Writing and Fear

(AKA, The Most Uninteresting Title Ever. I blame the fear.)

I came upon an interesting realization yesterday about my writing. I currently harbor a great deal of fear about it.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve read many, many articles and blog posts about writing, and a common topic is, of course, about writer’s block. I generally skip or only scan most of these, because I’ve never felt like writer’s block was a big mystery. Happens to all of us, and from my experience as a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I’m aware of many strategies and causes for it. However, one of the primary root causes of writer’s block is fear. Fear that you cannot come up with any ideas. Fear that you will write crap. Fear of criticism. Fear of failure in general.

I can quite understand how this can stop writers from writing, but for me, fear has never been directly behind writer’s block. Sure, writer’s block can make me feel some panic, or stress, or overall crankiness, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever been unable to write because of the things I mentioned above. I’ve always felt okay with the fact that even when inspiration strikes, it may not produce an amazing combination of words. I’m good with revising.

No, my fear is a little different. I write here and there these days, but if it isn’t as much as I’d like, I don’t attribute it to writer’s block. However, I have noticed that when I do write, my approach to it has been much more tentative. I’ve been writing snippets here and there for my current WIP (work-in-progress) and some of it has been coming through nicely, other parts so-so. I suppose I could say I have a little bit of writer’s block with this new novel because so much more still has to be developed in my head for it. I have a basic plotline, I know the key players, I know the key theme(s), I know the basic ending. But it isn’t fully living in my head yet, like the last one did, and I recognize this as an obstacle for me. But it’s getting there.

But even as I write a snippet… or expand upon those snippets, I have begun to worry that I will not have the magic that hung around me like it did for the last novel, that what I am writing now will not morph into something…well…good. And the odd thing is that even when I write something with ease, I doubt the results. I think, “that came too easily, therefore it must not be very good because I haven’t worked hard enough at it.” And while that may ultimately be true, I have forgotten that I’m not new at this. I know what I’m doing (as much as any unpublished writer knows what she’s doing), and dare I say it out loud? Sometimes I am very good at it.

I continue to derive a great deal of joy from my last novel and more often than not, I am confident that it is a publishable piece of work as is. But as I come closer and closer to the decision to give it a major revision after all (damn that stupid word count!), I waffle back and forth between confident that I can pull it off and completely terrified that I will mess it up beyond recognition. But today I reminded myself that A) I still have my original draft and 2) I could still come up with some very good stuff… and maybe and hopefully it will be even better stuff.

(BTW, yes, I’m aware of my A) and 2)… call it a shout-out to my sister.)

In the end, I can’t say I’ve now magically lost my fear, but having a better understanding of it helps me tame it. Though it wasn’t directly keeping me from writing, it may very well have been keeping me from writing freely.

Does fear interfere with your writing? Is it the cause of writer’s block for you, or something else? What if you never even had thoughts of publicly sharing your writing? Does fear still get in the way?

The title of this song is “You and I Both”, but to me it’s “All About Those Words”– at least for today. A commenter on YouTube said, “the rare occasion when the live version sounds even better than the recording”… I disagree with it being rare, but I do agree when it comes to this performance with Jason Mraz.

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10 Responses to Writing and Fear

  1. I sort of have no business commenting on this post, as writing is not what I do. Not in the way it is for you. But, I have time to kill, so I’ll jump in. Even as someone who writes only for fun, I can say that each time I sit down to begin, I feel a little panicked. I fear that I won’t be able to do it- won’t be able to take what’s in my head and articulate it. Most of the time I push through that, but there have been times when I couldn’t.

    By the way, I’m excited about your WIP.


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Nonsense. Writing is definitely something you do – you just have different goals for it! Articulation… yes, I run into that a lot – and I think that is what makes my process so slow, too.


  2. Steph says:

    Good lord, you totally it on the head for me with this! I made similar comments just the other day. If it’s hard, I’m unhappy and figure I’m doing it wrong. If it comes easily, I’m unhappy and figure I’m doing it wrong! Sometimes I think I’m doing something really good and other times I think I must be out of mind for writing at all. And I haven’t even written a novel like you have! Glad to know I’m not alone in this….


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Confidence. We just need confidence. Now if you can tell me where to find the jackpot on that, let me know…


  3. Laffers says:

    ‘Fear that you will write crap’

    Yep…except my fear is a reality. Good times!

    And you know that I still refuse to believe you ever write anything that is not good. Not great? Maybe 😉 But never not good! LOL


  4. I don’t have the self-assurance that you have that your writing has been “good” in the past. No matter what compliments I get on my novels, I find myself thinking, “They’re just being kind. It’s utter rubbish.” Even when I find myself getting goosebumps at a well-turned phrase in my WIP, I end up saying, “Yeah, but Rowling (or Austen or Dickens) could have done it better.” So, my fear is not that I won’t live up to my past success, but that I have never had any success to begin with. Not sure how to get over that…


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      I’m hoping your most recent news may be enough for you!

      I think part of my problem these days is that I don’t have the currency of reader reactions. I received some great feedback that I was able to accept as honest, but that was a long time ago and it fades away, you know? Do people still think it was good, now that time has past and reality has set in? This is where we have to do our self-talk… and we both have “just enough” confidence in our work that we have the audacity to ask someone to rep it, right?

      I could do a whole post on writer self-confidence and lack of it thereof. Ha! Instead I will cut myself off and add: maybe Rowling could write something better, but she couldn’t possibly write YOUR story better. And I will further add that I have no reason to believe that your work doesn’t measure up to or exceed the quality of her work. 😀


  5. A) Your struggles around writing is why I could never (well maybe not could never – we should never say that) but would not ever try to publish. How it gets in your head like that hurts my heart. I don’t like you feeling frustrated, fearful, crabby or filled with any panic. But that’s just me and your perseverance is admirable and shows you really just love writing.

    2) thanks for the shout out; and

    D) I love you!


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Excellent list!

      And thank you for your support. On the flip side of frustrating, fearful, and crabby lies exhilaration, pride, and satisfaction. 😉


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