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Writing Through the Fear

Considering it’s the Halloween season, I thought I would write about something all writers face at least once, if not daily, in their career: fear.

More accurately, the fear that our writing won’t be good enough.


Regardless of how much we write, how many books we read, how often friends and family might praise whatever bits of writing we allow them to read and (gasp) critique, we have this innate fear that we will never be as good as Stephen King, or Anne Rice, or Ernest Hemingway. We fear we’ll never achieve that level of success almost every single one of us dreams about: a six-figure advance, a penthouse in New York or mansion in the Hollywood Hills, a gleaming Porsche waiting silently in the garage, invites to the most exclusive nightclubs and parties, massive, multi-city book tours, a European book tour, our books consistently hitting the New York Times bestseller list, Hollywood buying the movie rights and turning our books into blockbuster hits, a Pulitzer nomination.

The fact is, very few of us ever achieve that level of success, especially in today's literary market, and we shouldn’t be stressing ourselves out over fantasies that will, most likely, never come true. Most of us would probably be happy with our books in print and just enough money to get by without having to maintain a day job. Hell, let's face it, most of us would be happy with our books in print, period. And sadly, chances are great that those writers who can afford to stay at home and never work a day job are being supported by a spouse, their parents, or some other family member who doesn't mind someone who keeps odd hours, drinks all the coffee, raids the liquor cabinet, and walks around talking to themselves.

I’ll admit, there are mornings I wake up in a panic, doubting every word I’ve ever written and asking myself, “what right do I have to force my writing on the world? Does anyone really want to read what I have to say?” But then I’ll take a few deep breaths, a shot of whisky, and read what I’ve previously written, and suddenly those thoughts fade away like forgotten ghosts, my words bringing me back to a place where I can confidently say “Yes, I do have a story to tell, and I know how to tell it.”

A lot of writers go through similar moments from time to time. It’s only natural to be a little scared when you’re about to send your words out for all the world to see, and judge, because make no mistake, people love to judge these days. Writing a novel can seem like an especially daunting task, the idea of filling 300 plus pages with words that all must somehow make sense, but like the master of horror himself Stephen King once said, "Write a page a day, only 300 words, and in a year you have written a novel."

Sounds easy enough, but if you're still too terrified to go near the blank page, here are a few quotes from other writers who confronted and overcame their fear that will hopefully give you the courage you need:

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” – Steven Pressfield

"Someone once told me that fear and courage are like lightning and thunder; they both start out at the same time, but the fear travels faster and arrives sooner. If we just wait a moment, the requisite courage will be along shortly." - Lawrence Block

“Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper and the last.” - Ralph Keyes

“Don’t be paralyzed by the idea that you’re writing a book; just write.” – Isabelle Allende

Just remember, it’s okay to be afraid. That's usually a sign when you know you're about to create something truly inspiring. The key is to not let that fear overwhelm your desires to write.

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