Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fear: The Roadblock of Life

There are many types of fear that plague humans throughout their lifespan.
It comes in so many forms and at times when we least expect it.

What is fear? Merriam-Webster has a cut and dried answer.
To be afraid of (something or someone)
To expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)
To be afraid and worried

Whether it's because the lights flared then snapped off and you find yourself alone in a big, dark office building, or you're jogging through the woods and something is keeping pace with you. How do you know that? The detritus and debris of the forest is rustling in time with your footsteps. Or, you had a nightmare that you were back in school wearing your P.J.'s and are woefully unprepared to take a test that if you fail all your classmates would turn into zombies. We've all had exposure to fear.

The most human of fears comes from our own minds and it stymies us, stops us and dissuades us from trying new things - the fear of the unknown. The feeling of inadequacy and the fear of failure.

Fear is powerful and yet, fear is only as powerful as you let it be. If you feed it.

Now, you're probably wondering where I'm going with this. We all know about some great minds who have explored this topic with much success: Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King, Bram Stoker - the list is quite long. However, I'm talking about regular people like me and readers of this blog.

Reviewers. Potential reviewers. Want-to-be reviewers.

I wrote about my first review here, My First Review.
Then I explained HOW I became a reviewer here: The Road of Being a Reviewer.

When I was first approached, all I felt was fear. "I can't write a review.", "I don't know what to say.", "I'm not a professional writer", "I'm not good with words.", or, "I wouldn't know where to start."

Only some of those reasons for fear have elements of validity - "I don't know what to say" or "I don't know where to start".

Writing anything, from a school essay, to a cover letter for a job, or a review, all require exercising a mental muscle. It's the one we use for writing Thank You cards, writing notes to teachers, or writing to a best friend far away, whether by snail mail or email. The point being, you CAN write.

Why are readers afraid to take the next step and become a writer of reviews? To share their opinions with other fans of the same author or series or genre?

Some take the urge to share to their own blogs. In that way, they can't be told by anyone that they are doing it 'wrong', they write the way they want to and express how they feel. If they want to be profane, use a ton of current vernacular and explore the dark side of snark, they can. It's their blog, they can do and say whatever they want. And, they're right.

However, in doing so, and I'm focusing on those readers who WANT to review but balk at joining an official review site, they are not facing their fears. They are still hiding. They are not being challenged to be what they could be. Oftentimes they become defensive when they DO try to join because they figure, "I've written reviews for Amazon, Goodreads and my blog. I know how to write a review so don't tell me what to do." And they quit.


That's what it is. Fear of rejection, of not being good enough. And while that underlying anxiety continues to lurk in a potential reviewer's mind, they will oftentimes react with anger or defensiveness and may even be close-minded to guidance, suggestions or tips.

In a way, it's sad. True, not all react negatively, but I'm focusing on the ones that do. They're holding themselves back.

Understand this. Most, if not all, review sites are started by avid readers and fans of the written word. They love their romance or mystery or young adult books and want to share that love, passion and joy with the world. If they're lucky, they have business savvy on top of it and can set up a site that develops a solid reputation that is recognized by publishers and authors alike.

That brings me to the benefits of joining such a site. Books. Lots and lots of books. Free books. The price is reading a book that will provide you an hour of two of joy, then maybe another hour's worth of time to write about the things that affected you, both good, awesome or bad. Another benefit of writing for an established review site is the thrill. There are two kinds of thrills that come with reviewing for a professional site: contact from the author in response to what you have written, and seeing your words, YOUR WORDS quoted in or on a book cover.

I've recently had my words quoted ON a book cover. And I mean, where usually other famous author's quotes go, there were MY words. On. The. Cover. Knock me over with a feather! Yes, it was credited to the review site, Long and Short Reviews, but they were my words from my review. It was a major SQUEEE! moment.

Reviews written on a personal blog won't get that kind of exposure and fame.

Another benefit to reviewing for an organized review site are comments from readers of your reviews. True, you can get that on your personal blog. But the reach of a professional review site is exponentially larger. Who doesn't like feedback? Who doesn't like to get compliments?

As far as learning how to write a review? Most good sites offer classes, tips, and assure novice reviewers that no question is considered silly and in fact they encourage questions. If the site has a good rapport amongst its reviewer base, they will usually be very happy, willing and enthusiastic helpers to the newbies. Plus, I humbly present this blog. I started it because there was no place for me to go to learn about writing reviews. There was no place that addressed the kinds of questions a reviewer might have and no place to go to ask questions. That is why the Chrysanthemum Connection was born. To help, to demystify writing a review and to give people the chance to spread their writing wings and fly.

What about if you are a bad speller? Is that stopping you? It shouldn't. First, as I'm sure you are aware of, there are Spell Check programs out there. Second, many quality review sites have editors. It's what they do, polish reviews. And the more you write, the more you become aware of how to correct yourself eventually having less need to be edited. Why do you think the old adage Practice Makes Perfect has been used for decades? It's wisdom. It's true. The more you exercise your writing muscle, the easier it gets. It's not your lack of writing skill that is stopping you, it's fear.

Seriously think about kicking fear to the curb.

Become a reviewer. Be open to tips, guidance and trying new things. Enjoy the thrill of picking out ANY book you want, for free, reading it and shouting out your opinions to the world. Someone somewhere will agree with you. Someone is going to love that book like you do.

Which brings me to another thrill moment - someone will buy the book based upon what YOU wrote. Your enthusiasm can make a difference to a reader - instead of passing on the book, they become intrigued enough to try it out for themselves. That is the power of the written word. And each and every person who is reading this post has the power to do that.

If you love books. If you have the urge to shout to the roof tops about a book that wowed you and you don't have anyone to share that excitement with - become a reviewer. Share what you felt with all of us. That's really all reviewing is. Sharing using words.

If your excuse is "All I can say is I liked it." You are selling yourself short. That statement is only the beginning. It's the reason why you want to write a review.

Do you know what you do next? You interview yourself.
Why did you like it? Was it the characters that were special? Was it the plot? What touched you that gave you the feeling that you couldn't put the book down? Was the villain really nasty? Did you hate him or her as much as the author intended you to? Did you get affected by the love scenes? Were they that good or were they sweet and tender?

When you start interviewing yourself, you are writing the review. Think about what YOU want to know about a book that gets you to read it or buy it. You know what you like, what you expect. That is what you share. That is what you write.

You can be a reviewer. I have every confidence in you. Forget what Nora Roberts would say. I want to know what YOU say!

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