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

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.

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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.

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

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Creative Actions: Research Something a Bit Crazy for Your Novel

Recently I was working on a short story (it’s not going to make it into my up-coming collection, but perhaps the one after that), when I hit a snag.

My character’s mother had been through chemotherapy and lost her hair. She was wearing a wig, which was all well and good until it came to bed time. As she reached up to take her wig off, I realised I had no idea how wigs stayed on a person’s head or the correct method for removing them.

I needed to do some research.

I will quickly point out that I did not immediately open my web browser and start searching (although I was naturally tempted). I finished my writing session, skipping over the part where I didn’t yet have concrete details. I knew I’d become distracted when I started researching, so I put my writing first.

Once I was free to research, I went to YouTube and searched for videos on wigs. What I found was this gem of a woman.

Now, my purpose was to find out how to remove a wig, which I did within five minutes. But once I got started I couldn’t stop watching her videos.

Why?

Not procrastination. Not because I’m addicted to the internet or to YouTube (although I may be slightly addicted).

I watched because I was fascinated by this woman’s positivity. I loved her confidence in being able to just whip her wig off in front of the camera without any embarrassment. I loved the details of the wigs and the craftsmanship that goes into their design.

Before that day I had very little interest in wigs. In the space of an hour I had a whole new appreciation for them and I had been exposed to a truly inspirational person.

As with all research, I ended up with more information than I needed. But as a writer I’m like a bower bird, collecting all these experiences, facts and personalities for use somewhere down the road.

Was it a waste of time? Not at all. Confident that my writing had been done for the day, I was able to allow my Creativity the room to explore a fascinating subject thereby exposing her to a fresh supply of creative fodder. Who knows where this will lead.

So what about you? What piece of information do you need to research this week? Comment below and tell us.

Try to pick something slightly crazy – a subject with intriguing possibilities and follow it to see where it leads. When you’re done, come back and let us know how it went.