On Fear

Writer’s Digest recently published an article entitled “10 Ways to Harness Your Fear and Fuel Your Writing”. It’s definitely worth a gander for any writer, either beginning or novice, attempting to break into the industry.

This article offers up tips for recognizing your fears, tracing them to the source, and maintaining and using them to your creative advantage. I did feel, when reading the article, that some things could have been expanded on and that certain aspects of fear weren’t really addressed but overall it proved a helpful resource on fear maintenance.

I think fear is pervasive in any artist’s life. We put so much of ourselves in our work that offering it up for public scrutiny is oft times like singing naked in Times Square. Its not just something you created, its a glimpse into your heart – into your soul. Its why many beginning artists find criticism hard to take; its not the work that the critic doesn’t understand, its the artist, and nothing can be more frustrating than being misunderstood.

I know that my own fear often dictates what I write, what I don’t write, what I show other people, what I tuck away in the farthest reach of my digital world where I hope no one will ever find it. Fear plays a large – perhaps the largest – role in my writing career…or lack thereof.

My most prominent fear is one that, I believe, plagues most unproven writers, and is also one I didn’t feel the aforementioned article adequately addressed. That foreboding question: What if I’m not good enough.

While the article suggests (and rightfully so) that even though your work might be rejected you can learn from the experience and better your writing, I can’t help feeling as if this answer is a cop out. As if they don’t want to get into the real issue.

Every year millions of writers attempt and fail to break into the industry.

This is not necessarily because all of these writers are terrible. Certainly if terrible writing were a barring factor in publication several novels currently on bookstore shelves never would have made it. No, no…the fact is, your writing can be perfectly fine, it’s your story that can fail to capture a publisher’s interest. And therein lies my greatest fear: What if my stories aren’t good enough?

I suppose the article didn’t really mention this aspect of the ‘What if’ fear because there are no simple tricks to quelling it. No tips to maintain it or use it to your advantage. The only way to deal with it is by believing in yourself. You see, the writers that make it are the ones that believe so strongly in their story they’ll cart it around from publisher to publisher until one finally accepts it. Every big time writer has been rejected more than once, but they believed in themselves, and that gave them the courage they needed to send their manuscript to the next publishing house.

I attend writing classes taught by a local scifi/fantasy author, Maxwell Alexander Drake (check out his blog here, he’s awesome), and he put it rather succinctly in one of his first lessons: You have to be your own biggest fan.

So I tell myself every day: Maybe my stories aren’t good, but I believe they are, and if I’m going to one day achieve my dreams, then right now that belief has to be enough.

Because the only real way to overcome all those fears is to keep writing…or keep drawing, or painting, or whatever it is you do.

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