Irrational fear doesn’t feel quite so irrational when it’s in your face. To be a writer is to put yourself out there and that’s never more true than when writing fiction. When you create, and you do so honestly, you expose yourself to harsh responses. We all know their faces.
Judgment. Rejection. Incompetence. Failure.
Ouch. Brutal. And they have cousins. It’s a big family. The Fear family.
What Do I Know About Fear?
My desire to write surfaced when I was 15. After minor success in school and encouragement from a teacher I—procrastinated. I toyed with one idea after another and produced—nothing. A preliminary outline or two. A few scattered chapters. In my 30s I returned to school. I was published in the school’s literary magazine, received support from several teachers and then: nothing.
Fortunately, college lit the burners and ideas for a fantasy world and novel heated. A decade later the novel happened, but outside of a few family members no one saw it. Two other novels also happened, but no one saw them, with good reason.
Then, something changed. Maybe it was events crumbling my life? Maybe it was a near death experience? Maybe it was just becoming old enough that I cared less about what people thought? Probably all of the above.
Finally, sword in hand, I faced down my self-made denials and fears.
In 2011 I dared to post a poem online and survived. More followed. Some were applauded. I returned to fantasy writing. In 2013 I started a blog online. I actually put (some of) my life on display like I’m doing here. In 2014 I started the website and published a book of poetry, The Renaissance Cycle. Soon after, I scrapped the overworked novel and turned my attention to better learning the writing craft.
And, so, I was in the perfect place to write a new novel.
My daughter pressed me to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2014. I’d heard about it and it represented some of my biggest writing fears. What if I failed? Oh no! Failure. Exposed to the world as not good enough. I procrastinated because I was a seasoned veteran at procrastination. I wavered. At the last instant I noted my falling into old self-destructive habits and jumped in.
Jumping in entailed running to the end of the dock and leaping before wondering if I could swim. I leaped into a new genre (mystery) and utilized multiple POVs. Crazy. I loved it. I’d unshackled myself. I’d dared to experiment. Damn the torpedoes! I followed Bradbury’s advice and wrote like a woman possessed and didn’t look back. No editing! Christina unchained.
I finished! More important, it bolstered my desire to learn and my determination to improve. I experimented again the following spring and then again at the next NaNo in November 2015 where I churned out a novel in 14 days before turning to short stories. The short stories continued right up to the spring of ’16 when I did Camp NaNo and produced a fantasy novel, Trust in the Forgotten. Next month I’ll write its sequel, A River in Each Hand, for NaNo 2016.
The Journey of ALL
Okay, that longwinded explanation kind of got away from me. Or not. That’s my journey. Your journey is, well, your journey. Please don’t let it take so long. If it has taken as long, or longer, then jump in now. You deserve the opportunity to allow your creativity to run amuck.
There’s no failure in the attempt. The failure is in the not doing.
This doesn’t have to be about NaNoWriMo. It can be about you dropping a fist on the tabletop and declaring, “Yes. It happens now.” Maybe it’s via a different writing challenge. I belong to another that’s kept me writing or editing everyday since April 1st. Writing Challenge has a lower daily requirement than NaNo and you can do them at the same time.
Every word, every awkward chapter, every terrible novel is a step closer to finding your voice, but it doesn’t happen unless you start the journey. What journey? Your journey. Your journey is the most important story you’ll ever write, but it’ll never be written if you don’t begin. Here’s yet another opportunity. Don’t listen to the excuses. Don’t wait for life, the planet, the universe to be perfect. Don’t carve your promises in smoke and your procrastination in granite.
Go ahead, have a “bad” NaNo. Don’t write everyday. Fall short of the word count. Write yourself into the deepest, darkest corner. Do everything wrong.
And STILL you’ll be a winner because you looked the great fear in the eye and said, “Enough!”