Fear and Writing
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert, Dune
Recently (March and April), I had the unfortunate experience of suffering from some side effects of allergy medication. Basically, they began causing fear and anxiety as they built up in my system. It got to a point where my blood pressure spiked to a new high, and I started having panic attacks about rather mundane things. Oh, and there were lots of fun nightmares.
Before I go any further, if you start having uncontrolled anxiety, regardless of whether you can fake your way through the day, GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR. If you don’t have a doctor, find one. I waited about four weeks. It was a mistake. We live in a wonderful world of modern medicine. Doctors can help. Panic attacks aren’t fun. Trust me.
Not someone who I’d be inclined to mess with.
All joking aside, it was a nightmare. The fear exhausted me from fighting with it. I came home and curled up under blankets and tried to escape by sleeping. I fought it and used logic to keep things at bay. I knew I was being irrational, but I didn’t think about going to the doctor.
Please don’t be like me.
I’ve since recovered. It’s amazing how you realize how badly you were feeling once you get better.
Enduring that fear made me think of the fear that goes into writing. Whenever we give our work to someone else to read, whether it’s a friend or sending it out to an agent or editor, there’s a degree of worry. Some people out there become so concerned about what reviewers will think that they will hold on to a manuscript for years, reworking it and retooling it so it will be better. Some people never get past the first chapter. Others write novels but don’t try to get them published. Still others write a novel, read some bad reviews and never write another.
Don’t give in to that fear.
I’ll tell everyone a secret: we’re all afraid. I’m sure J.K. Rowling was worried once Harry Potter was successful whether she could live up to her previous books. I’m sure George RR Martin wonders if it might be easier to let HBO finish his series for him. I know that I worry about the sales of Once Upon a Rhyme and Happily Never After and even my other books, like In the Service of the King. It’s okay as long as we don’t let our fear stop us.
Rise to the challenge. Dare to fail. Try to get over 100 rejection letters. Refine and learn as you go, but keep trying. Strike out a few dozen times, but keep swinging. Analyze your fears and take action. Are you worried no one knows who you are? Read a book about marketing or hire a publicist. Are you inept at grammar? Find a good editor. Everything can be overcome, as long as you overcome your fear first.
My mentor, Daniel Greenberg, gave me a piece of advice long ago, which he quoted from the great Weird Al Yankovic – “Dare to be stupid.” I’ve followed that advice and it’s helped me keep going and keep learning.
So, if fear has you stymied, preventing you from writing your next chapter or submitting your work somewhere or asking a special person out on a date, analyze it, overcome it and rise to the challenge.
You owe yourself that.
All the best,