Don’t be afraid.

I have recently attended two writers’ groups’ end of year gatherings.

In the first group there were just under twenty people, which is pretty good considering we met at the uncivilised time of 9.30am. (I had to leave the house an hour before I usually get up!)

At first we were polite, shy and reticent to share. But, once we’d all had a cuppa and had tucked into the morning tea, the tongues loosened up. By the end of the meeting there were a half dozen conversations going on at once and I had to tell people to go home. (I can hear you asking, “How did you do that tactfully?” It was easy. I walked up to them and said, “Go home!”)

We were encouraged to share our year’s work. I thought, Hmmm. That’ll be short and sweet for me. There were at least a couple of people in the group that had had several books published this year. There were also several who had had at least one book published. I felt very inadequate. Then, one of the most successful authors in the group confessed to a frustrating year of very little writing. He had experienced a lot of mental and emotional struggle being a writer, being creative and being emotionally sensitive, as well as having some personal issues to work through. He’d made very little headway this year. A kindred spirit!

Once he’d opened up, others also shared their struggles with fear; a sense of inadequacy; the frustrations involved with submitting manuscripts and being rejected; the horror of a blank page staring at you demanding to be filled with nothing going on in the brain; the need to generate an income, and the isolation that can often come hand in hand with the craft. The longer we spend on our own, the harder it is to venture out into the wider world once more.

The second group of writers only has five members and there were four of us this time. We met in one of the members’ homes, eating lunch in a courtyard area with the view of hills, trees and other rural things. It was relaxed, civilised and most pleasant. Again we had a show and tell time. Once more I sat there feeling as though I’d let the team down. (Only one manuscript submitted this year; still waiting for an answer. And, I’m having trouble getting Dragon-friend written even though I have “fans” clamouring for it; a nice problem to have, I know, but even so…)

Then one of our members told us how she had spent a lot of time sorting through old articles, clearing out past years’ work and generally finding a reason to procrastinate. Here it was the end of the year and she had run out of excuses. She would finally have to begin writing. While the other two members were in the kitchen, she and I had a little chat about why she had procrastinated for so long. The word “fear” popped up. So, what are we afraid of?

Fear of not doing a good job.
Fear of failure.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of being consumed by the process.
Fear of running out of ideas.
Fear of being more of a success than we can handle.
Fear of not having the talent we hope and wish we have.
Fear of losing hope and running out of the factor x that has driven us thus far.

So, how do we soldier on? How do we drown out that clamouring voice that continually mutters in our subconscious, “You really suck at this”? How do we avoid the temptation to give in and give up?
We write.

In every aspect of our lives we must find ways to ignore the voice of fear. We must take risks. We must make the effort to go out; to meet people; to make new friends; to create beautiful things; to dance in the rain; to voice our protest; to welcome the stranger; to fight for what is right; to protect children; to educate people; to live lives that are driven by love, mercy, kindness and justice even when the whole world is telling us to live lives driven by hate, fear, distrust and selfishness. If we give in to fear, nothing worthwhile is ever achieved and life becomes insular, narrow and dark.

 

1 Comment

  1. Carolyn Cordon
    Dec 12, 2015

    Yes, I think the fear of looking silly/stupid/inadequate is a big fear for many if not almost all writers. When you have a little bit of success in writing, you feel you have to do better, or a least be as good as that first successful time. Sitting at home with manuscripts half-finished is safe because if you don’t send your work off, it won’t be rejected. But of course, it won’t be published either.

    This is why I love my writing groups – we have to write something, and we can get feedback that is kind, but also useful, and can lead to feeling better about what you’re writing. Friends who write themselves are more useful in the early stages of your writing, but non-writing friends can be great when you have something almost finished, I feel. After all, writers have a huge pool of potential readers who aren’t writers.

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