Friday Links #10

I wrote about overcoming fear earlier this week. Both as a twenty-year old venturing overnight into the woods alone — one who grew up in the sprawling strip-mall hell of central New Jersey mind you — and as a writer focused on his debut novel after a career of semi-technical writing. My post on Tuesday talked about the need to confront those fears and persevere, which is important, but I had forgotten another element of the battle: our training.

One of the reasons I enjoy mountain biking is that, unlike running or bicycle touring, you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing. There’s not a lot of room for daydreaming when its only a matter of inches between you and a tree . . . or worse. I was riding with some friends the other day, at a nearby trail system that I hadn’t ridden since 2013. The trails there are steeper and more technical than the ones I’ve been riding since returning home and I was nervous. Football players returning from injury often talk about the need to just take that first big knock-down tackle to fully feel comfortable back on the field. They need to get hit — hard! — to prove to themselves that they still have what it takes. That’s how I was feeling. I even mentioned, half-seriously, hoping I’d crash so I could just dust myself off and not have to fear that inevitable slam anymore. I needed to rid myself of the doubt that had crept up.

I’d been away from mountain biking for nearly two years — I wasn’t injured, just away — and I’d been riding scared since returning. The group wanted to ride a trail I hadn’t ever ridden before, one I thought was a bit over my head even when my skills and confidence were at their peak. I nervously agreed. I didn’t have to. I could have descended an easier trail, but I wanted to face that fear head-on. Fingers crossed.

Small drops, precarious switchbacks, and blind turns and roll-overs into tangled balls of tree roots made for an exciting ride. I didn’t crash. I didn’t clean the trail without briefly walking two of the more techy bits, but I rode nearly all of it. And I had a lot less fear when I got to the bottom. I realized, thinking back to the blog post, that it’s fine to say to just confront your fears and cast your worries aside, but there’s more to it than that. One needs more than blind faith. We have to have a collection of tools to rely on. As a mountain biker, every trail I rode the past twenty years has helped to build the skills and muscle memory that, even when dormant, could be called upon in a pinch to keep the rubber side down.

I didn’t confront my fears of bears and human assailants that night in the woods alone. I had experience with me. I had all those of the nights backpacking with others and the memories of being in the forest as a child, tagging along on hunting trips with my dad as a young boy. The memories and the experience I had gave me the strength to defeat those fears.

And it’s the same now as I see my manuscript pile up, the story grow in complexity, and worry about plot threads and character arcs and the myriad revisions I’ll need to do. No, I’ve never done this particular task before, but I’ve been writing my whole life. I’ve survived projects I thought would break me; I met deadlines I thought impossible; and I know I could do this. I have the tools. I just need to rely on them. It’s all we have to do. Chances are, you have the tools and experience too. Trust your instincts. Everything we’ve ever written before hand, even if unrelated, is a deposit in the bank. Go ahead and make that withdrawal. Call on your experience. It’s there. Believe it.

Bookish Links

  1. 49 Headline Formulas to Skyrocket Your Conversions – A huge part of life as an indie author is marketing, whether we like it or not. This link shares 49 despicable, click-bait, formulaic suggestions that have, unfortunately, been proven to be highly effective in today’s online world. Contained in the link are the headline writing recipes you see employed by such sites as Buzzfeed and Upworthy. I don’t like them, but I can’t argue their effectiveness, though I wish I could.
  2. Why Exclusivity is Bad (Unless You’re Amazon) – Nick Stephenson makes a great case for ditching being exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select program (which I am a part of) and getting your e-books out there on B&N and Kobo and iTunes. He has a large series of books and a mailing list in the tens of thousands, which certainly helps. If I had multiple, longer books (“One Lousy Pirate” is only 62 pages) I would do the same. But for now, I’m sticking with KDP, especially as the number of people borrowing my book through Amazon Prime grows. This month I’m on pace to earn as much through pages read as I will through sales. And you only get a piece of that pie through KDP.
  3. A Plagiarism Scandal is Unfolding in the Crossword World – A really interesting piece of investigative reporting from FiveThirtyEight, one of my favorite websites. Best of all, this article has been updated this week with a reply from the publishers involved and the actions taken in response to this story.
  4. A Three-Book Deal in Sheep’s Clothing –This is a few month’s old, but still really interesting (and a source of hope). It’s about John and Jennifer Churchman’s journey from being a self-published writer/photographer team of children’s books begging local book stores to stock their  book to where they are now: in possession of a three-book deal with a major publisher. If you like sheep or children’s books, don’t miss this.
  5. The Groucho Marx Syndrome – Speaking of fear… this is an interesting, eye-opening story about the fear of acceptance. Shawn Coyne tells a story told to him by an agent friend of his. She was ready to represent a new author who had written a fantastic debut novel, only he was unwilling to work with her. He lost his confidence. The whispers of doubt got the better of him.

Bonus Link!

Cold Case: The Country’s First Urban Bike Park Seeks a Second Coming  – The Colonnade Bike Park in Seattle, built a decade ago underneath Interstate 5, was extremely popular . . . until it wasn’t. This story about Colonnade in Bike Magazine tells the cautionary tale about a revolutionary place. I’d been to Colonnade three times: once for a work party, once at the grand opening, and once to ride it.

Post Image by Andy C, used under Creative Commons

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