Facing Fears

As writers we all have a number of fears about our writing – most especially when facing the dreaded blank page (which I should have been overcoming this week but procrastinated instead!). I’m not often crippled by writer’s block but I am most certainly stalled by many a fear. Mostly that fear centers around writing some truly awful rubbish but I think deep down, it’s probably more the fear of being exposed as a fraud (you think you’re a writer, hah?!). I often wonder if bestselling or famous writers experience the same degree of fear or angst but, unless they suddenly morphed into arrogant, self-aggrandizing idiots, I suspect that whatever deep-seated fears they had as newbie writers still secretly plague them.

This week I found my fears became paralyzing – I wasn’t able to get back into my WIP as I have a completed project that is being digested by my agent and so my brain seemed fixated on that. No matter that the rational part of that same brain told me to cease worrying about things out of my control and to seize the pen and get down to the business of finishing the next manuscript (which, after all, is all outlined, partially written and ready for completion!!). Despite this, however, the other part of my brain – the part that harkens back to my primitive, fear-driven, ancestors – kept holding me back. As of writing this blog post, the rational part of my brain has just about reasserted control, safe in the knowledge that since I’m traveling to London this week, little can actually be accomplished writing wise (travel being the perfect excuse for further procrastination in the name of research!).

Strangely, although (as this week proves) I still get beset with writing angst, most of my initial fears regarding my writing have all but disappeared. I no longer worry that I can’t actually write a complete novel (since I’ve managed to do so numerous times, my brain has finally accepted I will be able to do so again) and I am less concerned with the crappy nature of my first drafts, as experience has told me I can usually manage to improve them with revision (even if that process sometimes seems endless). Of course, replacing these fears are many others, but at their heart they are probably more about flagging self-confidence than true, gut-wrenching fear (at least I hope so!).

In the current environment, many writers don’t have to deal with the traditional fears of not finding an agent or a publisher. These can be bypassed if a writer chooses, and indie publication is a route easily accessible for most, if not all, writers. Nonetheless, I’m sure fear for any writer never truly disappears.

So TKZers, what are your greatest fears when it comes to your writing? Do you worry about the quality of your work or finding a market for it? Do you hate facing the dreaded blank page or, for you, is there some other nagging fear about your writing that keeps you awake at night (or, like me, keeps you from getting your writing done?)


12 thoughts on “Facing Fears

  1. I think every writer knows that perfectionism is the biggest hindrance for all of us. We have gone back to material we wrote a decade ago, and cringe at the fact that we have all evolved since then. That is the nature of writing. The more we do it, the better we get – and that’s exactly as it should be.
    Maybe you should encourage yourself by the fact that you have succeeded numerous times, so why not focus on all the positives and turn off that little doubting voice inside you? Don’t spend energy on skepticism. The more you practice that way of thinking, the less you will be bothered by that doubting Thomas-voice…
    Best of luck. 🙂

  2. My current fear is that I won’t be able to figure out my plot. Once I’m happy with my outline, the writing itself is wonderful, but I sometimes get bogged down when plotting.

    I always have great ambitions for my plots… they must, in my opinion, have many twists (like The Killing TV series) and I’m never confident that there are enough “surprises” for the reader. Will my ending be too obvious or not deep enough? Does my First Plot Point truly take the hero/reader off in a ‘new’ direction or is it too subtle? Do I have to tweak my characterizations so that what my characters do will be well motivated? Is my sub-plot sufficiently connected to the main plot? Do I have all the dramatic characters I need?

    With my current plot, I discovered that my villain wasn’t a villain at all (although I want the reader to think she’s a villain for awhile), so I had to come up with a new villain. The new villain seems like a good guy for much of the novel. I ask myself whether that will work in a thriller as opposed to a mystery?

    The list of my structural questions seems to be endless sometimes, but I do believe that unless my stories are structured well, the novel will fail on many levels.

    I don’t worry nearly as much about my characters and whether the reader will find them intriguing enough to read on. I don’t worry about narrative drive once my structure is sound, but I spend far too much time on structure, and it frustrates me.

    • Sheryl,

      I can relate. My number one fear associated with writing is not capturing the plot I want. Sure, everything else about writing is hard–writing strong, believable characters, good setting, dialogue, etc. But plotting is always my big sticking point.

      I have a 19th century novel series that I’m brainstorming that I’d like to have an element of the spy business in. One of the big sticking points is how to do so believably in that time period–a big hindrance being the slowness of communication at the time. Today we can write in burner phones, emails, etc. Back then, information over long distances took weeks or months to travel. It’s a real bugger when trying to assess the value and liklihood of your story.

      But I’m really intrigued by the idea and determined not to give up. The series could be a real stinker. Or it could be really awesome. In any case, I’ll have to face my fears and try.

      • I too face the horror of getting tangled in plotting. I find the best thing for me is to step back and make sure I can succinctly state in a couple of sentences exactly what the premise of the book is, then anything in the plot that strays too far from that I can rein in. The historical issues though always remain – sometimes they place big limitations on what the plot can realistically contain (especially in the spy biz!)

  3. I sympathize, Clare. I wish you had the benefit of a co-author. Whenever I get in one of these fear-funks, my sister Skypes me with “WHERE IS YOUR CHAPTER? SNAP OUT OF IT AND WRITE SOMETHING!”

    She gets me through computer glitches when I am near tears with frustration with, “Take a deep breath. This can be fixed.”

    Ditto when we get struck on plot or think we will never get beyond a mired point, she tells me, very calmly, “We’ve been here before. We’ll work it out. Just write.”

    Maybe I should make a tape of her voice and sell it.

    Happy travels to London!

  4. At around the 20K mark, I fear I don’t have enough for a book. Every. Single. Time. Then, when I turn it in, I fear my editor will come back with “What Happened? This is crap.” So far, I’ve been able to finish 20 books, and my editor has told me (as does my mother) that each one gets better.
    But then there’s the Big Fear. What if readers don’t like it? What if nobody buys it?

    I don’t think those ever go away.

  5. My current fear is I won’t finish my next book on time, and that my newly released book won’t sell and that the new series I risked everything to write — even got out of a contract to finish it — won’t sell either.
    Other than that, no worries.

  6. As a newbie in the fiction field (I have published two monographs in academia, a third is in press and will be out in Oct., and I have a contract for my fourth for which I am finishing up the revisions.) my fear is that my writing will not be good enough to attract an agent, editor, or audience. I don’t worry about finishing a book, because I can do that fine. I worry that what I write won’t resonate with anyone–even though I spend considerable time studying and practicing the craft of fiction writing.

  7. I think we all fear that it won’t be well-reserved. Sometimes it’s paralyzing, too. Self-doubt can be a b**ch. Wishing you much success!

Comments are closed.