Squashing the Fear of Writing

July 28, 2011

Yes, you read the title right. Yes, I’m sometimes afraid of writing. There are lots of reasons why. What if I don’t know what to write? What if what I write sucks? What if what I write is good but in an entirely different direction than what I’d planned and now I’m faced with intensive rewrites or scrapping the WIP and starting anew? What if it hurts too much to write this scene? What if it doesn’t hurt enough? What if these words take me nowhere? Worse yet, what if these words take the reader nowhere? What if they take me somewhere I never wanted to be?

For me, writer’s block isn’t about not knowing what to write—it’s about being scared. When I’m away from writing for longer than a couple days, doubt creeps in. I lose my rhythm. I no longer hear the story in my head. And I start to procrastinate writing sessions, filling my day with gardening, shopping, decorating, shopping, reading, shopping, eating, shopping…

Yesterday was the first day since the first week of July that I wrote anything substantial. Of course, it took me to the last possible second to force myself into my desk chair. By then I’d already weeded, spread mulch and even planted four plants (a first for me), showered, took a trip to Lowes, stopped by CVS, dropped by the violin shop with my daughter’s violin, and shuttled my kids to McDonalds for snack-sized McFlurries. Tired and ready to pass on writing again, a little voice whispered, “But you promised.”

I looked at my son sitting beside me and then to my daughter in the backseat, but it wasn’t one of them. (Their mouths were full of McFlurry.) It was me—pathetic, neglected, little old me—and I didn’t have the heart to say no this time.

So I gripped the steering wheel, nodded proudly and announced to my kids, “I’m going to write a thousand words when we get home.”

My daughter said something like, “Wow! That will take you forever.”

My son replied, “No, it won’t. Mom types like a speed demon.”

And so I thought about writing 1000 words and typing “like a speed demon” the whole way home. By the time I sat at the laptop I’d done the math a few times. One thousand words five days a week times four weeks times three months equals sixty thousand words. I can do that. (When I’m in the zone, 5,000 words a day is no problem.)

But slow and steady wins the race, right? Yes, I know that’s a cliche. And yes, I know there’s not an actual race, but there is a finish line (submission, publication), and I’m not getting any closer staring at a screen hoping for sparkling dustings of fearless inspiration.

One thousand words a day isn’t much for a speed demon. 😉 And that’s exactly what I intend to be, because when I type fast and let the words pour out of me without thought, that’s when I’m the happiest. I forget this when life weighs me down and slows my writing enough to allow my internal editor to stand in a corner of my mind with my internal critic where they taunt every word I write. It’s hard to be happy when you’re under attack from your own psyche.

But guess what? The internal editor and internal critic are afraid of the speed demon. They must be, because when I’m typing like an SOB, those two are nowhere to be found. *Blows on the barrel of an Old West pistol*

In the end, I wrote over two thousand words yesterday. I wrote fast and furious, and I loved every minute of it. Today I’m going to do the same.

Who’s scared? Not me.

How about you? I hope you’re pounding those keys with a vengeance.


4 Responses to “Squashing the Fear of Writing”

  1. Joanne Robinson Says:

    good for you .. pound away. I’ve been slacking. for a good reason. First my arm/hands wouldn’t let me type without seizing up so, it was time for a rest and to plot instead. Second it’s been sunny. We don’t get many truly hot days, so it was into the garden with a good book and enjoy. Today it’s raining., so woo hoo on we go !!

  2. Lara Daniels Says:

    I’m grateful for this post because I’m in the’scared of writing’ zone right now… I’ve been here for the past few days because my WIP is taking me to where I hadn’t planned… It would have been nice if the story was going to a place where I’ll be excited to write, but alas! I’m in a boring boring boring place where the story seems to stretch on and on with me running out of ideas on how to resolve it. So I too find myself filling up my days with chores other than my writing. I’m optimistic that ideas will come in soon and I’ll be going 5000 words that will engage the reader …. Hopefully 🙂

    • It will happen, Lara. I think it’s okay to coddle when a case of the pouts or crippling fear hits. Being in a boring place of writing is like driving through Nebraska via I-80. (My apologies to the people of Nebraska.) There’s just nothing to see, nothing to do, and it streches on flat and endless. But you have to keep going, right? That’s the only what to reach your destination. 🙂


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