We’re All Scaredy Cats (or, Why You Need to Write Through the Fear)

Pretend with me for a minute.

Let’s pretend that we’re novice explorers and we are about to start scaling the side of a mountain that is called Killdrop Mountain. Thousands have died trying to reach its summit and you and I have no experience…there’s just doom, fear, and one hell of a climb ahead of us. Scary, huh?

Well, yeah. But still, we’ve come all this way to Killdrop Mountain and to turn back now would be admitting defeat. Also, all of our other explorer friends would make fun of us.

Now, let’s stop pretending and be honest for a while.

Writing is sort of like this…without the fear of falling to your death of large jagged rocks. Unless you’re on some sort of weird retreat with other thrill-seeking writers.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that has sat down behind the computer, stared at the white screen, and felt a slow and creeping fear enter my mind on occasion. Sometimes it’s because that old whisper of you’re not good enough creeps in. Other times, it’s because the idea I have seems too big. And others times, it’s something much deeper. But do you know what I do to shut that fear up?

I write.comp

I write through that fear. Sometimes the result is pretty bad and needs to be rewritten. But even sloppy first draft drivel is progress. And every now and then, I’ll use that fear as fuel and the words that come out of it aren’t half bad.

So what about you? Where does your fear come from and how do you stave it off?

Based on what I know of myself and a rather large portion of the writing community, here are some of the fears that tend to pop up, as if birthed by your internal Idea Factory or the Blank Screen, and how to overcome them.

That idea is stupid. Try again.

Maybe it is stupid. But you won’t know unless you try. Getting down 3,000 wasted words just to test the waters is better than never trying the idea out at all and then finding out years later than some other writer used a similar idea and is reaping the rewards.

This idea is too big for you. Try something smaller.

While writing can indeed be a roller coaster, it’s not the type that has the You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride sign at the gates. It’s your idea…it can be as big (or as small) as you need it too.

You don’t have time for this.

Good. Write it anyway. It’s called sacrifice and it’s likely going to help you become a more dedicated and driven writer.

Actual fear.

As a horror writer that goes for selling the tone, I have actually sat down behind my computer and written something that had me looking over my shoulder. This has happened to me several times…once so much so that I had to stop writing and come back to it a few days later. This is an awesome feeling and if you can use it to your advantage, I believe you have a one-up on most other writers.

What if you think it’s awesome and everyone else hates it?

So? Everyone’s a critic, and most of the snobbier ones are self-serving and miserable, looking for anything to complain about. Do you like the idea? Are you enjoying it as you write it? Then forget about what everyone else thinks. (Well, up until you send it off to beta readers).

What if it doesn’t amount to anything?

Oh well…lesson learned. Scrap it and start again. Even bad writing can be used as a workshop, particularly to find the areas where you need improvement.

But the white screen is yelling at me again.

This is a problem. Seek psychiatric help immediately.

But what will people think of me after they read this?

Hopefully they’ll think you’re a writer. As a Christian that writes primarily horror, this is a fear that pops up all of the time. But I hold to the old adage of writing for yourself first and your audience second. Who cares what people will think of you? You wrote the book and they didn’t. The way you should be seeing it is that you wrote a book…an actual book that a few people might read. Don’;t worry what others think…what do you think of that?

How about you, fellow writers? What are some of the fears that keep you terrified as you hammer out the words?


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