Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Writing and Fear

So you sit down to write a blog post. That was several hours ago. Since then you've checked your email several times and Facebook an embarrassing number of times and played a dozen games of solitaire (various types) and this weird matching game for small children called Purble Place which came with Windows and you not only played it, you tried to beat your own personal record, which says something about how you've been spending your time and the something is not complimentary.

You're a writer. You're a published writer. You should be writing, not gunning to find the other baker's tile to match the one you already found which will hugely boost your score.

This is the thing, though: Purble Place is idiotic but the rules are simple and clear and you know them, which, let's be frank, is not the case with writing and even less so with publishing and sometimes you get tired of feeling like you're a shoe salesman at a snake convention. Snakes slithering past, giving you that look. Wow, is that chick lost or clueless or what.

Because you're starting to think maybe the snakes are right. Maybe you've been kidding yourself. Wasting your time. Maybe nobody wants anymore what you have to offer.

Maybe the explanation is just that simple.

And that's how fear begins. Whispering in your ear so that despite all your best intentions (today, I will figure out ten different ways to tackle that problem scene in Chapter 6, today I will brainstorm fifty scenarios for the second book in the series, today I will come up with a smashing idea for a new novel) you end up back at Purble Place hunting for the damned baker. And you decide the solution is to buckle down and work harder but you're setting yourself up, you see, you're walking right into fear's trap. Because naturally the next thing you wonder is:

What if I work as hard as I possibly can...what if I turn myself inside-out from the effort...and it still isn't good enough? What then?

And fear cackles in triumph: Why, then, you're a failure. Game, set, and match, fear grinning at you with the silver trophy in its rotten hands.  

So back to Purble Place you go. Accomplishing nothing. On the other hand, nothing is at stake. Oh, you're still failing, don't kid yourself about that. But how much nicer to fail when you know you haven't given it your absolute utmost! This way you can still say, I could've made it. I could've been successful. If I'd had more (check all that apply):

___a better imagination
___a better agent
___a better publisher
___that writing software everyone else has but it's only available for the Mac and who has the money to buy a new Mac? Not me.  
___other (please explain in the space below)

See? You might have done fabulously. It's like a little portrait of the you that could have been. You can keep it close, as a comfort, and pull it out at parties and show people. See? you'll say, with a sigh. I would've been marvelous, if only.

If only you hadn't been so afraid. Because time isn't the problem, or your agent, or your lack of writing software. The problem is that you're terrified that you'll go to the well and find nothing but barren rock. No solution to Chapter 6. No second book in the series. No ideas for a new book. You'll have run dry and all you have to offer are the same old Uggs and Mary Janes and the snakes are slithering past and you're done, you're toast. Buh-bye.

The solution? You already know. There's no magic here. You go to the damn well. You dig deep, as deep as you can. You go back and back and back and you keep digging. Yes, you might fail. Better that, than failing for certain from a timid, wretched half-heartedness.

Of course, you might not fail at all. That's the other big risk, of course. Success.

Probably best to be afraid of just one thing at a time.


Lisa Nowak said...

Oh wow. This one hits too close to home at the moment. Nicely conveyed.

Christine Fletcher said...

Thanks, Lisa. I'm not quite in this space anymore but I had the post written and it'll come around again, I know, so... Nature of the beast.

If you're in a rough patch at the moment, I sure hope it doesn't last long. Hang in there!

Melissa Amateis said...

Wonderful post, Christine. I hate fear. And the thing is, it doesn't hit me all the time - there are some times when I can write and it doesn't bother me. I just don't think about the "what if's." But other times, oh, other's HORRID. It just gobbles you up and spits you out and by that time, you're shaking so uncontrollably that you can't type a single coherent sentence and you just give up and go look on Pinterest or wander around the house looking for your cats so you can snuggle even if they don't want to. I hate those days (except the snuggling with cats part).

Christine Fletcher said...

Melissa--snuggling with cats is always a good thing, whatever the motivation. :) And fortunately, one of my cats is always up for a snuggle.

The fear that gets me worst is the sneaky kind. I don't even know it's there until I realize I'm procrastinating terribly and try to figure out why and finally see it lurking.

Far as I can tell, every writer our there--anyone who's trying to accomplish anything, really--gets nailed at one time or another. All we can do is keep on going. Because I sure don't want to be at the end of my life thinking, "well, at least I scored over 10,000 on Purble Place." ;)

Andrea said...

So funny and sadly true. If only there were some kind of BAT training for writers, so that we don't freeze up when approaching a project. Chicken tenders? A brownie after every four hundred words? We'd all be huge but fearless.

Christine Fletcher said...

Love it! Andrea, the mental image that conjures up is hilarious. "Finish this scene, and then you get a spoonful of Ben & Jerry's." Sign me up!

Walter Rowntree said...

Great post, Chris. No one knows the sneaky ballooning of fear like me. It can become 100% convincing.

Leave the shoe selling to the agent. And just be glad you're not spending most of your time trying to keep your frogs happy.