Metaphorically, of course. Sorry about that little bit of melodrama.
I’d like to talk about the things that will metaphorically kill you and, very non-metaphorically, kill your writing. Things like fear, regret, and, in my personal case at the moment, guilt. Because, as Frank Herbert put it, “fear is the mind-killer.”
Writers are some super fearful people.
We fear judgment, our own and everyone else’s. We’re afraid our prose aren’t good enough, that our characters are flat, that we rushed the second act. We’re afraid people will yell at us on Twitter. We’re afraid they’ll cast the wrong actor to play our leading man. A lot of the time, these fears are as reasonable as fearing a shark in a swimming pool. Still, I’ve never met a writer that wasn’t afraid. When we talk about writer’s block, believe it or not, we’re usually talking about fear. We’re afraid the words we put down on the page will be crap, so we just don’t put any down. Words can’t suck if you don’t write them.
This, obviously, isn’t a long term solution. Unless your goal is ‘talk about wanting to be a writer for the rest of my life’. In that case, carry on.
On that note, the less discussed but no less insidious cousins of fear, guilt and regret, should be pulled out of the shadows as well. I said I was feeling guilty, and I am. The last few months have presented me with a wealth of opportunities, and I have fumbled a lot of them. I’ve missed deadlines, I’ve fallen behind, I have over promised and under-delivered. It keeps me up at night. This is not the writer or person I want to be. That same voice that tells us not to write when we’re afraid tells us to give up when we’re overwhelmed. You screwed up, call it a day. I shouldn’t have to mention this, but that voice is a dirty, dirty liar.
I wish I had a fool proof solution. There are plenty of things that might help. One blog I read suggested giving yourself a word limit of 50 words a day. The logic being that if you make yourself do anything, it’s easy to get over whatever is holding you back. I think there’s some truth to that. Goals are good. Talking about it is lovely. I find a deadline and a person to answer to do wonders for my output.
Whatever you do, you should know that you’re not alone. That failure, fear and guilt are all parts of being a writer. Not in a melodramatic, ‘aren’t artists crazy’ sort of way. But in a very human, completely understandable way.
You can get through them, and you will.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Storyteller,
Cover Photo by Laura College