What are you scared of? [I'm now poking my virtual finger into your chest] That’s right, you heard me.
I remember the first time I played my guitar on stage and the overwhelming anticipation that built as the date approached. Inside I was consumed with a mix of excitement, knowing that one of my first major goals in life would soon become a reality (becoming an entertainer), and that the milestone brought me a baby step closer to my dream of becoming a rock star and making music for a living. Fear was the other emotion swirling around inside. Why, you might ask? Reality would be coming soon and I’d either be rejected, or all my hard work would be validated.
Yeah well, I’m no rock star, but I did get out there and rock my ass off, and I do find a parallel in this with writing my first novel. I think writer’s block is borne out of fear. Now you’re thinking – what is scary enough to make it so you’re not firing on all cylinders? Simple. You’re absolutely loving what you’re doing. Writing is fun, it’s an escape, just like reading, only better. You have the freedom to create your own world and put your imagination down in words to share with others.
At the same time you’re writing there’s this inner dialogue going on, and you develop a love-hate relationship with your work in progress. One week it sucks, and the next you’re like, man, I think this is good, and I mean really good. I wanted to compare my writing to Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Dan Brown and the like, and I wanted my story to be every bit as kick ass as one of theirs. Not only the story itself, but I wanted its delivery to be on par as well. It’s all about the execution. You might say that’s ambitious, but you don’t get very far in life if you don’t set the bar high. Really high.
So what questions are at the root of your fear?
- What if it sucks?
- What if nobody likes it or buys it?
- Did I forget anything, are there holes in my plot?
- I don’t like this part, or that part, can I publish it if I don’t like everything?
Obviously there are more, but you’re feeling them, so there’s no need to elaborate. The real question is how do I eliminate this fear? And I’ll tell you what, I have the answer to this question and you’re going to love me for it. You stop writing. You just stop, period. Set aside your aspirations and go get a mindless job doing something you couldn’t care less about.
Are you done sulking now? If not, please come back when you’re finished so we can work on getting past this whole thing…
Okay, great. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets get on with the task at hand. The point is that if you don’t have fear, you either don’t care enough about what you’re writing, or perhaps you’re not taking enough risks with your work. Perhaps you have one of those two problems, maybe it’s something else entirely, but it doesn’t really matter the only path forward is to push onward. Otherwise you’ll never have the opportunity to find out whether or not you’re failing. You can be certain that we’re all too busy to be concerned about you and your little problems, so it’s on you to end the pity party and get back to work. Life is full of failures, so the only option is to use them, along with your successes, as motivation. The paralysis of worrying about whether we’ll be accepted solves nothing. Just keep on writing, and if you need further encouragement, half the stuff I come up with is done after I’ve written something pretty horrific. The jury is still out on whether I actually managed to fix it, but the bottom line is to just get the words on the page. You can tweak things later when the right thing comes to you, and it will if you don’t brood on any one thing.