Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moving Forward Without Fear

A while back, I read a story about a man with an extreme case of OCD. As a small boy, he recalls his father yelling at him for having left the lid off of a jar of jelly. That same night his mother dies. And in his young mind the two events become linked. He begins to think that his “mistake” of leaving the lid off actually caused his mother to die. 

An overwhelming fear grips his life, as he comes to believe that one small misstep from him will cause loved ones to suffer or die. He becomes paralyzed – sometimes standing in place for hours – for fear of making the wrong move.

At its worst, Ed Zine's OCD kept him a prisoner in his own basement for years, unable to move forward in his life. His case is extreme to be sure, but to some degree we can all relate. How many times have we let fear stop us?

When Ed strays from his normal, “safe” daily routine, he performs elaborate rituals to “rewind” time to put himself back before the misstep took place.

You can’t read his story without thinking about your own life. Who hasn’t had regrets? Who wouldn’t want a do-over every now and again? Yet, life’s not really about going back. It’s about making mistakes and learning from them as we move forward.

I’ll be delving into revisions this week. It’s been nearly two months since I’ve set eyes on my WIP. I think I’ve safely come through the dreaded “hate stage” and am ready to look at revisions not with the negative outlook of going back to fix mistakes, but with a hopeful eye toward moving forward, and getting closer to the goal of a finished manuscript.

How do you view the revision process?  

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos.


  1. Oh man. This mans story is touching. I think you're right --- you can't read it without reflecting on yourself. I let fear stop me way too often. It is something I am working through. I don't want to be the person who let fear get in the way.
    I have not got to my first revision yet - at least not on my novel. I plan on pushing through first draft without worrying - then it may need some "away" time before I work on revisions. That makes a lot of sense. :)

  2. Oh, what a devastating story! I think I get into the hate and fear stage when I start doubting myself. Usually that means I need some time away from my story, to fall in love again, or, the opposite, to do some hard work to fix whatever problem my subconscious has with it. I can't just work my way through the fear, though, something has to change.

  3. That story has spoken to me today... big time! Thank you. I'm going to go away and revise my thoughts and I'm not talking about my writing.

  4. What a sad story, and a lesson to us all.

  5. I much prefer writing to revising, although I love going back and reading my work and surprising myself. Now that I fast draft, I feel like when I revise, I find these little hidden gems. Glimpses of good stuff that I just need to polish. The flow is better and the characters are more real. It makes revising easier.

  6. Wow, fascinating story. Like you, I put manuscripts away for awhile before I tackle revisions. I really need the distance to read objectively.

  7. I start my day praying for courage and intellectual clarity, in that order. I love your post.

  8. It depends. A lot of times I re-read what I've written and think, "Hmm, not bad, not bad." But I have a hard time sometimes trying to understand why such and such a chapter isn't working, and if I should just CUT it.

    Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I hate it, I guess. :)

  9. It depends. If I have let the WIP rest long enough the revision is like a visit with an old friend, but if I haven't I still get bored with it and fight my way through.


  10. What a very moving story. Can't imagine his pain and fear. You may be interested in knowing that I reviewed a book a week or so ago about a little boy with OCD, called Mr. Worry. Wished books like that would have been available for the man as a child.

    Prefer writing over revisions. I'm much better at editing other's people work -- did it much of my carer. Just can't do my own.

  11. I can relate to his experience because I used to be trapped in a routine, so much so I'd be worried that if I didn't follow it, something bad might happen. Now I'm so glad I look at things as motion forward. I know and trust that my revision will brighten the ms (though I still think of the whole process as daunting). But I'm glad I'm moving forward, in many areas of my life. Thanks for this inspiring post, Ruth. =)


  12. You're right, it's so easy to get paralyzed by fear, even if it's just metaphorical and not in the physical sense as with OCD.

    Approaching your revisions with hope is the best way to go: let your time away from the manuscript give you fresh eyes. Good luck!

  13. Great comparison. I think my revision times are a total mix of fear and anticipation. The fear holds me back and the anticipation pushes me forward. I'm usually pretty tired by the time I'm done.

  14. Abby - Hi! I let fear stop me way too often as well. It's always a conscious decision to fight against it.

    Anne - Sounds like you have an effective strategy that works for you. Yay!

    Rosalind - I'm so glad this had a take-away value for you.

    Sarah - Sometimes the sad stories make the biggest impact on us.

    Kelly - Those hidden gems are a gift, for sure!

    MG - That distance is really valuable.

    Mirka - I start the day the same way. Some days I'd probably never get out of bed otherwise.

    Cat - I know what you mean. Let's just hope for more of the lovin' it and less of the hatin' it ;)

    Courtney - I think that rest period is key, if you take long enough, you can restore your passion for a project.

    Patricia - I did see that book on your blog. I imagine it will help a lot of children.

    Claudine - I'm so glad you were able to get through that fear and move forward!

    Anne - As I came back to my story this week, I reconnected with the characters and could appreciate their journey again. Yay! The time away was just what I needed.

    C.Lee - Sounds like an exhausting tug of war. One that many of us can relate to, I'm sure.

  15. Honestly? I'm too moved by Ed's tragic story right now to think about applying it to myself. This story is powerful. And think about his dad. His dad never dreamt, never SHOULD have had to dream, that a simple "clean up your mess!" admonishment of the kind all parents give (and the man was probably under horrible stress that night) could do such damage. The cruelty of life itself just staggers, sometimes.

  16. What a terrible thing to happen to a child and to stick with him so badly. I know that fear certainly holds me back. Sometimes it's just impossible to know what the right decisions really are as well. This was a great post!

  17. I love doing revisions. It's a chance to move the story forward and explore all kinds off possibilities. Once you allow yourself to do that, it's amazing where things go.

  18. What an terrible situation to be in, for Ed and everyone in his family. Definitely something to reflect on.

    I generally enjoy revisions--I love reacquainting myself with my story and finding all the little things I loved about it.

  19. Oh how sad! I need to read this book.

    This post is wonderful. I truly enjoyed thinking about the similarities. Revisions usually scare the pants off me. But once I start, I usually love making my story better.

  20. Wow, I feel so bad for that Ed guy! But it sounds like he's coming to terms with things and working on himself. Good on him for sharing his story, too!

    I'm excited for you now that you're getting back to your project! 2 months is a great amount of time to leave something. You'll see it with such fresh eyes and (I hope) the revision process will be invigorating for you.

  21. That story is so sad but ultimately hopeful and moving. Thanks for sharing that.

    Revising is hard. It's painful. But it can also be so exhilarating and rewarding!

  22. Marcia - It can be cruel, I know. But Ed's story is ultimately one of hope and triumph. You should read it!

    Candice - Thanks for stopping by!

    Stina - I'm off to a good start with them myself and enjoying the process more than I expected to!

    Amie - Sounds like you are one of the majority who enjoy revising.

    Robyn - Sounds exactly like me: scared and doing everything possible to avoid revising, yet now that I've finally begun, I'm enjoying it a lot.

    Trisha - Thanks! During those two months, I read ravenously, I think because it was an effective means of keeping me away from my manuscript. After four weeks or so, it felt more like procrastination, but in the end,I'm glad I took so much time to let it cool. Now I'm thrilled to be back at it again!

    Sangu - Thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement!