8/18/2009

On Writing and Fear

funny pictures of cats with captions


People often ask when I knew I wanted to write. The answer is always. But one thing stood in the way. Fear. I was afraid a) I wouldn't be any good b) I wouldn't know how to actually go about writing c) people would make fun of me and d) I would start and not finish.

Guess what?

All those fears were realized. And I'm fine.

When you start writing, you aren't any good. You might write for five years and not be any good. But if you write every day for five years, study your craft and commit to your stories, you'll be better than you were when you began.

I didn't know what the writing life looked like when I started. I've learned it's different for everyone. You can study other people's work, read suggestions on author websites, go to workshops, read books on writing, read every book in every genre you can get your hands on, read message boards about writing, join a writer's support group.

But ultimately, you have to sit down and WRITE. Everyone has their own process. You can look for advice, but the hard truth is this: it all comes down to you and your story and the work you're willing to do to get it out of your head. You DO it.

People will make fun of you - and not just the gossipy co-workers who jump on weaknesses like a hungry pit bull on a week-old kitten wrapped in bacon - but people you love. People whose approval you seek. But as you stick it out, put in the time, pile up the pages, and hopefully gain some recognition, that will change. They start to "get it." When I began writing, my husband didn't bother hiding his eye rolls, chalking it all up to another project that would end up abandoned. Now he's extremely supportive. He's watched me sacrifice sleep, sanity, time with friends, television, leisurely reading - all things I loved. I mean, I really loved sanity. Oh how I miss it. 

And don't doubt it, you'll have to sacrifice things you love. You'll have friends who don't understand. But you'll also have friends who WILL. Who will wear team jerseys with your name on them, shake pompon's to cheer you on from the sidelines (or on your Facebook page), who will bring you cupcakes when your plot lines turn on you. Friends who will read endless first drafts, even when they don't understand why you keep changing things.

And you'll make new friends. Friends who understand what you mean when you talk about the voices in your head, or when you stop mid-sentence to stare off into space and then grab for the closest writing instrument before the thought escapes you. Friends who will endlessly brainstorm plot with you, and who won't be afraid to look at you and say, "It's nice. But I'm bored." (Thanks, Jennie Bentley. You helped me raise the stakes.) Friends you've never laid eyes on who are writers with little time to spare that still take time to read and critique. (Kimberly Pauley, you are made of awesome.)

If you're going to do it, commit to writing, I suggest you mean it. The writing life isn't for sissies. And I realize I don't even know the half of it. I'm not even on submission yet and my writer friend CJ Redwine already calls me a ledge whore. The definition of a ledge whore being someone who freaks out and hangs off ledges when things get crazy - and one who does it often.

Yup. That's me. But I'm working on it.

You will start and not finish. I knew I wanted to write a paranormal story, but I didn't want to write anything that was in opposition to what I believe. After several false starts, I thought I had my concept nailed. Seventy thousand words later, I figured out I was wrong. That book lives under my bed. It's priceless, because it represents six months spent learning the craft.

So everything that I was afraid of when it came to writing happened. And I'm still standing. What are you afraid of? What's stopping you from chasing your dream?

My suggestion? Look fear dead in the eye and stare that sucker down.

Because if I did it, you can, too.


9 comments:

  1. This. Is. Awesome.

    Even though the only recognition I got was as the one who thought up the name "ledge-whore".

    Really, Myra? Really?

    *was going to fling lemon bars but awesomeness of post combined with innate respect for lemon bars holds her back*

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  2. One of the most inspiring posts about writing that I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing your journey through the Valley of Fear.

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  3. Yes. Yes. Yes. Couldn't agree more. Put it off for years. Writing was for *writers*. Nearly halfway through my first draft. Thanks for your inspiration!

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  4. Thanks guys! My husband says, "You have to shoot for the stars or you'll never reach the moon!"

    That's why I'm the writer and he is not.

    And CJ, you are the critique partner fabulouso and I'll just have to make it up to you!

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  5. Is it wrong that I kind of want a Ledge Whore t-shirt?

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  6. Hey Myra, this is a really timely and inspiring post. However, it reminds me of something I heard on Scooby-Doo the other day. "If there's anything I can't face, it's facing the inevitable." - Shaggy

    Like the inevitable realization that I have no idea what I'm doing and it's all crap. Worth the experience of going through, but crap.

    Sigh.

    Where's the ledge? I might need to go hang out there for a while.

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  7. I've been reading through backposts (because, frankly, your blogs are very entertaining) and I have to say that this one really touched me. I think that if that's the definition of a ledge whore, I may have to join the club. Very inspirational post - thank you!! (And thanks to C.J. for the term, LOL)

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