Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

What’s so scary about writing? It’s not like you have to bungy jump into a book or be like Bear Grylls battling the elements while eating still-squirming things to survive. Yet fear comes up time and again as a reason why writers do almost anything rather than sit down and write.  Or if they do, never finish. Or avoid sending their work to an agent or publisher.  Author Erica Jong  said that for years she avoided sending anything out. As long as the book was a work-in-progress, it couldn’t be rejected. She’s far from alone.

If you want to be published, you have to wrestle your fears to the ground. In my book, The Idea Factory, I recommend asking yourself what you’re really afraid of. Usually it comes down to one of these fears:

  • being wrong
  • ridicule
  • actual loss

Writers aren’t the only people afraid of being thought stupid or  wrong. Trying something new IS risky and you might fail. You could also succeed beyond your wildest dreams. The infamous writers’ block may be a defence against fear. If we don’t put ourselves “out there” no one can find us wanting. Try reminding yourself that you are not your work, nor does your career depend on one piece of writing. Even the most successful writers produce a “what were they thinking?” piece some time in their careers. If not, it may be that we’re not pushing ourselves far enough outside our own comfort zone.

When Allen & Unwin invited me to edit the anthology that became How Do I Love Thee? Stories to stir the heart, I said yes then wondered what I’d gotten myself into, never having edited other writers before. Mentored yes, through Romance Writers of Australia’s  Valerie Parv Award, but contracted, inspired, collated and…gulp…given a group of multi-published authors feedback on their work? Hell, no.

I followed the advice in a handy book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers Ph.D. The title pretty much says it all. I said yes, felt the fear – boy did I ever – then edited the book. That experience became one of my most rewarding in a long time. This month, the book was published in Korean, and a review on A & U’s website says: Who would have though that such a mixture of emotions could be unbottled by opening this little book. It will have you smiling, crying, laughing, wondering all the while your heart skips a beat.” – Trinette, NSW (via Lifestyle YOU) 

A sign in my office says, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and all is well.” So go ahead, feel the fear and write your book anyway. It’s much more satisfying than eating wriggly things, I promise.





Comments on: "Feel the fear and write it anyway" (8)

  1. Maggie Nash said:

    Wonderful post Valerie. It comes at a time when I need a good kick up the behookus (yes, I just made that up!).

    It comes close to a quote from you a while back…something about how doing the work is easier than the procrastination. So true

    So no more fear….here I go!


  2. Oh, dear, I don’t often disagree with you, Valerie, but the writing isn’t scary. It’s how much PR one is expected to do these days that scares the bejasus out of me! I don’t even do my own blog like you, just occasional guest blogs, and answering readers’ emails and sending out a newsletter – and I don’t twitter – but I’m still short of time to write my stories, which sometimes wake me in the night to nag me. I have a friend with a tee shirt saying, So little time, so many books to read. I feel the same about writing.

    • Good to see you here, Anna. Luckily I love Twitter, while agreeing we need to safeguard precious writing time. It still comes down to writing great books, which you certainly do.

  3. Excellent post. You are my writing hero. Thanks for being so generous with you advice.

  4. Sherry Jones said:

    Feeling the fear–always– but am going to do it anyway.

    Nice to be reminded that we aren’t alone in the fear pool.

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