Saturday, 3 November 2012

Writing through the fear

The Frozen Tear is now sitting on 16666 words, 8163 of which are countable for NaNoWriMo. I freak out every time I even think about writing more, but I'm doing it anyway. I'm wondering if this is what the whole story is going to be like and the answer is probably 'yes'. I've felt the same way about all the other things I've written so far this year.

To use what always seems like a dodgy buzz-phrase, let's unpack that statement and talk a little about the fear of writing. Most sites I've read break down 'fear of writing' into a few key areas:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of success
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Fear of baring our souls

1. The fear of failure

This one tends to take a particular form for me. When it comes to the first draft I'm a 'pantser' to the bone. This leaves me with a particular set of problems with the completed draft that the internet just tells me I wouldn't have if I'd planned properly in the first place. I can plan, but I definitely prefer to write the first draft without doing much more than describing a few characters and coming up with a setup.

So, I get to the end of the draft and realise it needs fixing. That's when 'fear of failure' kicks in, because according to everything I read I've done it wrong. I've made huge, unfixable problems for myself and when none of the tools I can find are designed to help me fix it, I find it very easy to decide I must have failed.

2. Fear of success

I'd like to say I don't suffer from this at all, but that could be the stage I'm at in my writing process. 'Success' is currently so unlikely that I might as well say I'm afraid of a sheep invasion. Slightly possible, since four of our six sheep are hand-raised orphans who still believe the house is a place for sheep, but not so likely that I have anti-sheep defences in place at the front door.

3. Fear of rejection

I don't know about this one. Worrying about rejection would require me to get over my fear of never actually finishing a story. I'll drop this fear in the 'possible, but distant and nebulous' category along with the fear of success. Before I get to the point of needing to deal with this I need to come to an accommodation that allows me to have a story in the first place.

4. Fear of baring my soul

Yeah, that seems fair enough. Instead of baring my soul in my book (which would be scary) I'll just vomit it up all over my blog. Totally logical.

So have I discovered anything?

Aside from that I'm my own worst enemy? I think I've decided that my biggest fear right now is that idea of failure and/or inadequacy. It's the belief that my approach to writing is fundamentally flawed and that I'll never be able to create something to take me on to the point where I can start finding out if those other fears are going to be a problem.

We'll talk about whether the 'exposing my soul to others' fears are contributing to the fear of failure another time. I'm sure there's something deep and meaningful in there.

Now, over to the readers of my blog. Are you feeling the fear of writing right now? Which of these fears do you think is the one holding you back?


  1. Ahhhhh. I needed to read this post. This is exactly what I am going through. I won't go into the details, because it is basically just as you described. I think my biggest one is number one, fear of failure. Success is so far off that it seems almost ridiculous. As for rejection, I have yet to finish something, so I do not really know what that is like. I like to think that I can handle it, but so do we all, until it happens. As for baring my soul...I actually do that all the time. I splurge all over my blog, all over my PPTs, and even in my stories. Just… It does not always result in good writing, per se. My soul has no concept of sentence structure and organization of thoughts. And--it's MESSY! :-) I really believe pouring your soul out onto the page takes practice. I'm working up to it. So, 4 is an area in which I definitely need improvement, but I do not think I actually fear it.

    But back to failure for a minute. The worst part is that it is a constant cyclic battle, occurring every day. Every time I sit at the computer, I deal with it. I admire the people on NaNo who can churn out an excellent first draft with no more than grammar and spelling errors, where essentially, all the elements that need to be there, are there. I can't do it. I read the articles. I write with reckless abandon, if not with soul-vomiting intensity. I look at the crap I have written, and it is a sucker punch to my gut, telling me that I did it all wrong. Why? Because as you said, those things could be fixed if I'd done what the article said, and planned.

    I am starting to think that the light at the end of the tunnel is still there...but the tunnel is just longer than we think it is. I used to think that I'd make progress by leaps and bounds, or that good stuff would spring out of nowhere, but it's not the case. Sometimes, what seems like no progress at all is really just extremely slow progress, which only becomes evident with time. The first time won't even be recognizable as the final.

    The most important thing we can do for ourselves right now is to push on through. Write a draft. Then tweak it. Then tweak it again. We know what we are doing wrong. We can fix it. Then we can spot new problems, and fix them. We cannot not let the fear stop us from continuing. That shining, perfect story in our heads will eventually come to life, if we polish the turd long enough. We must remind ourselves that it might take us a lot longer to get there, but the destination IS worth getting to.

    One. Word. At. A. Time.

    Sorry, long comment. :-P

  2. Yes, you're right - the tunnel is a lot longer than I ever thought. When I decided to rewrite The Frozen Tear I had this idea that it could go from unbelievable crap to awesome in a single rewrite. Not true, apparently. Trying to take a step that big just made the whole thing fall apart in a steaming heap. Baby steps, Siana. Just make it a little bit less crap this time around. Something like that, anyway.

    Maybe it really is true that as long as we keep writing everything is going to work out in the end.