Sunday, October 25, 2009

Writing Fears

Halloween is creeping up around the corner with all of its craziness and fear. Hopefully it's "fun fear" for all.

So, of course, I got to thinking about fear as connected to writing. For most people there's an element of fear in any new endeavour. I think a little fear is a healthy thing. Kind of like the nerves an athlete feels before a game, or an actor feels before the curtain rises. Fear can keep over-confidence at bay. It can keep you on your toes, and more observant of the world around you - that good old flight-or-fight reaction.

Too much fear however is never a good thing. It is paralyzing.

Writers face their own personalized fear set. Fear of sharing your stories with others. Fear of rejection. Fear of public speaking. Fear of publicity & its accompanying loss of privacy. Fear of indifference.

For me, actually sharing my work with other people was the largest fear. Meeting such a great community of writers online has helped me enormously. Writers are so willing to offer their help, guidance and experiences. It's not nearly as terrifying as it was for me to offer my work up for critique. Still an edge of fear, but no absolute terror.

What is your biggest fear as a writer? Has it changed over time? Do published authors have their own fear set? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

36 comments:

  1. Coincidently I have been thinking a lot about fear as a writer in the last few days. This year I have written lots of short stories having put a novel-in-progress to the side (yet again). I find the stories I can write almost as an impulse, the characters arrive fully formed, I let go in my writing. With the novel I am hesitant, unsure whether to finish it or not. I recognised that much of the difference in approaches was due to fear. The short stories are not as overwhelming as the novel. I don't feel as if I have to prove myself or fear that I'm not good enough as when I embark on the longer piece. When considering whether to do NaNoWriMo I recognised that by emphasising just getting words on the page, it was dispensing with fear. I really want to dive straight into a longer piece without self-censorship and wonder if its possible to maintain confidence over a longer period. What do you think?

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  2. Sharing my work is my biggest fear. I have no confidence in my work. I am getting better with the support of my fellow bloggers and Twitter friends.

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  3. Alison - I think NaNo would be a great idea! I loved the feeling of freedom it gave me last year. I totally focused on creating and ignored the whole editing aspect. It was great! I'm going to attempt it again this year, but I haven't decided on an idea. I've got too many. I'd love to have you as a writing buddy - we can cheer each other on :) Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  4. GJ - I had never shared any of my writing until I joined some online communities. I've become so much better at doing it because of the great people I've met. They're honest and helpful. Everyone is willing to help out others! Thanks for popping by, I'll check out your blog :)

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  5. Once in a while I get to thinking...what if I get writer's block? But it hasn't happened yet!

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  6. I have two fears: 1.) I worry I won't develop as a writer. (This stinks, I'm not getting any better, etc.) 2.) I worry about POV a lot. (Should I write this in first person? What if I write myself into a claustrophobic corner?)

    Fear is paralyzing sometimes.

    Oops. I forgot one more fear. I'm afraid my twitter addiction will keep me from writing!

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  7. Well I can certainly relate to jmartin's Twitter anxiety. My fear relates more generally to a lack of time. I have a full time job from which I get no creative satisfaction, and so I have thrown myself into writing as a means of expressing myself.

    Obviously I enjoy writing a lot more than the daily grind, but balancing a job and a family, and THEN trying to write a couple of thousand words on a Sunday morning is very difficult.

    I suppose this is more of a problem than a fear, per se. But it is a genuine fear that my inspiration will run out of patience with me, and disappear again, leaving me to my 9-5.

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  8. Elizabeth - I'll cross my fingers for you that it never does! :)

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  9. Jenny - I think the twitter fear is spreading as we speak. There are definitely a lot of writers to chat with online :)

    With what I've read of your stuff, you don't have to worry about not improving! You've got a great voice :)

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  10. Gareth - That's a great perspective on fear. My life is very similar. Crazy busy!! I hadn't thought about losing the inspiration before - but I can relate. I have a bundle of ideas, but not enough time to devote to them all. Some of them probably sit on the back burner so long, they disappear. But I always seem to have another to take its place.

    Thanks for dropping by - hope to see you again!

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  11. I fear each time I write something especially good, that it is the last thing I will ever find to write!

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  12. The Things We Carried - Yikes! That IS a scary one!! You also have to live up to the quality - but that's a fun challenge :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  13. Just the words 'public speaking' make me shudder, but that's a personal phobia. :)

    One overriding fear I have is that my stories won't interest readers. I'm confident in the pretty words I put on the page, but when they all come together, am I telling a story anyone wants to read? That said, my *greatest* fear with regard to the process has nothing to do with writing. It's having to sell myself - that absolutely terrifies me.

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  14. VR - I actually try to avoid thinking about the whole marketing concept at times :) I think many writers are fearful of that step - mostly because it's the fear of the unknown. I think the Internet will be a great help in that area though. At least I hope so!!

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  15. Definitely fear of failure. There are so many opportunities to fail as a writer....in the submission process and then afterward, when the book is on the shelves. It's wonderful to be part of the writing community and get support from people who understand!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  16. Elizabeth - I agree completely. I was such a novice when I found the online writing communities! I've learned so much from such great people. It definitely alleviates the fear a bit :)

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  17. Jemi - your remark that you have lots of ideas and they sometimes fall off the edge rings very true. Perhaps part of the problem is that I have a bit of an obsessive streak and get annoyed that I have not acted on those ideas.

    I'm hoping to get a bit more involved with other writers to develop my skills.

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  18. Gareth - Working with other writers for the past year has helped me enormously. I've started a file with idea basics as they come to me. Sometimes it's just a title, sometimes it's a character, or the outline of the scene. Something like that might work for you!

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  19. One of my biggest issues nonfiction blogging is that I might reveal too much about people in my life.
    I don't want to sugarcoat or whitewash, but I also don't want to offend or upset. What a quandary! And it can be really stifling. Any nonfiction folks got advice on that?
    Also, Jemi, what online writers' community do you recommend?

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  20. It's funny, I was in the middle of blogging about this.

    Sometimes, I feel like I'm the worst parent in the world--of my writing. On the one hand, I think, man this is good stuff! But deep down, I'm afraid to let anyone see it for fear I'll get that response that is equivalent to "Oh, but she has such a nice personality" or "she has such nice eyes," when all you really want to hear is how beautiful it is.

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  21. Hi Bridget - I work really hard to keep my family and friends anonymous on the blog. Because I focus on writing, it isn't that hard to do. But little mentions still crop up. And you're so right. I don't want to upset anyone!!

    My favourite site for writers is AgentQueryConnect. Just click on the link on the side of the blog here. It is a truly amazing group of people who are so willing to help. Both fiction and nonfiction writers are there.

    Thank you so much for dropping by. Hope to see you again :)

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  22. Carolina - What a great analogy! Our stories truly become our children, don't they? And no one wants to hear their baby is less than perfect :)

    Sharing is really hard. It does get easier once you find people you can trust to give you an honest and compassionate critique!

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  23. My fear is, I'm increasingly aware of my own mortality. The days turn into weeks/months in a blink of an eye. I wonder if I'll ever get my book published. Chewing fingernails and working through the night hasn't help my quest yet.

    And as for twitter. Agree with everyone above. Such a time waster, yet so invaluable. Have met many fellow writers (like you), who have given me hope and inspiration.

    Excellent post. As always :)

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  24. Quillfeather - Time is huge. There's never enough of it!! I find myself hoping for a genie in a bottle. All 3 wishes would be for more time :)

    I agree completely with you on Twitter. It sounds quite silly on the surface, but I've found so many wonderful writers and new people to learn from! It's a great tool - as long as I can control it. Thank you :)

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  25. I feel a kind of fear when I'm at the point in a story that is a pivotal scene. I'm at that very place right now in my YA novel. My plan? To forge ahead as fearlessly as possible and trust in the mystery that is the creative process. ;-)

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  26. In reply to Bridget, I have fallen prey to this. Partly because, in my writing, I tend to assign characteristics to people with caricature them and give them a role within the narrative. This is not necessarily a fair and balanced outlook of them.

    Within the drama of the narrative, my father is an incorrigable old Tory, my Mum is a control freak, and my brother is a feckless oaf!

    None of these things are a fair representation - they are cartoonish redrawings of theie real characters to give pace to the story.

    I had a lot of trouble with this at first but, because I have good relationships with the people involved and the tales related tend to be gently poking fun rather than nasty, it works.

    In fiction, your characters need large hooks on which to hang a narrative. I've found that in non-fiction, it's the same. But you can't do that without considering the consequences in the real world.

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  27. Here's another thought on the same subject... What do you do when the people in your life start to act out those characteristics in direct response to your writing?

    My blog / book is about a political journey and so I have painted my father into the role of the reactionary old fart. This is an exaggeration but based in truth.

    However, when we discuss anything political now, I can see him thinking, "what would my character say now?"

    Interesting morphing of perspective.

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  28. Debra - I love when those scenes come up! Like you, I worry about making them the best they can be, but they are so much fun to write!Good luck with yours :)

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  29. Gareth - I love it! :) You know you're an effective writer when the real people take on the characteristics of their "cartoon" versions.

    Most of my contacts for my writing are in cyber space, so I haven't really encountered this yet! It would be fun to watch!

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  30. My fears change by the hour. They range from not ever being good enough, to being good enough, getting a contract, and yet not being ready for all the responsibility that comes with it. I'm a terrible fear monger!!!

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  31. My biggest fear? That my writing isn't good enough. That's it plain and simple.

    Elspeth

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  32. Eileen - good point. Fears aren't stationary - they move around on us, sometimes when we least expect it. Thanks so much for dropping by and the follow :)

    Elspeth - Yes, not being good enough is certainly a common fear. I think we all feel that way at one time or another - or more often :) I guess the way to conquer it is to just keep working and learning!

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  33. I realised that it wasn't what I'd done that was draining, choices, family, responsibilities etc, it was what I had not done.
    So, my biggest fear is "not" - not making time for me and what I need to do... not writing.
    The rest, the things that bled my energy, still feeds off my lifeforce but now I have a way to recharge it.

    WORD VERIFICATION: caleux - character in my Steampunk,"Romans in Space" saga? The love interest?

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  34. Elaine - that's so true!! Time is so precious and difficult to come by. I think that's why I enjoy NaNo. I feel like I have to write, write, write.

    I had a word verification the other day that I wrote down for possible use in my ms too! Calaile. Some of them are so much fun :)

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  35. Hi Jemi! Nice to meet you.

    I used to be terrified to have peers read my manuscript, then I found my writing group and it feels like a safe place to share my work (don't get me wrong, they are tough, but never mean). Now I think my biggest fear is that I will let people down--that my manuscript won't sell and my agent will be disappointed.

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  36. Hi Natalie - nice to meet you too! Don't you just love cyber space :)

    Writing groups are such a great thing. I have a crit group who are so supportive and helpful they make it easy to share.

    Congrats on getting an agent - I'm sure the next step (selling) will go well for you. I'll certainly help spread the word when it's time :) Thanks for dropping by!

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