Let others write about fear - I'll do angst.

 This week's litchat is about facing down the fear in writing. Litchat runs 4-5pm EST, M-W-F. Yesterday's chat was interesting, and I expect tomorrow's and Friday's to be interesting as well.

Am I going to write about overcoming fear today? No. Others have written about ways to face and overcome fears far more eloquently (and more helpfully) than I'm able to or wish to. I will note that many fears are quite specific:
  • I'm afraid people will think I'm a pervert if I write about sex the way I want to.
  • I'm afraid people will think I'm an unstable maniac if I write gruesome horror the way I want to.
  • I'm afraid the positive comments on my blog are just people being polite.
  • I'm afraid my style of writing was only popular a hundred years ago.
  • I'm afraid the real writers will laugh at me for wanting to write yet another kid's book about a talking duck.
  • I'm afraid that if I sent my novel to an agent and she doesn't like it, she'll tell all her agent friends about me and I'll be blacklisted forever.
  • I'm afraid that I'll spend a bunch of money on professional editing and cover art which will never be recouped in sales.
  • I'm afraid publishing has changed forever and I lost my chance to publish a book even before it was ready to submit to a publisher.
The fact is, I'm not really consumed by specific fears like these. Oh, I have them1, but I'm not consumed by them. I'm much more suited to writing about angst and anxiety. These tend to be much less focused, less specific.
  • I'm afraid my writing sucks.
  • I'm afraid I'm kidding myself.
  • I'm afraid I'm too lazy to be a writer.
  • I'm afraid my writing is derivative.
  • I'm afraid my life's path is set and it's too late to write.
  • I'm afraid I'll make some crucial mistake.
  • I'm afraid I'm not good enough.
  • I'm afraid people will get tired of me.
  • I'm afraid I'm doing this all wrong.

How does one counter these nebulous, wraith-like anxieties?
  • "Just suck it up, quit whining and keep writing." Effective in some contexts, but not terribly supportive.
  • "Take a deep breath, embrace the writer within you and keep writing." Like a nice cup of tea and a warm cookie, this will make you feel better because it's superficially affirming.
  • "Ignore your inner critic, make a plan and keep writing." This is easier said than done, but I'm beginning to see a pattern.
  • "Accept that everybody writes lousy first drafts, commit to fixing it in the editing and keep writing." OK, I'm definitely seeing a pattern here. Are you?
  • "Take heart from your successes, embrace the lessons learned from your failures and keep writing." Do you see it? What's the commonality here? Anybody?
  • "Know that while you won't please everyone with your writing, you can do what writers do, which is to please SOME people. Keep writing." I'm pretty sure I've got it now, thanks.
  • "Fake it 'til you make it. Keep writing." I said I've got it, OK? You don't need to beat a dead horse.
  • "Keep writing." Um, yeah.

That's enough for one blog post. I've got writing to do.

1. All of them that is, except for the book about a talking duck.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Here's mine: I'm afraid that whatever I send out will end up rife with formatting errors & typos, and that will put me into an emotional tailspin for a month!

  2. I'm afraid I'll make hash of this great idea and that I'm too out of sync with "them out there" to carry it out.

  3. What else is there to say...your angsts are twin to mine. Well said, thanks for posting that!!

  4. Having met you and found in you a kindred writing spirit and foodie adventurer, I have just one burning question to allay my fears which are very similar to yours (especially the one about being too late to catch the traditional publishing boat -- ouch! Too close to home!)...

    Do you think I should keep writing? ;)


  5. I have to honestly say that the "keep writing" thing is the best advice. Forget the uplifiting bullshit and just keep writing. I was damn near paralyzed by fear when I started this whole thing and thought of giving up more than once, but I kept writing and my fears are less consuming everyday.

    I'm about to start another round of queries and I'm excited and nervous and a little scared, but I have another novel idea ready to go once this one is sent out. And if this one doesn't fly with agents, I'll have another one ready to query, and another one after that, and another one after that. I've read so many blogs from "breakout" authors who didn't land an agent and/or book deal until their third, fifth, tenth novel. So I'm choosing to drown out the fears by focusing on new projects until I reach my goal, however long that takes.

    So, my advice to you...keep writing.

  6. I echo all of your nebulous, soul-sucking fears myself. I need to get the words "Keep writing" tattooed across my knuckles. Thanks for this!

  7. @ FARfetched: Heh, the dreaded "what did I forget to do" anxiety. I know it well!

    @ Janet: I've got that one, too. "This idea is so fantastic, I'm not the one who should be writing it up!"

    @ jessiebincr: You're welcome! Keep writing!

    @ Cecilia Dominic: You should not only keep writing, you should find someplace in Atlanta that will do a bowl of frog congee as good as you had here in Philly!

    @ Danni: That's where it all happens - at the keyboard. AFter delays and hesitations, pauses and retrenchments, get back to it and keep writing. Keep up the good work!

    @ Bev: You're welcome! Go you!

  8. I fear that there are no original ideas left out there...except the ones based on things already written.

  9. I second that Marianne


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