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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Productive Writer: Write in spite of fear

"What if my book is drivel?"
"What if the editor sends it back with a resounding no?"
"What if I’m wasting my time?"
"What if I succeed?"

Some writers don’t accomplish much because of fear. I don’t mean accomplishment in terms of contracts, but just getting words on a page. The writer’s road is paved with potholes of insecurity, ready to trip us up. Or make us give up.

Those of us who’ve been writing for any length of time know that we’re capable of producing drivel. Deprive my brain cells of energy and sleep, who knows what might fly up onto the computer screen? The wonderful thing about drivel is that you can edit it. Maybe you’ll delete half of what you wrote, but a page of what looks like drivel is worth more than a glowing empty page (and spider solitaire minimized on the screen).

Fear can paralyze our minds and turn our thought processes to mush. We can make excuses, find something else to do (see spider solitaire above). An editor will never say no to work they haven’t read. And that means they’ll also never say yes.

Then there’s the whole fear that “I’m wasting my time.” The little games that come preinstalled on computers? Watching Match Game reruns? That’s time wasting. Every scene, every chapter, every book we write is an important lesson. Maybe it’s a lesson in how not to write. But the act of writing accomplishes more than reading all the craft books on your shelf. The second novel I completed (still unsold for good reason) took me a year to finish. A multi-published author offered to read the whole thing and share her thoughts with me. At the time, I didn’t recognize that her gesture was a wonderful gift. She read all 267 pages of hard copy, and handed it back to me with plenty of ink added. Said the beginning was pretty rough, but the end, well, much better. She could see the progression in my writing over the course of the year.

Maybe you think you’re wasting your time. But the learning process happens when we’re laying down those phrases, sentences, scenes, and chapters. Call it on-the-job training.

And success? Who’d be afraid of that? Plenty of people. To write in obscurity makes us battle one kind of fear, but once the contracts come, another sort of pressure presents itself.

The productive writer may know all these things, but the productive writer responds like this:

They write anyway. Productive writers hit their knees, then rise up and write. Even if they’re afraid.



Blogger A klutzy spaz said...

I LOVE your website. I just finished writing my 300 page novel and now i dnt know what to do! I didn't tell any one about my story, not even my parents. So now I don't know what to do! Do I tell them now, "Oh yeah, about that 1 mega byte word document on my Pc ha ha abut that!" Writing is totally about fear. I agree. Please coninue with ur website I LOVE IT!!!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you were encouraged. We all have to start somewhere. Now that you've finished the book, it's time to polish it and make it even better. And if you're afraid, keep working at it! :)

11:19 PM  
Blogger carla stewart said...

I really like the line you wrote: An editor will never say no to something he hasn't read. He also won't say yes. You have nailed the key. Early on, I heard a speaker say, you will never be published if you don't submit. So, with fear and trembling, I began doing that. Won some contests and have a number of articles published. I'm still waiting on the elusive book contract, but I have to keep submitting. Polishing the work, too. But putting it out there, that's crucial.
Thanks for a great post.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Donald H Sullivan said...

A great site you have here. As a writer, the title caught my eye while browsing. I've been writing for years and have about fifty short stories published, mostly in the small press. I just started my first novel, and though I bang out short stories, the novel scares me to death...

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Susan Mires said...

Lynette - What a great post! I read it when you first posted and your hard-hitting words stuck with me so much, I wanted to come back and read it again. Thanks for some simple - and effective - tips to keep focused and keep typing.

5:57 PM  

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