Friday, November 14, 2014

Fear and Writing

by Megan S.

With all due respect to President Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," is a bunch of motivational bullshit. Being afraid of the "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" isn't the worst thing ever. I mean, let's be honest, there's never an actual rock bottom. Things can always get worse when I fail.

Failure is one of the most overwhelming fears, no matter the situation. The dread of having my hopes dashed at the very same time I confirm that there's yet another thing I'm horrible at is enough to scare me into inaction. This is why I can't bring myself to start writing a novel.

No matter how many intricate universes I have banging around in my skull, I'm too afraid to commit them to paper. I love these worlds so much, what if everyone else thinks they're garbage? I will have wasted an embarrassing amount of time on something unworthy. Why in the hell did I think I could be a writer anyway?

I have had a number of acquaintances over the years who tell anyone willing to listen that they are authors (in spite of not being published.) Their confidence is intimidating.  There's no way I could be one if I've never been sure about anything I've created. Even when I've written professionally, I still feel like a fake. I know everyone will find out what a phony I am sooner or later.

But these universes that I have created have taken on a life of their own. Some of them are so real, I can see them in my head as well as any place I've ever been. I woke up at 4 AM yesterday with a scene from one playing out in my mind. I liked it so much, I couldn't fall back asleep until 6. I wanted to write it down.

I tried to write it. I opened up a blank page and started typing. And everything sounded stupid and childish and wrong. For me, the opening paragraph has to be perfect if I'm writing something I care about. I will stare at that obnoxious blinking cursor on the screen for an hour straight because I can't seem to think of a decent first sentence. It's the foundation that rest of work will be based upon. How can I proceed with anything less than perfect?

I decided to look for inspiration from published authors.  Cheery little encouragements like "just keep writing!!!" and "A real writer can't stop writing!" make me want to vomit. I need something a little more realistic. I need to hear someone has been in the same position I have, that same fear of failure, and still managed to accomplish great things.

I found these.  Maybe they'll help ease the fear, if only for as long as it takes to get past writing the first paragraph.

by Stephen King
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  1. Yes to all of this. The scariest thing I've ever done is hand the NaNo book I wrote last year over to another person to read.

    1. How did it go? Do you think you can write another one?

    2. I only gave it to kind, trustworthy people who were constructive in their comments, and it was one-traumatic enough that I'm tackling another one this month. But this one is going to have sex scenes, so it's very possible that nobody will ever see it.

  2. Have you ever tried using paper and pen? Sometimes taking away the ability to edit is like tackling the first hurdle. Its ugly, but you get past it.
    Also, I'm fond of this saying,

    1. So much yes to this! Once I stopped worrying about going back to edit, I made much better progress in the last NaNo. You can fix just about anything as long as it's on the page TO fix.