Thursday, 29 August 2013

Fear - and writing

I've read a couple of posts recently, about writers and fear. 

Andrea Phillips, guesting on terrible minds, wrote about the four fears that stop you writing...and after a whole summer without writing much at all, topped off with an agent rejection for Rurik because the story is about rings, (and apparently Tolkien and Wagner have cornered that market), I am very much feeling The Fear. 

Andrea used four categories, which pretty much seem to cover everything about The Fear. Here's how they eat away at me. Some, more than others...

1. Fear about (lack of) talent.

I am so hard on myself. I write my stuff, then I compare it to the work of someone who writes more action, more quirkily, more descriptively, more...everything! And my inner critic says - 'you're rubbish.'

I enter competitions and never allow myself to consider the possibility of being placed, because there will be a million others all entering the same thing who can string words together in a way that will make the reader go all gooey like I never can. I might as well save myself the cost of an entry fee.

It's a risk, letting people see what I've written. Especially when, as a writer, there is so much of 'me' in what I write about. But if I don't take risks, I'll never know what could have been. And if I don't enter any competitions, ever, I can say with 100% confidence that the chances of being placed are definitely zero.

So I keep writing, trying new things, testing myself and my capabilities.

2. Fear about feedback.

I am now a little more restrained regarding who I ask for feedback, having been bitten a few times by folk who told me how I should write/they would write a scene, instead of suggesting ways of improving it. I have some writer friends whose opinion I trust, and the rest fall into the category of 'take with a pinch of salt unless they all say the same thing or what is said makes sense'. And - shock! horror! - even the opinions of agents and book doctors sometimes fall into the latter category...

That's not to say I ignore feedback - a writer ignores feedback at their peril, and should be constantly striving to improve what they lay down on the page.

And feedback often confirms gut feeling, which I really should learn to trust more.

3. Fear about publication.

If no-one in the professional publishing world can make money out of me ('lacks commercial sparkle' seems to be a consistent theme for my full-length children's novels) then to get my stories to the kids I think will enjoy them, I have got to go it alone.



The traditional route to publication meant I didn't have to think about formatting or cover design or promotion or sales. Self-pub does, and it turns me into a quivering wreck who would rather bury her head in the sofa cushions and never write again than face going it alone.

Which brings me full circle to the risk-factor - if no-one wants to do it for me, then I'll have to do it myself to find out whether kids really would want to read my stories.

4. Fear about being judged.

I know my writing isn't always brilliant, but can I bear others thinking the same thing? Will my work wither and die quietly, like an unfunny comedian? Will it get slated by people I want to impress? Will anybody, anywhere on this planet, actually ever read anything I produce, because they take one look at the title/blurb/cover and go 'Nah!

If I thought like that all the time, I'd never write.

Perhaps I need to add a little something to the famous song from 'La Cage aux Folles' - 'I am what I am'; I am what am I am, and I write how I write.

Having read that lot through, I've just realised something; if I stay true to myself and my story, writing to the best of my ability, then the only judge I have to fear is the one inside my own head.

The Fear will only stop me writing if I let it..

So I'm not going to.  


  1. Lordy, lordy, so much of you in me - that ever-present sense of 'if I can do it then everyone must be able to', and then will laugh at me because I didn't do it so well as they ...
    But self-publish, formatting - have to say (though I've never done ebooks with illustration) it truly isn't that difficult. After all, I've done it ...
    (Check the top book on the LH side of my blog as an example)
    Good post, Squidge, I'll return to re-read.

  2. I can't say anything profound - only empathize. It's pretty much what I've been through and am going through still.

    What I have learned is that publishing and commercial achievement don't mean much in terms of quality of your writing but I guess you know that by now.

    I will never forget "Thread" which, to my mind, shows you are a sensitive story teller, mate. xx

    1. And there lies the problem, I think - that work is often judged on commerciality, (is that a real word?) rather than quality. I am reassured by the fact that good, self-pubbed work will gain a following - but then we go full circle back to number 1 on the fear list!

      Thanks so much for the continued support. x

  3. Hi Squidge

    having found your lovely blog (mine pales in comparison!) I just wanted to say that I think your fears are pretty much suffered by every writer in varying degrees at some point - even the ones who have been published and who would probably be considered by the rest of us to be successful... I think it's part of the 'condition'. :-)