Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Monday, April 28, 2008


Fear of failure... Fear of success... Fear each word you write isn't the best word, or that your story is headed in the wrong direction, or that your character just said the wrong thing. All of it can be a killer. Fear sucks, literally. It sucks the energy right out of you; it sucks the life from your story; it sucks the creativity from your brain.

The other day (or maybe it was the other year... after a while everything runs together) someone asked me how I write so much so fast. Over the weekend, I was thinking about the answer to that question.

You know, until this came up, I never thought I wrote fast. Two thousand words for one day doesn't feel like enough for me, whether it was done in two hours or eight hours. I always feel like I could've done more, like I should've done more, but was too lazy. But talking with other writers, I see that 2K in two hours is a lot more output than some writers can get to.

So, why me and not them?

I think part of the answer is that I used to be a secretary. Simple typing speed has something to do with it. If you've only got an hour to write during your day, the more words you can get onto the paper in that hour, the higher your output. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not anywhere near as fast a typer as my mother, who touch types, can read and type at the same time, and can transcribe from dictation. Put in a typical secretarial position, I'm a mediocre typer at best. What I can do, though, is type quickly when I know what I want to say and I'm not afraid to say it. And there's the key, I think.

During the first draft, I just let the words come and I don't worry so much about each particular word. I'm just trying to get the ideas down on paper, so I can get a sense of what I want to say well enough to make refining the section easier during edit time. I don't let fear stall me at this time. This might be part of the reason, also, why Spectacle took me so long. I obsessed over every word and every scene. I went back and edited while I was writing, and if I couldn't think of the absolutely right word at that time, it hung me up.

I got over it. Now I just sit down and write without letting fear enter into the equation. If I make a mistake now, I figure I'll worry about it in the edits. I know I sure as hell don't worry over whether what I'm writing will ever be published. If I let that fear in, I wouldn't be able to write a word. (And that's what happened in the middle of Caldera, so I know whereof I speak.)

A million little things can stall your writing. If you let them. Don't allow fear in because it will be the biggest stall of all.

Are you a fast writer or a slow writer? Either way, what do think might be holding you back from your potential? What are you afraid of? If the answer is Nothing, share your secret.

(If you haven't read it yet, check out Karin Tabke's post on Fear. Great minds think alike this morning. I've been trying all morning to post a comment, but it's not letting me, so look there later for my thoughts on her subject.)

ETA: Since it still won't let me post a comment, I'll leave it here: Awesome post, Karin. One thing about me is if I sit and think about all the little things there are to be afraid of in this business, I freeze. Deer in headlights frozen. Reading your paragraph about all the little things to fear got my heart doing its palpitation routine. What if I never sell anything? That's the worst fear for me. Well, the only thing to do about that is to keep writing, keep improving, keep learning. Sooner or later something will hit. If not this book, then the next. (And if not that one, then the next one. And so on.) If one genre doesn't fit, try another. Find something that will sell, and hope it opens the door for the good stuff you wrote before. Kick the fear to the curb where it belongs and forge ahead.

And now that I'm fired up, I think I'll go finish my blogroll and get some query letters out. Onward!

1 comment:

JenWriter said...

Oh, I have fear. Fear that my writing is awful. Fear that the story isn't translating well from my head to the keyboard. But I just keep telling myself this is the first draft, and I plow ahead anyway. I can always go back and fix it. I think that's why I've been writing so much faster. I'm not trying to fix it as I go.

You know, if the first draft sucks, oh well. It can be fixed. I know that at least some of it is good. I doubt I'd ever finish if I tried to make the first go publishable.

Then, I'm also afraid of not finding an agent. Or even just the agent I consider the perfect agent for me rejecting me. And then if I get published, I'm scared of getting bashed on Amazon.

But you know what? Even Tolkien gets bashed. Even J.K. Rowling was rejected. Even Janet Evanovich has had crappy first drafts. It's all just part of being a writer.