Don’t Fear the Rowing Machine

You’ll probably think this is ridiculous, but when I first joined my gym, I was afraid of the rowing machine.

It’s true. I watched people using it, saw them sweat on it, and heard their puffs/wheezes. It looked so hard, I thought I’d never be able to last more than a minute on that thing. I believed it was beyond me, something for really fit people.

Until I tried it.

Sheesh. It was so easy that I cranked it all the way up to 8 (it goes to 10) the very first time, just to make it enough of a challenge. All that fuss I made in my own head, I thought, over this?

There’s an old saying: “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” I’ve learned this lesson before, yet I still cower in fear over the silliest things sometimes. Perhaps you have some experience with this yourself.

Rowing machine aside, physical challenges are not usually the most intense for me. Mental ones are, especially if the New Thing is complex and multi-layered. I know I’m smart enough to handle almost any challenge, but that doesn’t stop the occasional irrational fear.

A few years ago, right after one of the Hampton Roads Writers Conferences, I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. If I was serious about getting my novel published—and I was (am)—there was so much to do! Between tweaking my manuscript, learning to write a query letter and a one-page synopsis, and figuring out how to find the best agent to represent me and my work, the idea of publishing a novel seemed larger-than-life enormous, too frightening to contemplate.

Now, a few years later, this big thing still looms in my future but it’s not nearly so fearsome as in the beginning. By this point, I’ve published one short story and one nonfiction essay, have had a second short fiction piece accepted for publication. (I’ll post here when it’s available.) I have also written three other short stories, two of which are out for consideration. The novel still dangles, a world of potential in 115 thousand words. I’m currently considering self-publishing, which is my new Scary Rowing Machine waiting for me to step up to the plate.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved writing this book, even the editing and tweaking and seemingly endless revisions. But the process of self-publishing is not like writing at all. It’s a completely different ballgame—business, marketing, branding, things I’m not at all comfortable with. Introvert that I am, I think I would rather attend 12 crowded conferences than one small marketing strategy session. To me, those subjects are a whole ‘nother language, much like economics or investments and the stock market; I can balance a checkbook, but don’t question me about finance. The best response I could offer you would be a blank look.

Bobby has done some research on Draft2Digital and Kindle Select for me. He tried to explain what he’s read; a third of the way in, the “tilt” light went on in my head (yes, that’s an old reference; look it up here or here). These bits of alien biz-speak buzzed around my head like mosquitoes, moving too fast for me to catch. So I’ve started a to-do list, which always seem to break down big, intimidating projects into smaller, more manageable pieces. For me, it helps make things more doable, less forgettable, especially when I’m overwhelmed. It can also help me keep track of what’s done and what’s left to do.

One thing on my list is the Twitter pitch party, which happens four times each year. (Thanks for the heads up on this, Jessica and Sylvia!) The next pitch date is June 6. I’ve written several one-line pitches, each of which will be revised at least half a dozen times between now and then. You only get one chance to make a first impression, right? I also need to read other people’s pitches, just for an idea of different approaches to this very tight project. There are a number of webpages out there with advice on how to do this and do it well. I’ve added one to my links pages and will try to add more as I come across them.

I realize that I need better time-management. Between my day job, my weekly workouts at the gym, managing this website, and my socializing and networking on Facebook, somehow I need to also find time for Twitter and any other social media I might require, Reedsy, online study/research, writers’ group, real-time classes and conferences, and of course writing. Sometimes I make my target word count for each day. Other times…. Well, if you’re a writer, you know.

When all that is done, I need a break. I spend a great deal of my day on the computer—both at work and at home—so walking away and giving my wrists and my eyes a rest is essential if I want to keep pursuing a writing career. A schedule would probably help, but I know myself too well. It always looks good on paper but it never works out for me in reality.

So yeah. Starting something new and big and potentially life-changing sometimes scares me. I know that wolf isn’t nearly as large as I’ve made it out to be, and that once I dive in and get my groove going, I’ll wonder why I let this new challenge fluster me so. In the meantime, I just have to keep moving forward, one step at a time and stay on-task as much as possible.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 Replies to “Don’t Fear the Rowing Machine”

  1. There always seems to be a new thing, a new gotta-do-this-too step in getting published that pops up every month. Thanks for being so transparent with your writing struggles and successes.

    1. You’re right, Dennis. Always something new. I know I can’t be the only writer out there who is sometimes intimidated by the sheer scale of All That Must Be Learned. Actually, I recently found a writers group called The Insecure Writers Support Group ( I’ll be listing it in my resources soon, but what a great idea! Sharing a fear robs it of power. Besides, other writers can relate and share, at which point we end up supporting and building each other up. That’s an essential element in any community, I think.

Comments are closed.