Unfortunately, fear is an equal opportunity offender. What is not universal is how it shows up.
- You Never Get Started. Everyone's heard this before: "When the kids get older, I'll start that book..." Another one is "When I retire, I'll get that MFA degree..." There's always something that needs to be done first. While we still have to take care of children and attend to jobs that keep a roof overhead, there comes a point where we have to decide that we do have the tools to get started. We will always have more to learn, but it's ok if it's on-the-job training. Putting off writing, or any pursuit, comes from a place of not being good enough. The truth is, there will always be more classes to take, or books to read. We just have to decide to start, knowing that we won't be experts, but we won't stay beginners if we start.
- You Start, But Then You Stop. I get it. Life happens. There's illness, family demands, major events in our lives and any of them can disrupt our daily routines, including our writing. Sometimes, the issue comes from the work itself. Sometimes the story demands research we didn't plan on. Sometimes our notes and pre-plotting don't work as we'd hope. Sometimes, everything comes to a screeching halt. You decide to take a break, and that afternoon turns into a week. A month. Years. Sometimes, we call this "Writer's Block," and while there are many theories as to why this can happen, a common root is a lack of confidence in ourselves as storytellers: "Can I do this? Am I good enough?"
- You Start, And You Never Finish. On the surface, everything looks great: thousands of words are written every day, the pages piling up. The problem only arises when it comes time for anyone else to see the work. "Oh, it's not ready," you'll hear. It needs revision, some more research "to clean up a few details," but it's never ready. Oftentimes, this delaying tactic comes from a fear of rejection. If we keep working, we can't be told we're not good writers. If it never goes out, we can't be failures.
The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.― Brené Brown
The important thing to remember is that each of these ways comes wrapped up in the conventional wisdom of writing: Make sure you're prepared, Take breaks as needed, Make sure to revise and review. I'm not recommending that you jump in, throw whatever onto the page and get it out there regardless, but if you're not happy with writing practice, these could be some places to look for what is holding you back.
We'll be talking more about things like writer's block, as well as things you can do to move past fear. In the meantime, what's holding you back?
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