The fear lurks within all who put pen to page or fingers to keyboard. Should I do this? Should I actually sit down and write a story? What do I have to say that others would want to read? Our need to write is deep-seated, something we can’t deny. It’s a craving like you have for a cigarette or a drink of alcohol. Denying ourselves the opportunity to write leaves us with a deep ache within. Yes, we sometimes struggle to write, but we manage to get words down. A sentence here, a short paragraph there. Each word leading to the next, until the start of a story emerges onto the page or screen. The grammar may not be perfect, the sentences rough, but your message to yourself and your readers starts to come through. The plot takes shape with each piece of dialogue you write; the conflict between your protagonist and antagonist grows, heading for the last act. Who will triumph? What did your protagonist learn about herself and the others in her life during the journey to the end? Writers control what emerges in the story.
Once the first draft is finished and you read through the story you laboriously set down, a hint of doubt creeps into your mind. A tiny seed if allowed to take root will sabotage you. I’m talking about fear. Fear of failure, of not completing what you started. Fear that what you write will not measure up to what’s already out there in eBooks and in print. Fear that you’ve wasted so much time on this story and no one will want to read it.
This fear is normal, but if you start to dwell on it, obsess over it, you may find yourself in a bit of a jam. You begin to find excuses to not sit down and write. I need to walk the dog, weed the garden, and fold the laundry. There’s a TV show I want to watch. The excuses start to build up and you no longer write. However, the urge to write doesn’t go away.
The fear is always there, lurking below the surface. This fear loves nothing better than to spring out and rob you of the ability to write. The fear of not having anything to write about, getting stuck in your current wip, or having problems revising and rewriting something you’ve already written. The fear shouldn’t be feared. You have the ability to contain it, and keep it out of the way.
Don’t let the fear of not being able to write take hold of you. Look at what you post on facebook or messages to your friends and family. You’re writing words, making sentences. Why not use that time to write like you should be writing. You call yourself a writer, but putting things off because you don’t have the time is nonsense. You do have the time. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes here or fifteen minutes there. So stop with the solitaire, hold off on making numerous comments on various FB posts — sit at the computer and write.
Let me tell you something, if you truly love to write, but you feel the fear start to grow, you need to understand one thing: Do not compare yourself to what is already published. The only one you should compare your writing to is your own. The more you write and learn to edit what you write, you increase your skill.
If you think you need to be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, like so many other writers out there. Set reasonable goals for yourself to help keep the fear at bay. Write short stories in the beginning, then move on to longer pieces. If you let friends and family read what you write, they will more than likely spare your feelings and tell you your story is great. They won’t tell you if something is wrong with your grammar or pov problems.
Don’t let the fear claim you are waiting for inspiration to strike. Look around you, there are thousands of writing ideas out there waiting for a story to find them. News headlines, images of weird places or things. Each one is a story waiting to be written. So what if it doesn’t fit your current work, if an idea comes to you for a short piece of fiction, then sit down and write it. If you want your writing to be connected to your current work in progress, you have a number of options. Backgrounds for your characters, a brief outline of your story, character dossiers. This will help you think about your story. Do a synopsis of the story. Just sit there and write.
Fear is sneaky, but you can keep it at bay. You just need to work at it. Don’t let the blank screen or blank sheet frighten you away. You claim to be a writer, so write.
Writes about your day you’ve been having or a fun activity you recently did. You need to exercise the mind and the writing muscle just like you need to exercise your body to keep in shape.
The fear will always lurk below the surface, each time you sit down to write. You can’t avoid it. But you can acknowledge it, and work it into your writing. Let the fear know you are aware of it, but it has no control over you and the words you write. The pen is in your hand or your fingers rest on the keyboard. You have the power over the fear and the control over your writing.
I have this same fear each day I sit at my computer and rest my finger on the keyboard. The fear that the flow will stop, the well has dried up. Some days I feel everything I have written is nothing but crap and should be deleted forever. But I soldier on, because when I’m not writing I feel awful.
May the words ever flow!