Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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

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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.

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

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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.

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De-Stress Your Writing Life – The Independent Writer (Part 3)

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. You can read the first two parts of this chapter here and here.

Taking Control of Your Writing Life

The independent writer views their writing life as something they have control over.

  • If they don’t know enough information on the subject they are writing about, they will do some research.
  • If they have a weakness in their writing style, they will read writing books, take classes or do writing exercises to improve in that area.
  • If they are having trouble with a particular scene or writing project, they will turn to beta readers or an editor for further help.
  • If they aren’t able to learn a skill themselves, they will enlist the services of someone who can.

While this kind of writer understands that they have limitations, they do not allow these limitations to hold them back. They view the limitations as things to be compensated for, not as things that hinder them from reaching their goals.

They create a support structure of fellow writers, enthusiastic readers and other skilled people whom they can call on to fill specific roles in their writing journey.

Take a few minutes to consider the support structure you currently have in place. A good support structure may include:

  • A writing mentor – A more experienced writer who is able to guide you to improve in your writing and remind you of the progress you have made.
  • An editor – This may be a professional editor, or simply an eagle-eyed friend who is able to pick up on your mistakes.
  • Beta readers – People who are willing to read your writing and offer feedback. Ideally they should match your target audience. (We will look at more about target audiences later.)
  • Fellow Writers – These may be found in writing groups or online. They can offer sympathy, encouragement and advice.

Each of these support people plays a different role and fills an important need in your writing life. There are plenty of people out there who are willing to help you with areas you may be struggling with, so reach out and begin building your support structure.

Writing For Beauty, Not Perfection

An independent writer does not aim for perfection. They realize perfection is unattainable. Instead, they aim for beauty – a symmetry, trueness, depth or hue to their writing that is both faithful to their writing voice and appealing to their target audience.

This mindset is not only helpful when approaching the blank page, but also when making writing decisions.

There are many decisions involved in the writing life, from choice of genre to the placement of commas. The independent writer not only understands that they are responsible for making these decisions, but realizes that for many of these decisions there is no black and white answer.

They will work through their options for each decision and choose what they feel is best for the story.

We will continue to refer back to the phrase ‘writing for beauty, not perfection’ throughout this book to encourage you to be more relaxed and creative in your writing. 

Process Oriented Rather that Product Oriented

While writers usually work towards producing an end result – a book, a poem or simply the perfect paragraph – independent writers separate themselves from their writing.

They are a writer: They produce. Their writing is the production.

While they may be very enamored with the end product, they spend most of their time focused on the act of producing – the writing, research and editing that goes into that product and all that follow – instead of becoming bogged down in a single work.

Being process oriented rather than product oriented helps the writer:

  • Evaluate their writing,
  • Make needed adjustments to their work in progress,
  • Cope with feedback and criticism, and
  • Move on from a completed project to start afresh on a new work.

It also helps a writer adjust to changes life may throw at them. For example, perhaps due to a change in work schedule and increased deadline pressure a writer may temporarily be unable to work on his novel. Instead of focusing on what his is no longer able to do (product oriented) the writer can choose to move his focus to journaling or writing short stories for a few months (process oriented).

We will return to this concept later on in this book, as it is very helpful for coping with some of the stressors integral to the writing life.
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Add your comment below. What support structure do you have in place for your writing life?

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Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

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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