Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writer's Wednesday- Dealing with the Fear.

(photo by Tabitha Bird)

Disclaimer: As promised Writer's Wednesday debuts on my blog today. Also as promised there will be no talk of writing do and dont's. there are a million blogs that deal with that.
THIS is NOT that blog. Writer's Wednesday will talk about the kinds of things that debilitate us, scare us, inspire us and make us run for our pen.. or computer. The kinds of things that once someone else talks about up we all exhale quietly and say something like, "Thank god. I. Am. Not. Alone."

That said... let's get to it.

First topic off the bat- Fear.
(Yeah, I know, jump in the deep end, Tab. That's me. Deep End Tab :)

Consider this:
"Working writers aren't those who have eliminated their anxiety. They are the ones who keep scribbling while their hearts race and their stomach churns, and who mail manuscripts with trembling fingers." 
~ Ralph Keyes.

Okay, now I'm going to be real honest. Fear is a writer's constant companion. There. I said it. The day I stopped expending time and energy trying to get rid of fear was the day I finally realized what it meant to be a writer.

For one reason or another every writer has periods of time where they CANNOT write. And I'm going to cut through all the excuses for why (the dog needed walking, your kitchen needed painting, your boss gave you overtime, you didn't feel ready, you had no ideas, nothing inspired you, everything inspired you, you didn't know where to start, you did know where to start, you'd made too many false starts) and just say it like it is. IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO FEAR.

I don't want to spend a lot of time discussing the various fears we writers have (I'll leave that for another post) but I do want to say that we all have them and if you get with yourself for five minutes and ask what's going on for you, what is behind all the excuses and writers block, you will most likely come up with your own loooong list. 

Use it
If you were like me what you did when you discovered your fears was to try to get rid of them. 
It's to be applauded. 
But fear has a way of coming back. Example: I decided not to be afraid of the talent of various other writers and to simply be the best me I could be. Fabulous goal. Until the next time I read something from Uber Talented Writer Dude or Dudette. (she actually has a name. This is a true story, but I won't shame us both) I sat there reading her posts thinking, 'Crap! I will never be able to do that! Look what she did with 200 words! I couldn't do that with 200 000! (Yeah, come on. You have been there. Admit it :)

Once I'd stopped howling about how unfair life was not to have made me half the writer she was (and wasted a good portion of my allotted writing time to the self-depreciating cause) I re-read her post. Yep. I reread it. I decided that I was scared. The fear of not being good enough was real and unlikely to go anywhere by wishing it away. I was going to have to deal with it. AND here's how I dealt with it.


That's right. (cue wild clapping... still waiting... okay... not coming :)

I used the fear to make a promise to myself. I was going to use this writer as a touch stone for my work. I was going to read her. Learn from her. And then compare the mechanics of her writing with mine. I turned the fear into a tool. This has become the single most proactive thing I've ever done for my writing. It stopped fear from being a debilitating thing and transformed it into the inspiration to write BETTER than I ever had before.

Consider this:
I strongly believe that the very thing that makes us better writer IS fear. FEAR USED WELL.
Ralph Keyes said it better than me (see, there's always someone :)

"The state you need to write 
IS the state that others are paying large sums of money 
to get rid of."


What about you? What do you do with your fear? Does it stop you, or inspire you?


  1. I think the fear helps me know when I've got a killer idea. The more it scares me to write it, the more I know it's worth writing. If it doesn't scare me, then it probably won't excite me either. Then, I just pretend that I won't try and send the manuscript to anyone, that it's only for me, and I conquer the fear and get on with it. Erm. Ideally, anyway :) It doesn't always go like that! (You know this, Tab. How many times have I written to you convinced I'd never write again, LOL :D)

  2. Eeek, mostly it has stopped me but after reading this, I guess I should try to use it. I loved that first quote because I feel that way alot. LOL

  3. I am definitely scared all the time I write. But when it comes down to it, the fear of not writing is worse.

  4. When it comes to my writing, I live in a constant state of fear. Even if it lurks in the background, or is screaming in my face, I still write, because I love to. One day, though, I'm afraid the fear of failure will cripple me.


  5. I love this new feature, Tab. And we are so on the same wavelength I'd just realized that it was fear which was stopping me from working on the novel. Once I recognize it, I'm hoping I can write despite it, because you are right. It won't go away. It might get less or more intense at times, but it will always be there. Thanks.

  6. This is great! I took a public speaking course in college and the teacher had the same take on public speaking. Every great speaker is nervous about getting up in front of people. It's that fear that gives energy to their presentations. Makes sense to me. We can use our fears to our advantage.

  7. Oh my goodness, that last quote was awesome!

    This is such a great idea, Tab. Did you read Jody's blog today? You have totally found your niche!

    I can most definitely relate to fear. I think you hit it on the head - let's use it. Let's write from that scary place. Instead of run from it.

  8. I work to make friends with it, to hear its messages and to incorporate them into the bigger picture. Really thoughtful piece.

  9. You've distilled a really essential topic and truth, and one that (for those that continue to struggle) there exists a wealth of resources on. A clear introduction exists in "Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking" by David Bayles and Ted Orlando. They expound upon a lot of what's been said here in greater detail, and offer lots of useful little anecdotal examples (it could become so terribly abstract if they didn't).

    At any rate, it's worth a look if this post rang true.

  10. For me, it's not the writing that makes me afraid. It's the sending it out to the world. It's easy for me to say, well, I write for myself. I don't care if no one else sees it. But that's a lie I tell myself to let the fear stop me.

  11. Guilty. It stops me. I'm on it though, trying to do what you do. It's hard, but worth it, because we need to write, right?
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  12. It is a brave person who can admit that she is afraid...

    Great post Tabitha. I like Writer's Wednesdays. :)

  13. I used to feel fear when I went to other blogs and felt they were better than mine, funnier than mine, more real than mine, more interesting than mine etc. Then I realised that we are all unique with our own voice, and good writing isn't just about writing well, to me it's about exposing the real you, being true to yourself and writing from the heart.How can you be afraid of that?

  14. Again, a very thought provoking post. I need to analyse it more, but right off, I'd say my biggest fear is having someone--no, strangers-- READ what I wrote! Then they'll know what I'm a billboard across my forehead--Like presenting something to put on a scale.
    No place to hide; no control over the counterbalance.
    I suppose that boils down to fear of rejection...but I keep putting it out there anyway.

  15. Point well made. Fear is a weapon that can be disarmed! Every time I sit to write I break the stronghold.

    Love this:)

  16. Great idea for Writer's Wednesday. Seems fear is always with a writer: fear of reviewers, fear of not writing our best, fear of being rejected, and the list goes on and on. But like you said, we should use our fear to help us.

  17. Fantastic post. Now I have to remember to tune in on Wednesdays!!!

    Fear usually triggers the avoidance mode in me. Which isn't difficult considering my adult ADHD tendency to run from anything I find overwhelming. This year is supposed to be about the follow through. I'm only doing so-so thus far, but-on the plus side, I haven't caved in yet, either. That's something.

    Looking forward to the next there gonna be homework?

  18. Thanks for stopping by my blog....

  19. I can see this as truth. Sometimes that fear does stop me, then I'll analyze it. Often, it's knowing that I'm challenging a belief or stretching myself. In that case, it NEEDS to be said (written) and the truth will come to light - despite my racing heart and shaking hands.

  20. I know exactly what you mean about reading someone else's blog or story or whatever and thinking, "I could never write something that awesome." What a wonderful idea to actually study that person's writing. This happened to me a while back and I don't even remember who it was now, but I wish I did so I could start reading her posts more regularly. Oh well, next time...

  21. Excellent thoughts and love your cool writing style for this post:) I did the same exact thing with a few of my favorite writers--I read all their books, studied how they did and and asked myself what it was they did that made me admire their writing and then tried to dig deep inside me to find something there in mine.

  22. Fear? It depends on the day. Anyone who says they're not afraid is lying. It may not strike us all the same way, but it's there. It knows it has a job to do so it's never going away.

  23. "I decided not to be afraid of the talent of various other writers and to simply be the best me I could be." __Loved this!

    There is this inclination to compare our writing to others but we are all gifted in our own way. Even after my book came out there was this fear that I might never write another book worthy of publication until finally, finally, I decided I was just going to write and not worry about the consequence. Great post and something that needed to be said. Why are we always so reluctant to talk openly about our fear?