One million words later, I still fear publishing

publishing fear

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

He said, “At some point in your life, you have to ask yourself: are you a doer, or are you a talker? Because nothing is cheaper than talk, and nothing more priceless than action.”

It’s the beginning of a novel I’ve written, the ninth so far. I started writing stories about four years ago and unleashed a volley of words only matched by the rapid fire of an assault rifle.  Ratatatataata– about a million words in 36, and when I say a million words, I literally mean a million. My writing software, Scrivener, reminds me of that number every time I open it.

That’s the cool part. The bad part is I haven’t self-published a single word of the million. Which seems pathetic, especially since I’m preaching Seth Godin’s “Ship-It” gospel in every other blog post.

Truth is, writing blog posts and illustrating client designs is one thing, a full-length novel is another.

Especially if you write it in a foreign language (German is my mother tongue) and want to make sure it’s the crème de la crème.

It’s as if the lizard brain is lurking behind my back, about to ram my head into the desk when I want to finally publish my story. Shouting at me, “No, it’s not good enough, rewrite ! Edit ! Write the next story !” Argh. I know it’s only in my head, but in the twenty-first century, emotional labor is the most challenging.

So far, I’ve wanted to publish each story, edited it to death, and then dropped that mess of a wordpocalypse into the abyss of my hard disk drive. Telling (lying to?) myself that the next one would be better. Unfortunately, nine full-length novels and four years later, I’m still enslaved to that way of thinking.

Why? Because of the ever looming F-Word.





Your brain is the greatest horror writer in the world. It creates worst-case scenarios that never happen, and probably never will.

In my case, it “tells” me the horror stories that could occur once I publish my book.

Ugly stuff, like a one star review because a reader found too many mistakes.

Hate mail from angry folks who thought my story wasted their precious time.

Or how about low sales that turn my books into bona fide digital dust collectors?

The list doesn’t end here, but at some point, you have to deal with these challenges. One way of accomplishing this is a method I’m using to try to deal with this myself.

Short-term goal: good enough.
Long-term goal: never good enough.

Meaning, “good enough” is the modus operandi for now.

Similar to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in the startup world, you create a product, e.g. a blog post, a book, that “works” at its core, but doesn’t come with special features. Once you ship it to the world, you ask yourself how to improve, or how to create a better product the next time. But only AFTER you’ve shown it to the public.

This way, you actually gain either money or at least insights from your customer, because a creator without a consumer is useless. If you keep focusing on the next big thing instead of showcasing the previous one, you end up with potentially amazing ideas and products the world will never get to see. I see deterrent examples of that destructive habit every week, heck, I see it happening in my own family.

My mom’s been working on a children’s book ever since the Soviet Union collapsed. She left the East and settled down in the West of Germany. She is determined to display her intense past in an illustrated story for the young and old alike. Last time I checked, *cough* yesterday *cough,* she was still working on it, a frightening 20 years later. Maybe she should rename her children’s book The Neverending Story.

On the web, the fear of failing, especially the fear of criticism, hits just as hard as in offline life. Our clients, or readers, may sit oceans apart, but their presence can be felt in every thought. It mingles with the voice of being never good enough. With the method mentioned above, I try to trick my own lizard brain so that I can finally publish my first book.

What are you doing to combat that fear? How do you stay productive?

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at Original illustration by the author.

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