There are times when you just don’t know what comes next.
For me, I’ve reached that point.
A year ago, I would have felt guilty saying this. Now, I don’t. I haven’t written a single word in my novel since the end of November.
I’ve focused my time and attention on other things like my family and my full-time job. Lately, that’s been my focus. And I’m totally okay with that.
I’m getting to the point now where some of the seasonal craziness is winding down. And I’m realizing it’s time to start writing again.
But I’m scared.
I’m really scared.
I never let it show on the outside, but just realizing that I’ll pick up my novel and start writing again, and suddenly torrents of doubt and fear rush in.
Here are a few of my fears:
- That I’ll re-read my writing and realize it’s embarrassingly bad and unusable
- I won’t know what to write next
- What I write next will come out awkward, clumsy, and forced
- I’ll think it’s good, then when I show it to someone, they point out 10,000 flaws
- My plot will crumble
- I’ll lose heart and leave the project unfinished
- Finish the story and realize it’s boring
I believe that if you let fear fester within you without addressing it, or bringing it out into the open, it grows and grows, and sets its roots into you.
And I don’t want any root-setting here.
So I’m addressing this head-on. I know many of you face similar fears every day. Some of you are paralyzed by it. Some of you cope with it.
I’m writing this blog post more for my own benefit.
Feel free to inhale my insight second-hand.
I know that if I expose my fear and force myself to look at the truth instead, I will be able to push forward with courage. There is no such thing as a person who has no fear (with the rare exception of a mental condition or insanity). Being courageous doesn’t mean having no fear, it means doing the right thing in spite of your fear.
So I’m going to address each fear with the truth, and move forward courageous:
- If my writing needs heavy improvement when I re-read it, that’s what second drafts are for. And third drafts. And fourth. And fifth. And this could go on for a while. I need to recognize that I will NOT like my first draft when I re-read it, and that’s OK! It’s expected. I need to give myself grace to mess up. It’s impossible to have a wonderful first draft. There will be good components and terrible ones. I just need to winnow away until it looks shiny.
- This point is true: I probably won’t know what to write next. That’s also OK! Everyone deals with this. It’s normal. I need to push on. There are some tactics to overcoming writer’s block: review the next plot point, spend time with my characters, free write, and re-read the last few pages.
- What I write next in my novel WILL come out awkward because I haven’t written in 2 months. It will take a few days of hard work, but it will start flowing quicker and more naturally the more I apply myself.
- I need to realize that it’s literally impossible for all my fears to mutually co-exist. Fear #1 and Fear #4 are contradictory. Yet I fear both. Wow, Ben. You’re a piece of work. My beta readers will point out many flaws, but the main ones I’ll be looking for are story structure, character development, tension, and the like. If any of those are lacking, then I can address them one by one. After all, you can eat an entire elephant one bite at a time.
- I already have a plot structured. I can revise it in my second draft. The plot virtually always needs some nudging. Stop being a drama queen, Ben! Don’t expect to be the unicorn of authors and write the most magical first draft ever. Sweat a little, gosh!
- This is a very real fear. I like to jump from one thing to another. But if I truly want to finish the novel, I will set up boundaries for myself, challenges, and accountability so that even if I lose interest, I’ll push on. In the end I’ll appreciate it, because the sense of accomplishment will be greater than ever.
- Your face is boring. Seriously, this is actually rather easy to fix. If it is boring, then I’ll need to make my antagonist more involved, increase the tension in each chapter, and raise the stakes. Move chapter to chapter until every scene has a healthy dose of tension.
If you have different fears, write them down. Then write the truth down. Some of the fears might be plausible. The point isn’t to hide your head in the sand and pretend it will never happen, the point is to face them head-on in battle.
Fear will never control you.
You will control your fear.
Question(s) of the day: What about writing scares you? Has it been holding you back, or have you been able to push forward in spite of it?