Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Fear of the Unknown

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Fear of the Unknown

In this chapter we have covered a number of fears. But what if you’re not sure what you’re afraid of?

Sometimes not knowing what we will face can bring our writing life to a complete halt. Fear of the unknown may cause us to:

  • Avoid starting a story because we’re not sure where our characters or plot are heading.
  • Hold back from contacting a fellow writer, editor, publisher or mentor because we’re not sure what they will say to us.
  • Make ill-informed decisions about our writing careers because we’re not sure who to turn to for reliable information.
  • Never submit a manuscript because we’re not sure how it will be received.

This fear can make us timid and cause us to curtail our writing efforts in an attempt to ‘play it safe.’ We’re not sure how things will turn out, so we don’t even try.

This is a natural reaction, because this is exactly what fear is designed to do – prevent us from doing something that could cause harm to ourselves. If you were contemplating walking alone through a wolf-infested forest, then ‘playing it safe’ is definitely the best option.

But when it comes to writing, there’s very little that can do lasting physical damage to you. And while it’s true that some writing decisions (such as negotiating writing contracts or deciding to self-publish) may have a long-term impact on your writing career, those can also be tackled with the right research and advice.

Recall the independent writer’s mindset we spoke about in Chapter 3?

That adventurous spirit keeps you writing a story even if you have no idea where it’s headed. Many writers plunge into their stories without knowing where they will end up. Most find their way out the other side, having perhaps taken a few wrong terms but eventually emerging with an intriguing and original manuscript.

The independent writer also has a support group made up of experienced people who can provide reliable information and suggestions when facing important writing decisions.

Here are some ways you can put that independent writer mindset into action to overcome your fear of the unknown.

  • If you’re not sure where to go in your story, then just start writing. Set your characters on a journey and follow them with your notebook and pen. You’ll be surprised how many plot problems can be figured out during the story-telling process.
  • If you’re not sure about a writing decision, do some research. If you’re not sure where the best place to research is, ask someone – maybe a fellow writer, a friend or family member who loves researching, or even a librarian. Turn to that support group you built.
  • If you’re worried about contacting someone because you’re not sure how they will respond, then make a deal with your fear. Tell yourself you’re going to get in touch with two or three people on your wish list of contacts. If it turns out to be as big and scary as your fear predicts, then you’ll stop. Phrasing it this way may make the task seem less daunting. (Hint: It won’t be as big and scary as you’re expecting.)
  • If you’re worried about submitting a manuscript, remind yourself of your writing goals. In order to reach them, you need to put your writing out there. Take a deep breath and do it. Then throw a wild party. (If you’re worried about receiving rejection slips, then take a look at the heading later on in the book “What a Rejection Slip Really Means.”)

Yes, not knowing the outcome of something can be a little frightening, but think of your adventurous writing spirit. Imagine you are a character in one of your novels, about to move into the second act. Interesting, and perhaps even life-changing, things await you in the following chapters of your book. What are you waiting for?

*****

Add your comment below. What unknowns are you currently facing in your writing life?

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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You Too? Where Do You Get Your Best Ideas?

A woman happily walking outdoors.

Do you get your best writing ideas while out walking?
(Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

Welcome to another installment of ‘You Too?’ where I ask you a writing related question and you share insights about your writing life.

Today, I thought we’d do a poll!

I’m sure all of us get ideas when we least expect them. This is because most ideas come to us when we’re relaxed, while our mind is concentrating on something other than our writing problems. 

So I’m interested to know where you get your best ideas. I’ve added some of the classic places to this poll, but if you have a different place then let me know and I’ll add the option. Feel free to select multiple options if they apply.

The next question is, how do you record those ideas?

Again, I’ve listed some of the common options, but I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t thought of so tell me what I’ve missed in the comments. Feel free to select multiple options if they apply.

I look forward to seeing the results!


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Fear of Success and Fear of Not Repeating Success

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Fear of Success

There are times when the very thing we think we want is the cause of our greatest fear. Fear of success can come in many forms, ranging from a simple avoidance of situations where our work might be seen to unconscious acts of self-sabotage.

The signs of this fear are many and varied. They may include:

  • Inability to finish writing projects.
  • Making excuses or blaming others for your lack of motivation.
  • Avoiding opportunities to submit your work.
  • Panic at what other people may say about your achievements.

Fear of success is not as easily treated as some of the other fears we’ve discussed in this chapter. It can often come from deep-seated, emotional causes which are unique to each individual. If you find this fear preventing you from making progress in your writing life, then you may need to consider turning to a writing coach or therapist for extra help.

At a basic level, fear of success can come from the belief that you are not worthy of reaching your dreams. Low self-worth may lead you to think you’ll never be one of those people who actually ‘make it.’

You may also believe that becoming successful will change you somehow – that once you’re rich and famous the things that make you you will disappear.

The path to overcoming this fear depends on the reasons for your feelings, which are unique to each person. A therapist or coach can advise you on the best route for you to take.

However, there are a few things that apply to everyone:

  • Think positive. Unfortunately, we often become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we spend time focusing on the negatives, then more negatives will appear. Conversely, thinking positive thoughts, such as being grateful for the things and people around us, can lift our spirits.
  • Be deliberately kind to yourself. It can be much easier to say kind and encouraging things to others than to say them to ourselves. Imagine you are talking to a dear friend who is battling with the same problems you are. Write down what you would say to that friend, and then start each day by reading your message back to yourself.
  • If you’re worried that success will change your best qualities, then write out a ‘pact’ with yourself expressly dictating what aspects of your personality you wish to remain the same. Remember though, with or without success, you will continue to change as you age. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to grow and experience new things.
  • Check your definition of success. Do you have a balanced view of yourself and your plans? Write out the type of success you’re expecting and how you feel about it, and then ask an experienced friend or mentor to go over it with you. Listen for any insights they may offer.

While it’s important not to pin our self-worth on pursuing or reaching success, it’s also important to have a good opinion of ourselves. There will always be things we won’t like about ourselves – that’s part of being human. Finding things we like about ourselves may be a little more challenging, but the search can also be rewarding.

Fear of Not Being Able to Reproduce Success

Although it seems counterintuitive, success in your writing (through publication, or through recognition of some description) can actually make it harder to write your next project.

The signs of this fear are:

  • Avoiding your scheduled writing sessions.
  • Never being happy with your words.
  • Becoming timid or predictable when making writing decisions, for fear doing something new would risk disappointing people.
  • Rereading your past work in the hope you’ll be able to find the magic formula.

So why does this fear come after success? Usually because we feel the bar has now been set, and anything we write after that has much to live up to. We may even feel that we could never write something that good ever again.

One of the causes of this fear is not having enough understanding of what makes a successful book. If success comes early in our writing careers, we may not yet understand exactly what we did to achieve that success, therefore how to reproduce it is a completely mystery to us.

Another reason is the belief that we now have to meet the expectations of our editor, publisher, readers or reviewers. If our debut novel is met with acclaim, we believe everyone will be expecting the next book to be even better. This belief adds extra pressure to every word we write, and may even cause us to consider giving up on writing all together.

Here are a few things you can try to counteract this fear.

  • Start your next novel as soon as your first is in the mail, or up on Amazon. Get straight back into writing. Don’t leave a gap to see how things go with your first book. You’re a writer, so write.
  • Avoid idolizing a certain reader or reviewer. Write for a type of person, not a specific person.
  • Choose writing projects that interest you. Avoid writing something just because you feel you have to. If it’s a chore to write, then your trademark sparkle won’t be there.
  • Continue learning about your trade. Learn what makes a gripping first chapter, what keeps readers turning pages throughout your book, what brings characters to life. The more you know about writing, the more effectively you will weave your tales.
  • Find yourself a writing coach, or an experienced friend who can talk you through your worries, offer you reliable feedback and serve as your cheerleader to point out the things you’re doing well.
  • Most importantly, make sure you are enjoying your writing life. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to write another novel your readers will love, then write a novel just for you.

The best writing happens when a writer is enjoying themselves. If you’re not enjoying yourself, take the time to understand why and then try to find a solution.

*****

Add your comment below. Have you faced fear of success? What steps have you taken to overcome it?

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


Leave a comment

Creative Action: Share Some Gratitude

A woman giving her daughter a kiss on the forehead in gratitude.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. When it comes down to the actual writing process, there’s usually just you and the page.

But in the process of learning our writing craft, and making progress with our stories, there are often many people who help us along the way.

They may be:

  • Partners, spouses, roommates and/or children who patiently allow us to bury our heads in our manuscripts day after day.
  • Friends who ask us how our writing is going, and genuinely listen to the response.
  • Beta readers who take time to give their feedback, even if it’s not what we wanted to hear, so that we can fix story problems and reword awkward sentences.
  • Fellow writers who share tips and encouragement on their blogs, in person or through e-mails.
  • Editors who invest in our stories and go over them with an eye for detail, fixing all the tiny little mistakes that turn a manuscript into a finished product.
  • Cover artists who take our rough ideas and turn them into eye-catching imagery so people will be intrigued enough to read our words.
  • Support people who answer our questions and fix our problems, be they problems with websites, manuscript files, uploading, formatting or any other of the numerous technical issues we may come across.
  • Readers who express their excitement at our releases and take time to leave reviews or pass the word on to others who may enjoy our writing.

I’m sure you can think of many more to add to that list.

How often do we take the time to stop and say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped us along the way, to take more than a moment to actually explain the impact that person has had on our writing life?

Now’s your opportunity. This month’s creative action is as follows:

  1. Think of one person who has helped you (they may be on the list above, or they may be someone else).
  2. Compose a message (be it verbal or written) in which you tell the person specifically how helpful they have been to you and what you have appreciated about the way they have provided that help.
  3. Send your message, or find an opportunity to share your thoughts in person.

 

Why is this important? Because it not only makes the person you chose feel a little better, but it reinforces in your mind that there are people who care about you and your writing.

This month I took the opportunity to write to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch to thank them for the wonderful information they generously provide on their blogs. I received a really lovely reply from both of them telling me how much they appreciated my message.

So who have you chosen? Leave a comment below and let us know.


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Being Called a Fraud and Fear of Losing Your Creative Edge

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Fear of Being Called a Fraud

As you begin sending your work out into the world and receiving complements, you may find a different fear raising its head. You may begin to believe that your achievements have been down to luck – that you don’t really deserve the positive comments coming your way.

You believe that sooner or later people are going to discover you’re not actually as good a writer as they first thought. Then they’ll realize you were a fraud all along.

This fear may show up as:

  • Doubting the positive things people say about your work and magnifying the negatives comments.
  • Feeling extremely nervous and uncomfortable when someone pays you a complement or invites you to participate in an activity that highlights your skills (perhaps guest posting on their blog or speaking at a local library).
  • Double checking invitations and fan mail to make sure the person writing hasn’t got you confused with someone else.

It’s true that in order to hit it big in the writing industry, there is a certain element of chance involved. If you’re submitting your manuscript to publishers or agents, then acceptance may depend on the right person with the right tastes in the right mood picking up your manuscript. If you’re self-publishing, then finding readers can also come down to chance. Some books take off. Others don’t.

However, that kind of chance is linked to discoverability. Whether the right editor picks up your submission or not is largely out of your control. Whether your self-published novel takes off or not is mostly out of your hands too.

What is in your control is your writing ability. It’s true that as writers we’re always learning, but that fact shouldn’t diminish your achievements. The positive feedback and complements you received from your writing were earned while you were sitting in your chair working on your words. If you were the one putting the hours into your writing, then your work is not fraudulent.

The fear of being revealed as a fraud is common among people who do well at something – whether they’re actors, doctors, artists, teachers…you get the idea. You’re in good company, but there are things you can do to deal with this fear.

Here are some things you can try:

  • Make a list of your achievements. Note down even the small things, those little steps that got you to the point you are today.
  • Get your list out from time to time and add to it. Keep it handy so you can read through it when you feel this fear coming on.
  • Remind yourself that no one is perfect. You don’t have to reach perfection in order to be genuine. Don’t let a little mistake ruin your appreciation for what you’ve achieved.
  • Try to view yourself as others see you. Many other very talented people battle with this fear. It doesn’t diminish their achievements, so it shouldn’t diminish yours.
  • Talk to a writing coach, mentor or therapist about your troubles. Their words will hold more weight and their experience will allow them put the situation into perspective for you.

While you naturally don’t want your ego to get the better of you, self-esteem is very important for healthy living. Take the time to reassure yourself that your work and achievements are genuine. You deserve to feel good about what you’ve created.

Fear of Losing Your Creative Edge

We writers are very dependent on our creative ideas. Without those ideas, we’d be lost for words.

A brilliant idea can fire our imagination and lead to prolific writing output. However, even as we ride the wave of excitement with an inspiring idea, our fear may creep in telling us we’ll never be able to keep up such a level of creative production.

Sometimes the more prolific our production of ideas, the more we fear the moment when they stop appearing. We are told the muse is fickle and may disappear on a whim.

Therefore, we may wonder how we can protect ourselves from the loss of our creative edge.

This fear may cause you to:

  • Bounce from one creative project to another without knuckling down to finish anything for fear you’ll miss an idea.
  • Continually look ahead in your story, wondering how you’re going to fix a creative problem several chapters in the future while stalling on your current chapter.
  • Douse your creative highs with worry about where your ideas come from and how you can reproduce this success.

The solution to overcoming this fear is to:

  1. Understand how your creative mind works,
  2. Learn what you need to do in order to feed your creative process, and
  3. Trust that if you’ve done the first two steps then the ideas will flow as you need them.

In an upcoming chapter we will go into the creative process in more detail and show you a unique way to understand how your personal creativity works.

In the meantime, you can try some of these suggestions:

  • When you next get a good idea, make a note of what could have triggered it. What had you been reading? Had you been watching something on television? Did an interesting fact stick in your mind and then germinate into this idea? Did it come from a fascinating conversation with someone, or after a visit to a new place?
  • Look for patterns in your creative moments. Start learning how your mind words and what it needs to create ideas.
  • Keep an Idea Book to store the ideas you’re not currently able to use. This will give you a safety net for those times when the ideas don’t seem to be flowing as freely as you would like.
  • Don’t try to solve writing problems until you’re actually facing them on the page. You may know that you’ve got a plot twist looming in Chapter 7. But if you’re still writing Chapter 4, then try not to allow your mind to skip ahead. Often you will find solutions coming to you as you write. Keep moving forward and more than likely you’ll have an answer by the time you arrive at the problem.

Ideas are like gold to a writer, and you do need a steady stream of them in order to produce good work. But as you’ll see in a future chapter, the origins of your creative ideas aren’t as mysterious and unpredictable as you might think.

*****

Add your comment below. What’s on your list of writing achievements?

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Committing and Fear of Criticism

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Fear of Committing

As soon as you decide what you’re going to write, you start narrowing down possibilities. If you set your story in Italy, then your main character can’t climb the Eiffel Tower. If you decide your story takes place in the 1980’s, then you character can’t pull out their smart phone to solve a problem in the third act.

Letting go of some of those possibilities can be difficult and at times the worry of what you might be missing can hamper your writing flow.

Fear of committing to the story may cause symptoms like:

  • Difficulties making story decisions.
  • Trying to include too many details, characters, places or plot points in your story.
  • Not wanting to start the story in case you can’t do it justice.

While it’s true that you have to let go of some possibilities as you create your story, the fact is that’s an integral part of any creative process. Imagine a sculptor not wanting to chip away at the marble in front of him because he doesn’t want to limit his options. The sculpture will never emerge if he never commits to actually chipping something away.

The advantage you have as a writer is that words are far more flexible than stone. The decision you make when you start a project can always be changed later on down the track. The key is to actually make a decision and get started.

You’ll find that as you commit to your decisions and narrow down your possibilities, your unique story will emerge. The more you limit your options, the stronger the story will become.

In order to do this, you can try:

  • Clearly describing the world you’re setting your story in. What location have you chosen? What year? Is it real life or fantasy?
  • Interviewing your main character and asking pointed questions. Find out where they were born, what their favourite movie is, how they feel about politics, why they dress the way they do. This specificity will give your character their unique voice.
  • Taking tangents in your drafting phase. If your interest is taking you in a different direction to where you expected, follow it. Allow yourself and your characters to go off on tangents every now and then to explore possibilities. You can always remove the chapters later, but you may find the exploration reveals something new and interesting.

Words are not stone. You can always go back and change things if you wish. But narrowing down your options and making clear writing decisions is very important to the creative process. So start chipping away and see what you discover.

Fear of Criticism

No one likes to be criticized, but as writers we need feedback in order to improve our writing skills and our stories. This is not always a pleasant experience and we may find our writing process slows, or perhaps stalls altogether, as the possibility of criticism looms.

The fear of criticism may cause you to:

  • Avoid finishing your stories.
  • Dread sending your stories to beta readers.
  • Take offense at suggestions people make about your writing.
  • Become depressed when presented with areas where your story could improve.
  • Procrastinate in sending out submissions.
  • Feel overwhelmed at the prospect of people reading your work.

It’s normal to feel sensitive when it comes to people’s opinions on your creations. After all, you’ve spent a lot of energy, time, and emotion in your writing and so you understandably feel attached to it.

An important part of overcoming this fear is understanding the difference between helpful feedback and destructive criticism. We’ll go into this in more detail in a later chapter, but here’s the simple definition.

Helpful feedback is when someone points out an area where your writing could improve and may also suggest ways you could go about making the changes.

Destructive criticism is where someone pokes holes your writing and makes derisive remarks about your abilities as a writer. It is not specific and it does not provide solutions.

At first, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two, especially when we’re feeling emotional. So when you receive someone’s response about your writing, try the following:

  • Read through their comments without passing judgment. Just take in the information they’ve given you.
  • Take time to mope if need be, but do not respond to the person. Your feelings may be hurt by some of the suggestions. Acknowledge the hurt, and even allow yourself some time to sulk if necessary, but set a deadline. Be it an hour, a day or a week, when your moping time is up then move on.
  • Read through the comments again, this time with an eye for what improves the story. You may even ask for a second opinion from an experienced writer or reader.
  • Note down any points that may be valid. Remember, you don’t have to make every change that’s been suggested. As the writer, you have final say on what happens, but at least spend a little time considering the point.
  • Disregard points that make direct and hurtful comments about you as a writer. Helpful feedback focuses on the words, not the writer.
  • If you notice someone continually provides unhelpful criticism, avoid asking them for feedback in the future. You don’t have to be a martyr to your writing. If you don’t enjoy someone’s feedback, find someone else you can work with.

Think of each round of feedback as an opportunity to polish your work and to learn as a writer. Remember, as a writer you’re always learning. Receiving feedback is a good way to keep that process going.

*****

Add your comment below. How do you deal with feedback or criticism?

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


Leave a comment

You Too? What’s Your Writing Routine? (And a Giveaway!)

A woman writing in her diary.

Do you make an appointment with your writing? (Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

It’s time for another ‘You Too?’ post, where I ask you a writing-related question and you share your thoughts.

Today’s post is about your writing routine.

There are so many suggestions out there about writing routines. Some people say get up early and write before your household wakes up. Others say ditch the evening television program and write instead. Some say you should write every day. Other say you should only write when you feel like it.

In my experience, each writer is different. There is no one-size-fits-all writing routine. There’s the routine that works for you on this project.

With that in mind, I’m really curious to find out about your personal writing routine.

So here are the questions:

  • When is your best writing time? Early morning? Late at night?
  • Do you write every day? Every second day? Just when the mood takes you?
  • Do you aim for a word count? Do you set a time limit?
  • Do you find your routine changes depending on what writing project you’re working on?

Please feel free to add any details about your writing routine in the comments. If you’ve got any tips on how you’ve sneaked extra writing time into your day, or found ways to improve the quality of your writing routine, we’re all ears!

This post is yours to take in whatever direction you feel like. Let’s start discussing!

****

Baverstock's Allsorts Cover Art

P.S. I’m almost ready to release Baverstock’s Allsorts Volume 1: A Collection of Short Stories. This week I’m giving away free copies of the e-book in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. If you’re interested in getting a copy, e-mail me at jessica AT creativitysworkshop DOT com or leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with an e-mail.


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Failure and Fear of the ‘Writer Stigma’

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Fear of Failure

None of us wants create something that doesn’t work, and so we naturally do all in our power to give our work its best chance at success. However, sometimes our attempts at avoiding failure can actually prevent us from making progress. In fact, at times our subconscious may believe that the best way to prevent failure is to prevent us from finishing.

The fear of failure can cause symptoms like:

  • Difficulty making progress in your novel.
  • Reluctance to try writing something new.
  • Procrastination or a slowing of progress as the end of the story approaches.
  • Becoming distracted by a new idea. (Yes, a plethora of ideas may actually indicate a hidden fear or barrier, e.g. fear of failure or a fear of completion.)
  • Continual rounds of minute edits in an attempt to get the manuscript just right.

We may find ourselves worrying about what others will think about our work, and at times become anxious wondering if we’ve actually accomplished what we set out to write.

In order to work past this fear, we need to come to terms with the following:

  • There is no such thing as perfect. Remember, aim for beauty, not perfection.
  • A missed typo isn’t the end of the world. Even the most polished books have tiny mistakes. Don’t sweat it. Do your best and then move on.
  • Stories are never really finished. There’s always something more you could tweak. Stop the endless revisions. Polish and then ship it. Send it out into the world and move on to the next thing.
  • The real failure is never attempting something. If you’ve given something a go, then you’ve achieved success. Even if it didn’t turn out as you expected, you were adventurous and you learned along the way.

Some writers view the fear of failure as a good thing, even a marker that they’re on the right track. If they aren’t facing the possibility of failure then their project isn’t unique and interesting enough.

Failure isn’t the terrible thing it first appears, it’s simply the moment you discover something didn’t turn out quite as you planned. That may be a temporary disappointment or it may be an opportunity to learn a new way of doing something.

Whatever the outcome, it isn’t fatal (at least not in writing). So embrace the possibility of failure and keep going. It means you’re trying something worth doing.

Fear of the Writer Stigma

Some writers do not like calling themselves ‘writers’ because they worry what other people will think. They dread questions people may ask them about their writing, and they worry about how people view writers.

This fear shows itself in various ways, like:

  • Refusal to use the term ‘writer’ when talking to others.
  • Embarrassment to admit you spend your free time writing.
  • Nervousness at gatherings where the topic of ‘What do you do for a living/hobby?’ may come up.

What you call yourself and your writing is up to you. Some writers prefer the term ‘author’ while others gravitate towards ‘storyteller.’

What’s most important is becoming relaxed and confident in yourself as a writer. Often our fear of what others think about us and our writing is actually a reflection of how we view ourselves and our writing. If we’re not comfortable being thought of as a writer others will pick up on that discomfort.

To overcome this fear, you could try the following:

  • Begin calling yourself a writer when no one is around. Create a sign or a poster saying, “I am a writer.” Put up on your door or next to your computer – somewhere you will see it regularly. Become comfortable telling yourself you’re a writer.
  • Make a list of the questions you’re afraid to answer. Your list may include questions like, “What have you had published?” and “What kind of things do you write?”
  • Think of answers to the problem questions. Consider how you could answer each question in a sentence or two. For example, “I’m working towards publication at the moment actually. I sent out a query letter just this week.”
  • Tell a stranger you are a writer. You may find telling a stranger is easier than telling a friend or family member. Next time you’re out shopping or at a party and a stranger asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. Notice their reaction. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Work your way up to telling a friend or family member. Remember, first you need to be comfortable identifying yourself as a writer. Feel confident and at ease with the word, then allow it to naturally flow into the conversation. Then note the reactions of those around you. They may be more at ease too.

Even if you still find people less than enthusiastic about your writing life, that’s okay. You don’t need their approval to enjoy your writing. You write because you love doing it, and that’s the sign of a real writer.

*****

Add your comment below. What questions do you dread hearing? When someone asks you an awkward writing-related question, how do you respond?

*****

Right now I’m extra busy preparing my e-book for publication, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

I’ve you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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How Healthy is Your Reading Diet?

Someone heading to bed with a good book and a bowl of cereal

“Good Night” by Leo Hidalgo via Flickr

Last week I mentioned this quote by Ray Bradbury:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

Now if you’re a writer it’s understandable that you must write (we covered the writing diet in last week’s post), but must you read?

Ray Bradbury and many other successful authors say you do. Why? Because the words you take in as you read affect the words you write.

The reading diet isn’t just about picking up a good book and flicking through the pages. Notice Bradbury said, “Read intensely.” What does that mean?

It means savouring what you read, chewing it over in the mind and noticing the details from word choice to character development. Do you see why it’s called a diet?

Today we’ll cover the three aspects of a reading diet:

  • How often we read,
  • How much we read, and
  • What kind of books we’re reading.

Remember, everyone is different. The books and reading methods that appeal to me might not appeal to you, and vice versa. I’ve tried to keep the suggestions here as general as possible so you can tailor them to your own personal tastes.

Shall we get started?

How Often?

So how often should you read? Well, remember your reading diet depends on your personal needs. Some writers read every morning before they write. Others read on the weekends or just before they go to bed.

Once again, regularity is key. It is very easy for the creative well to run dry if you are not topping it up with regular input.

How do you know if you’re not reading enough? Here are some signs:

  • Difficulty finding the word you’re looking for. Reading provides you with a continual stream of words and often enlarges your vocabulary. If the words you use are shrinking, then you need to top yourself up with some reading.
  • Reoccurring cliches in your writing. Reading widely shows you what has already been done in your genre and demonstrates the inventive and unique places stories can go.
  • Lack of new ideas. If your Creativity’s excitement and output are starting to wane, it’s likely you’re not providing enough ‘idea juice’ for her/him. Keep the creative will filled.

If any of the above signs are sounding familiar, then the solution is to increase your reading time.

How Much?

What about how much you read? To determine this you need to take into consideration how long you read for and how fast you read.

When it comes to reading intensely, you want to read less and read it slowly. Too often we find ourselves pulled into a good book, turning the pages faster and faster as the plot progresses. That’s great if the aim of the reading is to enjoy the story, but as a writer you need to see more than just the scenery whizzing by.

Sometimes all you need is a single paragraph and ten minutes to pick it apart. Read slowly, deliberately, questioning each word you come to. Why did the writer choose that word? How is the writer directing the reader’s attention? What is the writer building towards?

You may even choose to read the passage out loud, listening to the lilt of the words so you can absorb the music inherent in the sentences.

What Kind?

Now, what kind of books should you be reading? The choices before you are countless. Does it matter what you pick up to read? Well, if your purpose is the “read intensely” and slowly, then you want to make sure you’re reading the right stuff.

First and foremost you want to make sure you’re reading quality work. Think back to the diet analogy. Whole foods are recommended over fast food. Why? Because they provide your body with the high-quality fuel it needs to operate efficiently. So while your favourite comic book might have some great one liners, for this diet you want to be sinking your reading teeth into something more filling.

Now this doesn’t mean you should go out and find yourself a dry and dense tome of a book and spend years poring over every single sentence of it. Look for books you enjoy reading but books that will challenge you.

Find books that you can learn from, whether it be new subjects, new words, new genres, new writing forms or just new perspectives. But don’t think that means you can only grab the latest book hot off the presses. These are things that are new to you. There are plenty of classic books, reaching back hundreds of years, that contain fresh and interesting writing for you to experience.

So, to recap, the reading diet is as follows:

  • Read regularly.
  • Read slowly.
  • Read good quality books you enjoy and that will teach you something new.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what’s on your reading list? What are your reading diet tips?


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Starting and Fear of Getting Something Wrong

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

Working Through Your Fears

Your writing fears and barriers are caused by thoughts and influences that are unique to you, therefore the solutions to those problems will be unique to you.

So while this section may not touch on your exact problem, it will cover the most common fears writers face and consider some common solutions that you can tailor to your own needs.

Fear of Starting

This is often known as ‘white page fright.’ The symptoms are:

  • Difficulty sitting down to write. (This may subtly show itself in an extra clean and tidy house, or a sudden drive to do all those fiddly little jobs you’ve been putting off.)
  • Difficulty knowing where to start writing.
  • Constantly editing the first few lines of your writing to try and get them just right.

The cause of this fear is usually perfectionism.

It’s natural to want to do your best work and make your story shine, but before you can do any of that you need to get your words onto the page. For that to happen, you have to settle for whatever will come.

First drafts are usually messy. That’s their purpose. The tight sentences, smooth transitions and sharp plot turns often come later – either as you get yourself into the flow of writing or during the editing process.

Expecting your first words to be perfect puts unnecessary pressure on yourself – in fact, it is asking the impossible.

To help you overcome this fear, you might try:

  • Writing the beginning of your story on paper, perhaps using a pencil to remind yourself that these are just temporary words.
  • Crumpling the paper before you write so it doesn’t look too pristine to use.
  • Starting in the middle of your story, choosing to write a scene that particularly appeals to you.
  • Interviewing your main character to get to know them better. This may help you find their voice before you start.
  • Freewriting. Set yourself a timer and just start writing. It will force you to put words on the page.

Don’t go for perfect, just go for broke.

Fear of Getting Something Wrong

When writing fiction, there are many facts and figures that still need to connect with real life. Historical fiction and science-fiction especially require an attention to accuracy. This can all lead to a fear of getting something wrong.

Symptoms of this fear may be:

  • Excessive research. You may find yourself only writing a few lines before hopping on the internet to search for information.
  • Shying away from specifics in your story. Instead of describing details of your world, you use vague, all-encompassing expressions that may seem safer but don’t properly build your world.

A certain amount of information is important to creating a story that is plausible enough to suspending disbelief while still gripping the reader with intriguing twists. However, the danger lies in packing your story with so much extra detail that the characters and plot become lost in the extensive descriptions.

Making sure you have enough information without sinking too much of your valuable time into research is a balancing act that changes with each story you write. No matter what intriguing details you discover in your research, keep your focus on what is necessary to engage your reader.

To overcome this fear and successfully include the details necessary to your story, you might try some of these suggestions:

  • If your story will require lots of facts and figures, begin your research several months before you plan to begin writing your story. Perhaps start a folder or notebook to collect together the information you will need.
  • As you write your story, when you come to something that needs research simply leave yourself a note and keep writing. Come back later, after you’ve done your writing for the day or once you’ve finished your manuscript, and research the matter then.
  • Set yourself a time limit when researching.
  • Use resources that are reliable and accurate. Visiting your local library might be a wiser use of time than just researching on the internet.
  • Speak to someone who knows the subject well. You may find they can provide you details you couldn’t otherwise find. They may also be willing to become a beta reader for your project, helping you to catch inaccuracies.

Most importantly, don’t let the need for accuracy stop you writing. Remember your independent writer mindset – take action and ask for help if you need it.

*****

Add your comment below. How do you overcome your fear of perfection? Do you have any researching tips you can share?

*****

Right now I’m extra busy preparing my e-book for publication, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

I’ve you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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