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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On the Beginnings of Writing…

Image form joepeacock.com

Image from joepeacock.com

I’ve often heard some people say that writing is hard. I understand this, though I think the declaration requires a bit of clarification: writing well is hard. Writing to a purpose of creating something new and wonderful and magical, something that only previously existed inside your mind and the wispy ether of your dreams is the challenge.

 

All of us, each person that reads this or puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, has the capacity to write. The struggle for some will be what to write. For others, the hurdle will be how to write what I mean, so that others “get” it. Still, others will have far more mundane challenges such as free time or clarity of thought for a long enough period to accomplish writing.

Right, with me so far? Writing, in of itself, is a task, a mechanical process of moving ideas from non-material to material in some kind of medium. Monkeys could do it. Many of them better than me I imagine.

The trick, the turning point of writing is simple: you must write. All the time. Every day. Even if only a little — you must commit thoughts to words so they stare back at you in your chosen medium.

But why?

Because it is only in this manner that you can actually become a writer. Great story ideas, great concepts, and beginnings, the perfect setup, plot, hero or villain….all of those are great pieces of your writing. But none of them, alone, are writing. Writing is a commitment between you and your mind to dedicate time and energy to creating written content. No one, no matter the name, popularity, platform or profile, can successfully become a writer without writing. And thus, no matter where you are today, no matter how good, bad, or in between you think your writing is…none of that matters until you actually write something.