The Fear of Writing

35001782_482544518838457_792731957887762432_nDo I fear writing? Does it intimidate me? Yes, I think sometimes it does. I think most writers find there is some trepidation that comes with creating something from nothing, adding something new into our digital world that never existed before. This doesn’t mean I don’t like to write (I Love it!). Nor is it an excuse not to write – There really are no good excuses not to write. That sentence looks so wrong, and yet, it’s perfectly capable of conveying meaning: no excuses.

No, the fear in writing, of writing, is the anxiety of writing something that is not good enough. Some people can write for the minimum effect: a passing grade, to make the boss happy, to meet some time-sensitive goal. In high school, I had a biology teacher that graded homework not on the merit of content, but on the volume of pages submitted. More pages meant better grade. I once added a crossword puzzle to mine. I got an A.

But my goal is to write well and create a work that lives, defines and inspires the reader. One well-written page (or paragraph) trumps 10 poorly written pages. The fear is in ensuring I can consistently deliver that quality page. I want to write, and I live by the 3-page-a-day mantra to ensure I am always writing. That does not necessarily lead to quality material. And that’s okay, as is the fear that keeps me anxious about it. Because as I drive myself to always be writing – every day -and as I hold myself to an expectation of quality, I know that, eventually, the work I’m churning out will be revisited and polished.

The fear of not writing well cannot hold you back from writing in the first place. My very first attempt at a novel, When Earth Cries, is the perfect example of what happens when the fear of quality paralyzes your progress. I spent three, maybe four years re-writing the first two chapters to get it “completely” right. Ultimately I rewrote the entire opening of the book with a throw-away scene of doomed heroes. But before then I wrote and rewrote the same two chapters maybe two or three dozen times because they never quite worked. The end result of that was a book that went nowhere but had three very good beginnings. And that’s where the fear of writing kills you. That probably seems obvious to many of you, and I hope it is. Most editors I’ve ever talked with all say the same thing: write without editing. Get the thought onto paper (or the screen). But just write, and don’t stop, don’t spell check or correct. Turn off Word Auto-correct so you don’t even see the errors, because they will build up, and the more red underlines you see, the more that fear of failure will force you to stop and begin editing.

So, maybe the secret to writing is to just close your eyes and write. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, so as long as when you are done, whatever was in your head exist in some state on paper. I’m…still working on that. I have a ways to go. Partly because I’m anal retentive. Partly because I like my work to be good from the beginning (an ego battle you do not need to win). But, I’m getting better. And my writing is getting stronger as a result. Hopefully, just maybe, it’s something that will help you, too.


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