(*Not a real number from a real list.)
That’s correct, false writer’s block. I’ve joined the bandwagon that believes there is no true writer’s block, that the primary “block” is not the inability to write, but the fear to do it. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of finishing, fear of running out of ideas, fear of others’ opinions, etc.
My current fear? That this second novel will not be good enough.
Arguably, I could say my first novel is not good enough and that, of course, contributes to the current fear. However, most days – or at least 51 out of 100 days — I don’t actually think this is true. On those 51 days, I understand that it might be good enough, but it also is not “right” enough for what an agent currently seeks or that I am not selling it quite the right way.
Since deciding to place it in the drawer for safekeeping for the purposes of moving forward, though, I’ve focused on that all-important SECOND NOVEL. You can see the problem, can’t you? I mean, look at how I’ve typed SECOND NOVEL. This is what it has become.
One part of me feels the beating heart of speed – I need to finish this NOW. I see people around me scooping up agents, getting published, and editing their third and fourth novels all while I seize up on my second, hoping it will really become my first. Everything I read about the changing face of publishing messes with my brain in that if I want to see my book in print, I must race to publish SOON.
Then my more common, rational, and calmer side reminds me that “there is no rush, only do”…. wait, that’s not right. How about, “Everything in its own time.” Pick your cliché and skew it how you like. The point is, obviously, that I know it is ridiculous to think there is any sort of race at all and that print publishing isn’t going to disappear in two weeks.
So what’s the fear? What’s the false block? The race would indicate that I should be writing at a fast and furious pace (Hey look – another cliché!), except that I am in avoidance mode. The good news is that I’m still writing. I haven’t let the fear of SECOND NOVEL overshadow everything else. The bad news (for me, of course, I mean, what do you care, right?) is that I am writing everything but SECOND NOVEL.
I have a plot. I have most of the scenes in my head. I have 24k words written. I love my characters and the story, I really do. So I wondered what fear I was harboring to make me avoid it all.
Quite simply, I realized that this book needs to be better than my first. I may believe that my first novel is publishable, but since others don’t think so, I feel pressure for my SECOND NOVEL to impress. Honestly, I have a plot line that I really believe will appeal to agents and therefore publishers, even if I didn’t plan it to be so. That’s just luck, really (one shouldn’t write for the “market”, she should only write her story). The hard part is believing that I can write this plot as well as I feel I wrote the first, that the words will come together skillfully and not just make me look like a hack.
Identifying the fear does not make it magically go away, but it does help to turn SECOND NOVEL into Second Novel, instead, which is much more palatable and to follow the wise words of many and just write for good or ill – one cannot revise a blank page, after all.
What writing pressures do you face (whether they be externally or internally imposed)? What fears prevent you from writing?
[This is also where I make myself listen to U2… I gotta stand up straight, carry my own weight ‘Cause tears are going nowhere, baby. By the way, I love this live on Letterman version of this song.]