James E. Robinson is a professional songwriter, musician, author, counselor, and speaker. His songs have been recorded by major artists in country, Christian, and rock music and he has recorded three CD's of his own. He and his wife are co-founders of ProdigalSong Ministries [www.ProdigalSong.com], combining music, speaking, and education workshop presentations, they travel and perform in churches, treatment centers, schools, and correctional facilities throughout the country.
Greetings, dear readers.
This first installment will begin a six-part series called “The Six As of Addiction.” Today’s issue involves ASAS—Advanced Submission Avoidance Syndrome.
Dear Dr. Jim,
I am a forty-one-year-old, happily married mother of three. I’ve been a writer (in my own head, at least) since childhood; I’ve actually written more than thirty novels, a couple hundred short stories, and countless articles . . . but I have never been published. Normally, I suppose, someone with my track record might become discouraged. But in my case, I’ve not yet had to deal with any feelings of rejection. You see, I’ve never submitted any of my work.
The problem comes once I’ve finished writing a piece. I make all the necessary arrangements, follow all the proper preparations and guidelines for submitting a manuscript. I’ve even gotten so far as putting queries in envelopes to mail, or preparing documents to e-mail . . . but then I freeze. I don’t send them. It’s as if I cannot bring myself to let go of my “child.” This causes me great stress and has me wondering if I’m the only one who suffers from this kind of fear. Can you help me?
Waiting for the Light to Turn Green
P.S. It was all I could do to finally make myself send you this letter. . .
Fear not, friend . . . you are not alone.
Your symptoms indicate you are suffering from a malady know as ASAS (Advanced Submission Avoidance Syndrome). This condition is far more common than you might think. According to statistics compiled by the RSNA (Research Society for Neurotic Artists), as many as two-thirds of fiction writers in the U.S. alone struggle with some level of ASAS. While most battling this syndrome are able to function in relative normalcy, some find themselves locked in what seems a hopeless situation.
Common symptoms are nervousness, shortness of breath, craving of sweets, pathological procrastination, lying, night sweats, day sweats, head wounds (caused by ramming head into computer keyboard), nightmares (usually manifesting as evil publishers and rejection slips morphing into brain-eating monsters), taking on multiple projects/responsibilities for which one has no time, sneezing, leisurely walks lasting up to four days, and spastic muscle movements in the hand when poised above the SEND button on a computer keyboard or while hovering above a mailbox. Less common symptoms include grinding teeth, kicking the dog (or cat, children, spouse, etc.), hiding in the closet, eye twitches, partial or complete paralysis of the fingers.
Although ASAS was for many years shrouded in shame and suffered in silence, you might be surprised to know just how many of your fellow scribes have had to deal with the same pain as your own. Increased public awareness has contributed to effective treatment protocols, which are continuing to be developed. You might try locating an Internet support group so you can find and connect with people who understand your pain (assuming you are able to actually send an e-mail). Like you, many suffer with a deep fear of rejection, and therefore develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid loss. So I also recommend you find a therapist in your area to walk with you into healing. Together you can discover the core issues that have created this “wall” between you and possible publication. Fear of failure is usually rooted in damaged self-esteem. (Remember when you were a little girl and your mother or father read your first “story”? Did they break out in hysterical laughter, even though you had attempted to compose a tragic romance? Do not underestimate these types of unresolved childhood wounds.)
Last, you might consider sending out “dummies.” These are harmless, meaningless letters or e-mails, either blank or containing jibberish, addressed to nonexistent people or places. This way, you can move through your phobia and into action, while not yet offering up one of your “masterpieces” to be mercilessly harpooned. In time, you will progress to sending real queries and eventually even manuscripts.
Stay strong, Waiting, and with proper medication and therapy, that red light in your brain might indeed turn GREEN!
I’m Dr. Jim . . . and I’m listening.
When not writing this column, Jim can be found compulsively overworking at www.ProdigalSong.com and www.jameserobinson.com.