Fear as a guide to life

I let fear rule my life too often. Not just the self-preserving fear that stops me crossing the road when a bus is distantly visible down the street and may speed towards me at any time, but the fear that stops me writing. I sit frozen in front of the keyboard sometimes, not knowing where to start (or continue) a piece of writing. It’s as though the delete and backspace keys hadn’t been invented, and I get it into my head that not only will the next words I write be fixed forever, but I’ll have to show them to people. My hand hovers, I daren’t commit to a single letter: I know I’ll write something stupid or weak that will make everyone laugh. I’ve never stopped to ask myself why anyone would read it until I’m ready to pass it around, I just waste time and energy fretting over getting that perfect (or at least non-embarrassing) paragraph.

I have a fear of success too (don’t laugh, it might happen). I don’t mean a fear of being stalked by tabloid journalists because I’m a famous novelist (does that happen to writers, unless they’re known for something else already?), I mean what if some editor asks me to write a story, review, article or novel because they liked the last one I gave them. What if I then find I’ve run out of ideas (not likely, I’ve got enough in my notebook to last 2 lifetimes, it’s just a question of making something of them) or my standard’s slipped (surely OneMonkey will point this out and then pester me into writing better, he’s done it before) or I can’t complete it on time (though deadlines usually help me focus my efforts). So I’ve been procrastinating over Wasted Years, afraid that I might actually have to submit it (to an agent, like my brave friend D whose enjoyable novel for adolescents is about to go down that road?) if I finish redrafting, and I’ve been putting off contacting a magazine about book reviews in case they agree.

This week I’ve been reading On Writing by Stephen King (more of which later, I’m sure) and for no good reason (it’s not as if it’s the first place I’ve read it) I’ve decided to take on board the advice of sitting down and writing for myself, not worrying about what anyone else will think or how good it is, just getting some words on the page. Having been so tentative about the Big Finish Doctor Who story thus far (what if I write dialogue that’s more 5th doctor than 8th?) I more than doubled my wordcount in an hour tonight. Much of it will be cut, other bits will be kept but reworded, but that’s OK because no-one but me has seen what it said in the first place (and because there’s no manuscript, they never will).

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2 comments

  1. How is it possible that I know EXACTLY what you mean?! 🙂
    When it comes to writing, fear is the main issue with me; the fear of not being able to write, the fear that people will think it’s ‘stupid’ or ‘childish’, the fear that it’ll never see the light of the day and the list can go on forever…
    But I find that fear can also be motivating in some ways… It can get you out of the bed in the morning and start a new day, keep on writing because the though of not being able to write is the scariest of all, isn’t it?

  2. to paraphrase the divine comedy a writer writes for themself not for you, and a song’s not a song until it’s been sung…obviously some writers do write for others (eg heat magazine articles) but anything really meaningful has to start with creating something that exictes yourself besides writers very rarely know their true worth, kafka wanted all his works burnt he didn’t realise he was a genius and tony parsons dosen’t realise he’s a talentless twat… you have talent just use it in ways that interest you, worry about the rest later (hmm advice from me..immediately do the opposite it’s your only hope!)

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