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.
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