Turning Points: Embracing Fear by Meagan Spooner (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the SKYLARK Blog Tour as well as the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is debut author Meagan Spooner revealing hers…

Guest post by Meagan Spooner

Fear is a terrible thing for a writer to deal with—and yet it’s probably one of the most universal things we face. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule. Fear of having our dreams taken away by rejection. Fear of being told we’re not good enough. Fear of being told there was some kind of mistake, we don’t deserve our successes. It can be crippling, sticking in the front of your mind like a big gummy blob clogging up the flow of creativity. And as a wise little green guy once said, fear can lead to anger—fear makes us bitter, jealous, looking around at every other writer who has everything we wish we had.

I began writing the novel that would become my debut, SKYLARK, in spring of 2010. I’d quit my job the year before to attend a writing workshop that changed my life, and was living with my parents, trying to “do the book thing.” But the thing is, I wasn’t, not really. I poked at short stories now and then, I wrote random chapters of random book ideas, I meandered from project to project. I never finished anything—because what would I do if I finished something? I’d have to send it in to someone. I’d have to get rejected. Because while the workshop I attended taught me years’ worth of craft in a matter of weeks, it also showed me every one of my inadequacies as a writer.

Sometimes the fear is illogical—what if my best friend reads this and realizes that I can’t write, and that somehow translates into me being a terrible person, and she decides to hate me? But sometimes the fear is all too possible—what if I send this out and it gets rejected, and the experience is so terrible that it kills my love of writing? What if by trying to reach for this dream, I destroy it?

I knew I was afraid. And I felt guilty for being afraid. I tried to push my fears away, to say they were all ridiculous, that I was better than that, that I wasn’t going to sit here and worry my life away. But denying my fears only turned them into a sort of red-eyed monster under the bed, just waiting for me to let my guard down, waiting for me to have one bad day so that the fear-monster could jump on me in my weakened state.

But then I got the idea for SKYLARK, which at that time had the working title of THE IRON WOOD. And that was when everything changed. All its other themes and stories and arcs aside, SKYLARK is a story about fear. It follows a girl who’s lived her entire life inside a dome, and when she escapes, she finds that she’s an agoraphobe, and is afraid of wide open spaces—more specifically, she has ouranophobia. She’s afraid of the sky.

I decided that it was the right story to write. It was worth writing, and it was worth finishing. Even if it killed my dream, it was the story I wanted to write. Because I wanted to write about someone afraid of something so ubiquitous, something we take so much for granted. Something we hardly even notice. Something she has to see, and has to face, every day.

When I first began writing, I intended for my main character to overcome her fear completely through the course of the novel. Her name is Lark—she’s named after a bird. She belongs in the sky. She and I would embark on this journey together, and we’d face our fears together, and she’d be cured and I’d be cured. I’d come out the other side with a finished work, and it’d be daunting and exciting to send it out into the world, but I wouldn’t be afraid.

What I learned instead is that the fear never goes away. But I also learned that fear is important. We feel fear for a reason. Evolutionarily speaking, fear is a reaction that kept our ancestors alive—it made us run faster and farther to escape predators, to think more quickly to evade them. In SKYLARK, Lark’s fear keeps her alive too. She keeps to the ruins, to the forests, to the caves—she evades the horrors searching for her in the wilderness beyond the Wall. Over the course of writing the book, and of wading into the writing community at the same time, I came to understand that the fear is valuable.

Fear isn’t bad. Being afraid doesn’t make you a bad person. Acknowledging your fears doesn’t mean you’re a coward.

Fear led me to prepare my query letter to within an inch of its life. It meant that I could do nothing else to do improve it, and it stood the best possible chance of getting agent attention. Fear made me examine every line, every word of my manuscript, so that the version I sent in response to requests was as good as I could possibly make it. And even after I had a book deal, even after I’d gone through the entire revision process, fear made me pore over the final pass pages, my last chance to make changes to the manuscript, searching for one tiny punctuation mark out of place or a word that shouldn’t be there. But the most important thing is to be able to put your fear aside at the end of the day, to be able to take deep breaths, to not be so afraid that you stop.

Even now fear is my strongest motivator. While writing the second book of the SKYLARK trilogy I was terrified that I wouldn’t live up to whatever promise I’d made in the first one—that I was a one-trick pony, and that now everyone was going to find that out. I was afraid of failing all over again. But I was more afraid of letting down my editor and my agent—I was more afraid of not finishing. And so I did finish. And it was the hardest thing I ever did.

By the end of SKYLARK, Lark isn’t cured. And by the end of writing it, neither was I. But she comes to understand her fears—when to listen to them, and when to acknowledge that she has to move through them. She learns how to live with them. You don’t defeat fear in some climactic battle or single decision—it’s an ongoing struggle, every day, wherein you look the red-eyed monster in the face and say “Yes, I see you. But you can’t stop me.”

The very last line of the book reads:

We left the field of metallic corpses behind and walked on across the valley, beneath the vast and terrible beauty of the dawn.

The sky is beautiful—the sky is terrible. And this is the true nature of fear.

Because bravery isn’t the absence of fear—it’s action in spite of fear.

Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

She is the author of SKYLARK, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013.

You can find her online at www.meaganspooner.com, follow her on Twitter at @MeaganSpooner, or on Facebook at SkylarkTrilogy


Congratulations to the winner of a *signed* first-edition hardcover of Meagan Spooner’s debut novel Skylark! The winner is…


Congrats, Katrina! I will email for your mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered and to the author for providing her book for a giveaway!

There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.

36 responses to “Turning Points: Embracing Fear by Meagan Spooner (+Giveaway)”

  1. Thank you for this inspiring post. Fear is what I’ve been struggling with for a long time now in terms of writing (and finishing) novels and the publishing process in general. Meagan, I agree with you that the battle against fear is a gradual process and I feel like this post has granted me a bit more strength and inspiration to use in my own struggle against fear. Congrats on SKYLARK and I can’t wait to read it.


  2. Oh, Meagan. This post was beautiful. Fear is something I face daily as a writer. It’s a constant struggle. But you are so right: The fear is a good thing. Acknowledging it doesn’t make us cowards, and so long as we keep moving forward, so long as we aren’t scared into idleness, we really are brave. Thank you for this post. Truly. ❤


  3. This is such a beautiful post. I also struggle with fear, and it’s good to know I’m not alone. You’re right about fear not being bad. It can be a wonderful motivator, and it can push you to be better, to write better. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. It’s such an inspiration. <33


  4. Meagan, thank you so much for this post! Fear is something we need to be constantly reminded of, so that we can’t let it hide in the dark corners of our mind. Acknowledging our fear is the only way we will ever move forward. I need to remind myself of this all the time! And I love that your debut novel was your way of facing your fear, that is fantastic, and congratulations!


  5. Yes I see you, but you can’t stop me. That. That. That. I got shivers. I read a book that says everyone is motivated either toward a goal or away from a fear. It varies but people tend to be one type over another. 🙂


  6. What a great post and what great inspiration–there’s an entire plot begging to be written in that one word, the fear of the sky. I have similar fears, I think, and that’s why I never fully finish big projects. I do things that are less important to me–poems, short stories–because if I fail at them, it doesn’t matter as much; rejections for those stories aren’t as important. But if I finally do that whole rewrite, if I finally perfect that book that I really care about and it STILL gets rejected? I guess I’m just putting off that possibility.

    Definitely adding this book to my goodreads list!


  7. Fantastic points on fear. I love how you captured that fear has two sides to it. It can cripple us or make us stronger.

    I also tweeted this post!


  8. Thank you so much for both the post about fear, and the giveaway! It’s an amazing point of view of fear that I’m sure a lot of people would agree with c:

    Thumbs up!


  9. I absolutely ADORE this post. I think this is a very important lesson to learn, and I’m so glad that you were able to share your realization Meagan. Fear has been holding me back from doing lots of things, and I’m definitely taking to heart your words of wisdom to help me overcome it.


  10. Wow! Meagan Spooner you have just said everything that I have ever felt about the writing process and my fears in this wonderful post. Thank you so much for putting it so bluntly. Everything that you went through and are going through is how I have been feeling when it comes to my writing (or lack thereof) my entire life. It’s so relieving to know that I’m not alone.


  11. This is such an inspiring post! It’s so true – fear is always there, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I, too, have struggled with writing because of fear. I write a first draft but never do anything with it because I’m afraid that someone else will read it and tell me that I’m stupid for even thinking that I could be a writer. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one with fears like that. 🙂


  12. I love this turning point. I didn’t finish anything in a little over a year because of fear. It’s such a prominent thing in a writer’s journey and I’m glad somebody used it for their turning point. And I am so glad you wrote Skylark, Meagan! It sounds amazing. 🙂


  13. One of my favourite turning point posts so far. And the book sounds great! Definitely adding it to my TBR!


  14. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been fighting my own fears this summer as I’ve reworked my novel. I know the revisions are what it needs, but they make it so close to ME that the idea of rejection had almost scared me out of writing! Thank you for helping me feel like I’m not alone in all of this.


  15. This was a very insightful post. And it couldn’t have been easy to write! But that’s where you know you’ve done something right. When you can talk about your fears, you already making the right steps to conquering it. Thanks for the thoughtful post.


  16. Gosh, this is so true and especially touching because I can see a bit of myself in it. I’m not published, but I’m pretty sure that could also be from fear of rejection. I’ve bounced from project to project, and with this latest one, the main reason I’m publishing is because I’m afraid that this lifelong fear will keep me from publishing at ALL!

    Thank you so much, Dani and Meagan, for sharing this. It was very encouraging for me.


  17. This was a post I needed today. Really beautiful and inspiring. Wow.

    Thanks for the giveaway and this amazing interview! I’m looking forward to reading Skylark once it releases. 🙂


  18. “You don’t defeat fear in some climactic battle or single decision—it’s an ongoing struggle, every day, wherein you look the red-eyed monster in the face and say “Yes, I see you. But you can’t stop me.” ”

    That is amazing! I’ve been paralyzed with fear on my current project – afraid to read it, afraid to start revising, afraid that somebody I know will read it and be appalled by its roughness. It’s good to know that it’s not bad to be afraid, that I just have to stare it down and keep moving forward.


  19. I think where the fear comes in for me, is the fear I won’t get a new idea. This results in me clinging to an old, broken idea, even though it isn’t working. Doing this blocks everything and prevents me from letting a new idea flow through. Great post.


  20. “You don’t defeat fear in some climactic battle or single decision—it’s an ongoing struggle, every day …”


  21. I think it’s incredible that you quit your job and still found it in yourself to write stories, even if you never finished some of them. Fear is something humans can’t shake or let go. Embracing it isn’t easy. I’m so glad I read this. Thank you for sharing 🙂
    Alyssa ❤


  22. What a wonderful and helpful post. SKYLARK already sounded intriguing, and the connections between it and your writing journey make me want to read it even more.


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