably about a wide range of subjects. He filled his time with a variety of interesting pursuits, like working as a river rafting guide on the weekends. He had just told me about his latest trip down the Guadalupe River, which sounded like a wild adventure. One raft tipped over and they had to rescue the occupants.

I still have a some polishing to do in other areas of the manuscript, but the major issues brought up by the editor have been resolved.

I’m closer to the finish line!

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I haven’t posted a status update on the next memoir I’m working on in far too long. A lot of very powerful things have happened.

A friend nudged me to go ahead with the book, because I could “be editing forever.” I needed the prompt, because this is deep stuff, and it has really forced me to dig deep in my healing journey.

I finally said “enough” with the 4th rough draft, and sent it to an editor for a critique. She did a fantastic job, and gave me some great feedback. She said the book was very far along in terms of being a polished draft, and the voice and storyline were very strong.

She pointed out a couple of areas that needed some smoothing, and I have been working on those for the past month. Just today I had an “aha” moment where I saw how to handle a very pivotal scene. I continue to have the experience that I’ll have some old fears and feelings release, then I can move forward on the book.

I had originally considered self publishing this book. Then I realized I wouldn’t give the book the shot it deserves if I didn’t at least check out traditional publishing. I let go of some feelings around that, and then realized I knew the literary agent I wanted to start with. I had read an interview with her in 2010 in Poets and Writers magazine, and said “that’s who I want to have representing my book!”

Now, her liking and accepting my manuscript is the part which is not in my control. But to submit Healing the Writer to this agent is the part I can control. If she’s not interested, I have a list of other agents I’d like to query.

Things are moving forward. I think I’ll look back in 10 years and realize that this book was healing me on many levels.

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For the last few weeks, I have been developing an outline for the next book I plan to write. At this point, it will tentatively be titled “Healing My Anger – Defusing A Time Bomb.” It is about my journey to unearth and resolve a terrible well of anger and rage I discovered. One of the pivotal points of that book will be about a bizarre event that happened to me – a group of people came over to my apartment late at night, and performed a bogus group encounter with me.

I used to call it an intervention, but I realized that gave the misimpression that what happened was somehow legitimate. It was not – it was an exercise in the power of a group in dysfunction, incited by a strong and charismatic leader. I’ve written about that evening before, in a post called “The Betrayal.” That event led to a whole series of events which propelled my growth in astonishing ways, because it forced me to deal with anger that I hadn’t been able to access previously.

This will be a powerful book – I can tell that already. But for the past several weeks, I’ve had the feeling that I was missing something. I just couldn’t think of what it might be. Then yesterday I realized – I had left out one major event. Then I realized that this would have to be the end of the book. I needed to get it on paper, so I wrote it all down.

It’s the first time I’ve ever written the ending of a book before I wrote the beginning. But it was absolutely the way the book had to end. For a number of years, I had not been around the individual who stirred up the event that night, who I renamed Rob for purposes of the book. We happened to end up at a party together.

******

So here is what I wrote:

In 1996, I decided to move to Austin. I went by a party that was being held by one of the people in the recovery program. It had been a fun party for a number of years, and a source of fond memories for me. Rob and Nancy were there. It was the first time I had been around either of them for quite a while, and naturally there was some awkwardness.

After a few minutes Rob came up to me and said “Dan, can we go outside and talk for a minute?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We stepped outside, and I wasn’t sure what he wanted to talk about. I had gut checked my anger before agreeing to go, and there just wasn’t much steam in those old issues. At most, I felt a little edgy – because of the unknown.

We sat down on a bench outside the party, and Rob lit a cigarette. He sat for a moment, and it looked like he was gathering his thoughts, so I didn’t say anything.

“Dan, I want to apologize for my part in what happened the night we came over to your apartment. That was totally wrong, and nobody deserved to go through what happened to you that night. I am sorry. Genuinely sorry.” He looked me directly in the eyes as he spoke, and I could hear the genuineness and sincerity in the way he said the words. His words were simple, elegant and direct. I was so deeply touched I didn’t know what to say. I was quiet for a moment.

“Thank you for saying that, Rob. I do appreciate it – probably more than I can express right now.”

“Can I give you a hug?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We hugged, and then walked back inside the party.

I lost touch with Rob when I moved, but after that night, for the two of us – we were at peace.

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I have been watching my next book – Healing The Writer – get closer to publication time. But I’ve been short of funds. Having grown up in dysfunction, it just isn’t in my thought process to ask for help. So I think it’s a growth step for me to ask for others to help support me.

A good friend mentioned a site called Kickstarter – where people can support creative projects. As soon as I got onto it, I could tell it was legitimate, and a really amazing concept. There were several Sundance projects which had been funded that way, and one Oscar was won in 2013 from a project funded by Kickstarter. Then I saw that Spike Lee had raised money for his next movie that way.

If I didn’t participate, I wouldn’t have the chance to see if something like this could work for my book project. I had most of what I needed from my previous publishing efforts – bio, etc. I gave up football on Saturday afternoon to record a video. I was ready – and Kickstarter approved my project.

The only thing left was to press “go live,” which was a little (a lot) scary. With amount of traffic on the site, there was either the chance that it could do really well, and pick up viral support – or it could just not get any support at all! But I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

The Project is called simply Healing The Writer, and you can click this link to see what it looks like on Kickstarter.

YEA! I’ve already got my first backer, and the project is only 24 hours old. I’ll keep everyone posted!

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When I began to explore the topic of my writer’s block, I published chapters as I wrote them in Life As A Human magazine. I did that to help me stay focused on the real story in what was a complex and intricate topic, and keep me moving forward with the writing project.  I published 29 chapters that way, and then I was able to see the best way to finish the book.

My friend Karen told me several years ago that she thought Healing The Writer might be the most powerful book I would ever write. Back in April, I read the polished first draft, then set it aside. I think it has taken me six months to fully appreciate the magnitude of the healing journey I chronicled.

Late last night I watched the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus, where he gets to conduct the symphony he spent years writing, played by former students. The final shot in the movie is a closeup of him with a powerful look of serenity on his face – like he accepted what he had created. I think I saw it that way because I had felt myself coming to that same point.

I picked up the Healing The Writer manuscript today and began reading it once more, with an eye to editing needed. I’m ready, and it’s time.

 

Below is the Table of Contents, along with links to the first 29 chapters. (The chapters are in reverse order by publication date in the magazine, and this will give a better idea of how to follow the flow of the book).

Healing The Writer

The desire to express, I was taught to repress,

 Has caused me a block, I wish to unlock.

I pick up the pen, I start writing again.

 I feel the flow –

        And then I stop.

   – Dan Hays October 1986

Part One – Search For Peace

One: Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Two: What To Put On Paper?

Three: I Find My Writing Voice

Four: I Hide Out To Write A Book

Five: Scared To Put It In The Mail

Six: I Walk Away From Publication

Part Two – Nothing Left to Lose

Seven: Ghosts Of The Wheat Harvest

Eight: The Query Letter and The Question

Nine: I Abandon A Book – Again!

Part Three – What Mamaw Said

Ten: They’ll Call You Crazy – And Lock You Up!

Eleven: I Capture The Writing Vision

Twelve: The Creative River Flows Once More

Thirteen: The Writer’s Conference and the Fear

Fourteen: What Is It About That Particular Park?

Fifteen: I Can Have You Committed

Sixteen: The Fear And The Light!

Seventeen: Breaking Through – Moving Beyond Writer’s Block

Part Four – Down To The Roots

Eighteen: Red Rocks and Remembering: A Writer’s Road Trip

Nineteen: A Writer’s Journey of Inspiration

Twenty: The Landscape of a Writer

Twenty One: Publishing a Book: Getting One Step Closer

Twenty Two: A Disappointed Writer and a Backup Plan

Twenty Three: The Fearful Writer – Monsters in the Closet

Twenty Four: How My Writing Got Locked Up

Part Five – Freedom’s Just Another Word

Twenty Five: Insomnia – A Writer’s Night Journey

Twenty Six: Confronting the Fear – A Writer Prepares to Publish

Twenty Seven: “I’d Like To Read Your Manuscript.”

Twenty Eight A: A Writer Revisits High School – Part One

Twenty Eight B: A Writer Revisits High School – Part Two

Twenty Nine: I Am A Published Author

Thirty: A Hopeful Omen

Thirty One: Publicity Can Be Rewarding – Or Maybe Not!

Thirty Two: The Origin of Minute To Freedom

Part Six – Moving To The Light

Thirty Three: I Combine Publicity And Therapy

Thirty Four: Healing The Wounded Child

Thirty Five: Preparing To Leave The Dark Closet

Thirty Six: Independence Day

Thirty Seven: Little Danny Set Free

Thirty Eight: The “Don’t” Messages – Deep Damage Healed

Thirty Nine: Deep Healing and Destiny Arising

Forty: The Terror of the Dark Death

Part Seven – Free To Write

Forty One: Writing For Publication as a Healing Tool

Forty Two: Killing The Octopus

Forty Three: A Sign of Healing – The Poetry Returns

Forty Four: Am I Able To Work – As A Writer?

Forty Five: A Sign of Healing – I Become a Freelance Writer

Forty Six: Epilogue

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