Sunday, August 29, 2010

Facing Your Fears (Part 1)

Everyone is afraid of something. You can be the biggest, baddest, most outrageously muscle-bound guy or gal the world has ever seen, and there will still be something out there that scares your shorts off.

For me, it's cockroaches. Can't stand the things. I used to work in an office that where they jumped out in broad daylight and literally looked you in the eye. No matter what our pest control guys sprayed at them, they would not die. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes me queasy.

Anyway... Moving on.

My point is, fear is instinctive; it's built into the fibers of who we are as living creatures. Heck, animals have that whole fight-or-flight response down to a science. Just try sneaking up on a grizzly bear in the forest and see how Mr. Friendly reacts to being startled. (Okay, don't actually try that. I don't want to get sued.)

In the right context, fear is a perfectly healthy---and at times even life-saving---emotion. Fear is what prompts us to teach our children about "Stranger Danger," for example. However, if we give it too much control, it cripples us. It holds us hostage and crushes our dreams before they even have the chance to take flight. And that's what makes it so dangerous. Fear doesn't allow us the opportunity for failure or success. It only keeps us stuck where we are.

As a writer, fear is your greatest enemy. It can turn your Inner Editor from a soft and helpful whisper into a whiny, nagging scream, one that tells you every sentence, indeed, every single word you put down on paper is wrong, wrong, WRONG. It can keep you revising the same WIP for 15 years, yet at the same time convince you that it should never see the light of day. And if you let it, fear will ensure that you always remain an aspiring writer, never a published one.

You deserve better. Don't let your fears do that to you. Starting today, let's face them together.

It's sharing time now, boys and girls: What fears do you have about your writing?


  1. Fear 1. GET PUBLISHED. It's the most perfect novel ever written, and no one can ever write a better novel, including me.

    Fear 2. GET PUBLISHED. The editor, agent, and I were all IDIOTS and the book JUST STINX.


    I think that about covers it.

  2. Ugh, there are so many fears about writing at every stage! That you're never going to finish it, that you SHOULDN'T ever finish it, that you finish it and it's awful. You just have to keep trying, I guess.

  3. Honestly? My fear is that I'll devote all this time and energy to writing, and never get a book published.

  4. Lisha: Yep, you nailed them all, IMHO. Those are my fears, too.

    Meredith: It's true, fear is present at every moment in this game. We can't keep ourselves from being afraid, but we CAN control whether or not we let that fear consume us. I think we can even use it as fuel to make our skills better, but I'll save that for a later post ;)

    Anita: That's a very legitimate fear, especially since some key parts of the publishing process are out of our hands. But for those who really take the time to learn their craft and aren't afraid of working hard, I think it usually works out :-)

  5. all the fears so far listed have rung true for me at some point or another. one that haunts me far more often than i'd like is the fear that i'm wrong - the story/idea/concept doesn't have as much promise as i originally thought. all the work and polish in the world can't help it because what i see in it simply isn't there for anyone but me.

  6. Jim: Yes, I think that particular fear affects all writers eventually. We spend so much time living in our heads that it narrows our perspective, making it tough for us to see whether our work has value or not.

    That's part of what makes critique groups and beta readers so helpful. They can see the warts in the story because they're looking at it from a distance.

    I like that aspect of writing, actually. It's the great equalizer---the fact that every writer, no matter how skilled, needs a fresh pair of eyes to tell them whether their work is marvelous or just flat out stinks.