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On Hockey, Repainting, and Conquering Fear of Failure

by Amy O'Quinn


I recently got the go-ahead and request to submit a proposal and sample chapter to a publishing company that I hold in high regard, and it would be a major step forward in my career to land a contract with them. Yet, at first, all kinds of thoughts started popping into my head as I held imaginary conversations with myself.


Are you crazy? You can’t do this!

What were you thinking?

Okay, so you got the go-ahead. Now you’re actually going to have to write something to submit!


Despite uncertainty, I did manage to put together a decent proposal which resulted in positive comments and encouraging emails. However, when it came time to start writing the sample chapter, I froze up. I couldn’t get past my fear to begin. With a proposal, it is all about providing an overview, information about the target audience and the competition, and chapter summaries. Yes, you are presenting yourself, your ideas, and a glimpse of your style through your proposal, and it is important. But it is not the whole ‘rubber hitting the road’ scenario—yet.


Sample Chapters and Fear of Failure
The sample chapter is the component that showcases skill and voice, and it can make or break a contract opportunity. No matter how well a proposal is put together, if a writer cannot prove his/her ability to present the content in a skillful and compelling manner, it is a wash. And doubt and fear of failure have caused many a writer to stall or quit.


Think Hockey and Paint
I finally came up with the motivation to start writing that all-important sample chapter.


1. I remembered Wayne Gretzsky’s hockey quote.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

If I’m not willing to try (and fail), I’ll never get anywhere. And I might actually surprise myself and succeed! I must work hard and make the decision to ‘take a shot.’ If I fail, I must pick myself up, dust off my pride, and try again.


2. I considered the painted walls in my home.

I have painted a lot of walls in my life, but sometimes I have not been satisfied with the color after the paint dried. The solution? I simply repainted. The color of my walls was not something I had to live with if I didn’t like the color. Yet I had to actually make the decision to swipe that paint roller across the wall in the first place in order to find out.


You Can’t Revise What You Haven’t Written
I finally decided to open a new Word document on my computer and start writing my sample chapter—whether I liked the result or not. If it turned out to be junk, I could just delete or revise. I also remembered a very important detail. You can’t revise what you haven’t written. Words are not written in stone. They can be changed, just as a wall can be repainted. Repainting. Revision. It’s the same idea. Knowing that my work could be changed was the first step to getting past the paralyzing fear. But I had to begin.


What Now?
I am getting ready to submit my sample chapter soon. I hope my efforts pay off and I end up signing a contract. But if it doesn’t work out, at least I will know I had the courage to ‘take the shot’…‘repaint a few walls’ …and try.


If you are struggling with starting on a project or assignment, just remember there is much wisdom and motivation to be gained from hockey quotes and repainted walls.


You can do it!



*Article originally appeared on The Work Writer's Club website HERE.




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