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.
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