Okay, so I don’t believe I’m driven by demons to write. Hopefully it’s the Holy Spirit Who inspires me. But I must write just as ducks must swim. I’m compelled to torture myself with the literary arts. And while I love this gift, and the places it takes me, there are days when I agree with Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
Here are 10 things I find the most frightening about writing:
- Fear of being inept and amateurish. What if my writing is really bad? What if I can’t play with the big kids in this writing thing? What if I’m too shallow? Too glib or cliche? Fact is, I probably am, but I’m the only writer who can write like me, and that’s something I have to offer that no one else does.
- Fear of not being smart enough. This relates to the first fear. I think great writers are geniuses. Seriously. I envy successful writers because they are extremely clever and smart. Will I ever be as smart and knowledgeable? Do I even have the aptitude? The answer is that there are a lot of writers much, much smarter than I am or ever will be. And maybe, just maybe, there are writers I’m smarter than. But if I’m called to write, then there’s a reason. There must be someone who needs to hear what I have to say. And if I can influence or encourage even one life–isn’t that reason enough to obey the call?
- Fear of making mistakes. Last I checked, Jesus Christ was the only perfect human Who walked the earth. And I certainly don’t have the qualifications to be the Messiah, so this fear is absolutely unreasonable. Then again, I never claimed to be reasonable.
- Fear of being unoriginal. This fear is based in a lie. God’s Word tells me that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9. Basically there are only seven major plots: 1) Overcoming the Monster, 2) Rags to Riches, 3) The Quest, 4) Voyage and Return, 5) Comedy, 6) Tragedy, 7) Rebirth. There are no original ideas, just variations.
- Fear of not selling the story. What if my idea is so stupid and the writing so bad that even my agent won’t look at it? Yes, this poltergeist taunts me on my dark days when the words won’t flow.
- Fear of not creating the story that’s in my head. That’s when I freeze and don’t know how to put the words on the page and procrastinate by playing online marbles. The only way to work through this fear is to vomit up on the page. Words, not actual body fluids. That might ruin the laptop.
- Fear of rejection. I hate rejection. I have issues with rejection as an abandoned child and the thought of being rejected is horrifying. But to go through life thinking everything I do will be liked by everyone is unrealistic. The fact is, I will be rejected. I must learn to accept it and learn to take it like a big girl. To fight this fear I often have more than one project I’m working on so I can put my focus on something other than the rejection.
- Fear I’m too old and irrelevant. I didn’t get started early enough in writing seriously–or so I tell myself when this writing gig isn’t going smoothly. But then I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at age 65, and Frank McCourt (Ashley’s Ashes) when he was 66. And I’m a decade and some years younger than they, so maybe there’s hope.
- Fear I’ll give up. Ironic isn’t it? I’m afraid of quitting because I won’t have the strength to keep writing through all the rejections and failures. Sometimes I wonder about Harper Lee–why didn’t she write another book? Was she too afraid? Like me? And will I be too afraid to keep putting myself out there? What if I quit right before the moment when everything works and a masterpiece is created? The thought makes me shudder.
- Fear of failure on all fronts. Fear of failure is at the root of all the other fears, isn’t it? To think I’ll never fail is a lie. Lies and fears are bedfellows. I will fail. I will not always succeed. If you’re going to write, you’ve got to be at peace with that.
It takes prayer, tenacity and courage to be a writer. I can only face this art I love with prayer and the grace of God. His gift of tenacity keeps me writing on the hard days. And courage keeps me submitting work after countless rejections.
I’m not the best writer. I may never win a Pulitzer or Newberry or Christie. But if I obey and use my gift to the glory of God, that’s all He asks of me. If I quit striving to shine the brightest in the history of the world, and just shine my brightest, the fear and stress will be much more manageable and I won’t be tempted to believe the lies that fear spouts.
One day I hope to be able to rest 100% in the grace He provides without all this wrestling. But that’s the nature of living on this earth. Until heaven, I’ll keep praying to keep up the good fight and remember that His Love conquers fear and His Strength will see me through.
One. Word. At. A. Time.
Tweet This: What scares you about writing? How do you exorcise your ghosts?
I’m with you on 9 out of 10… but I don’t agree that all great writers are geniuses, or even that someone has to be super-smart to write a novel. I do think you have to be a good learner though. The more interesting question you asked is, “Do I have the aptitude?” (not you specifically). I think in this day and age of self-publishing, too many people think anyone can do it. I’m of the opinion that yes, anyone can write a novel, but not everyone can write a novel that’s readable. I’m not sure if that’s because they haven’t put in the time to learn the craft, or just don’t have the aptitude. Thanks for sharing, Karla!
I admit I do use “genius” a little loosely, but I do think it takes a LOT of smarts to write a GOOD novel. Thanks for being so supportive, Tom!