Imagine growing up beside the ocean and too afraid swim. While my younger brothers dove under breakers and body surfed, I played in the shallows, never letting the ocean surge above my knees.
I had finally summoned courage to swim past gentle breakers, but this day, the ocean was ferocious. Three waves would pile upon each other and crash together. I stood in the wash, allowing my feet to be buried in sand as the water swirled around my ankles and receded.
What’s the worst that can happen? So you get knocked down. You won’t drown. Even if you get in trouble, the lifeguard will pull you out.
Was that a prayer? Was God speaking? Was it nothing more than self-scolding? Whatever it was, it incited action. I walked straight into the next wave without flinching. It shoved me off my feet. I got up. I walked straight into another wave. It flung me down. I rose again, now in hip-deep water. A triple breaker towered over me. For the first time in my life, I dove, and to my wonder, I popped up on the other side, totally unharmed.
Victory! Glee! Another triple-decker slammed into me, and I tumbled. Rising from the shallow water where it dumped me, I ran toward the next wave, and the next, and the next… Fear had been conquered.
When I first started writing fiction, I wanted to "play in the shallows." I hopped into the game of Nanowrimo just to see if I could string 50,000 words together. I could. It was pretty bad, but it was a book-length story. I found a writers group, which meant wading a little deeper into the waters of "writing to publish." Other people would be looking at my work with critical eyes. By participating in contests and conferences, I struggled toward those waves that had the ability to crush my confidence. The first triple-decker towered above me when I sat down to write my first query letter.
I was paralyzed with fear.
What’s the worst that can happen? So you get knocked down. You won’t die. Even if you get rejected, your writing friends will set you back on your feet and cheer you on to victory with the next query.
I added one more bit of advice to myself.
Did God call you to this work or not? If He did, keep writing, keep learning, keep presenting your work to professionals. If He didn't, stop writing and find out what He wants you to do in this season of your life.
A simple challenge, and it worked. To stop writing would be as if I stopped breathing. Like that long ago day on the beach, I chose to face the rough ocean of the publishing world. I wrote the query letter. It was rejected. I lived.
I've written plenty of queries since. Yes, I’ve been knocked down. Some letters were rejected, some were ignored, and a few editors asked to see more (before helpful rejections followed). With each powerful wave, I survive and grow stronger.
I’ve also known the exhilaration of running toward those challenges and finding myself safe on the other side, thrilled with a short story published or reaching finalist status in a contest.
Knowing God is in me and beside me, I conquer fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7.)
If you're new to this writing journey, I hope you don't allow discouragement or fear to stop you from doing what you believe God wants you to do.
And to those of you who are successful in publishing your work, what advice do you have for those of us still waiting for victory as we face those powerful waves?
Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web: