11. Deal With Fear

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It is normal to be scared. Fear is hardwired into our brains. Every writer feels it. It can get in our way, paralyze us. Make us do strange things.

When I first began writing seriously, I created a password-protected folder on the computer and hid all my work in there. I did not want anyone reading my work. What if someone read it and thought it was stupid? How embarrassing!

Eventually I realized I was the one being stupid. There are no kids in the house, and the other people in the household have better things to do than snoop into my writing. I promptly removed the password protection.

Not Good Enough

The worst fear we struggle with as writers is that nasty little voice that whispers things like, "Is this the best you can do? There are so many people better than you! You're never going to be as good as them. Why bother? Just give up."

Some people are born with a natural talent, some aren't. But in both cases, they have to put in the work to get better. They both start off as crappy writers and learn how to do better. Some learn faster than others, but the fact remains you need to put in the work to improve.

The next time you read some impressive writing and you feel that troll inside you starting to raise its ugly head, stop yourself. Remind yourself (and that troll): This writer is this good because they put in the work. They used to be where I am now. I can be this good, too, if I put in the work.

People Will Think This Is Stupid

This is the most paralyzing fear of all. You stop sharing your work because you're afraid what people will say. The thing about being a published writer is it's a very public thing. You regularly expose your work to public opinion. And the thing about public opinion is it's ridiculously varied. Remember my chapter saying you can't please everyone? This is a vital concept for you to memorize. Repeat it to yourself until you believe it. YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE.

Every now and then, I'll pick up a best-selling book to see what the hoopla is about. Maybe I'll learn a thing or two from these "amazing" authors who have "hit it big". About 80% of the time, I put the book down before I even reach the halfway point. Maybe it's a character I can't stand, or maybe there's too much description for my liking. There's always something. With so many books to read in the world, I'm not going to waste my time on something that annoys me. More often than not, I'll find myself enjoying the endeavors of a first-time author no one's ever heard of.

That author could be you.

Different people like different things. When you expect that there will always be people who dislike your work, then the blow isn't so hard when their criticisms reach your ears. Accept this fact, and remember the other side of that coin: That there will always be people who do like your work.

I Don't Want My Work Critiqued

This is a tough hurdle for novices. The whole point of a critique is to point out flaws that need fixing. And trust me, no one wants all their flaws pointed out. The first time I received complete feedback on my first novel, I pouted in the corner for two days.

The thing we need to remind ourselves is this: The flaw is in the work, not in our selves. It takes repeated exposure for this to sink in. You are more than your work.

On the third day, I took a step back and reread the feedback objectively for what it was. When I separated my pain away from it all, I was actually able to see what the person was talking about. "Come to think of it, she actually does sound a little whiny," or "I hadn't realized how little description there is for this setting." What's wrong is pieces of my story, which I can change. There's nothing actually wrong with me.

We can't improve our skillset if we don't seek out what's wrong with our first draft. So do it. Get feedback. It'll hurt, but each time it'll hurt a little less. The first few times, read it and allow yourself to pout. Give yourself a few days to push away the pain. Then go back and read it again. Remember that this is about improving your work. This is what the good writers do. If you want to be one of them, then you must do it, too.

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Ready to let fear go? You should. And maybe click a Vote for me while you're at it?


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