Kicking The Fear

As I believe I may have mentioned once or twice already; writing is hard.

There’s the self-discipline, the battle with procrastination, the RSI, the inability to leave the house wearing appropriate clothes, and the loneliness, but, worst of all, there’s The Fear.

You know The Fear, don’t you? (Please say yes. Please don’t let it just be me…)

The Fear is a nasty creeping creature that hunches behind your chair heckling you. Who are you kidding trying to be a writer? You’re too stupid/old/young/boring.

The Fear says ‘you can’t’ and ‘you’re wasting your time’ and ‘who do you think you are?’ The Fear says ‘you’ll never succeed’ and then follows it with the cold wet slap of ‘if you do publish this sucker, your neighbours, your mother, and your kid’s schoolteacher will read it and everyone will know how depraved/mundane you truly are’.

The Fear, in short, sucks the life blood from your creativity and wipes its feet on your self-esteem as it leaves.

I’m closely acquainted with The Fear. It’s my near-constant companion on this journey, so I thought I’d share some of my methods for kicking its arse so that I can get something – anything – done.

Read books by writers who have trodden this path ahead of you.

I recommend you begin with The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. It’s reassuring and gently encouraging and I dip in and out whenever I need a little boost.

Also required is Bird by Bird. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Anne Lamott’s  funny, inspiring take on writing.

Stephen King’s On Writing encouraged me to write my first novel. His practical advice and ‘just do it’ attitude was exactly the push off the kerb I needed.

However, for the Dark Times when The Fear is particularly vocal, I suggest ignoring practicality from an irritatingly prolific bestseller and head to Russell T Davies’s The Writer’s Tale. Yes, he is incredibly hard-working and successful, too, but this memoir of his time writing Doctor Who is full of Olympian-levels of faffing while Russell does everything to avoid writing. It may not make you more productive or focused, but damn, it’s good not to feel alone.

Which brings me to my final tip. Join the writing community so that you never have to feel truly alone. Take part in NaNoWrimo (in November), start or join a writing group (I like online ones best because you can stay in your PJs), take a course, or find a critique partner or two.

In the spirit of taking my own advice, I’ve signed up for YA author Karen Mahoney’s Spring Into Summer 50k Writing Challenge.

The challenge begins today and the aim is to write 50,000 words (first draft, not revisions) in 50 days. There’s the chance to win prizes, as well as lots of supportive cheering.

Care to join me?

10 thoughts on “Kicking The Fear

  • 8th May 2011 at 5:05 pm
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    I think it’s great that you have The Fear. I’m only guessing here -never having finished a novel- but I imagine The Fear can only come once you have overcome all other obstacles -discipline, procrastination, time and beer- and are actually writing, well, properly, regularly and have actually finished your novel(s). Fear of inadequacy surely only comes once you have overcome everything else that stood in your way. You’ve beaten everything except your own self doubt. Well done you…

    Reply
  • 8th May 2011 at 6:45 pm
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    Thanks, Alistair – that’s an incredibly generous response! Although, you’re selling yourself short – you’ve written at least one full-length script (that I know of) and that ain’t easy… If you haven’t met The Fear, yet, I’m mightily jealous! Speaking of which; how is your writing going? Has your course finished now?

    Reply
  • 10th May 2011 at 2:52 pm
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    Great blog post, Sarah, good luck with your 50k!

    Reply
  • 12th June 2011 at 1:22 pm
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    I’m glad I’m not alone, Sarah, I see your Fear and raise it to levels unseen – it’s horrible isn’t it? I’m in the ‘not-worthy’ camp today and am even considering hoovering.. I know it’s Bad.

    Reply
    • 12th June 2011 at 2:29 pm
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      Thanks for the empathy, Debs! Sorry to hear you’re suffering, though… Today I am so frightened of my WIP, I have not only done the hoovering, but I’ve even… Wait for it… Dusted! Argh!

      Reply
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  • 20th August 2014 at 7:07 pm
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  • 9th September 2014 at 3:53 pm
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    First of all I would like to say terrific blog!
    I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you
    don’t mind. I was curious to know how you center
    yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
    I truly do enjoy writing however itt just seems like thee first 10
    to 15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any recommendations or tips? Kudos!

    Reply

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