Fear and the Writer

Published April 2, 2013 by Jill London

fear and the writer

Writing can be scary. It can terrify the writer into complete inaction. It is scary because we are investing so much into it; our time and energy, our hopes, our ego. There is so much that can go wrong, not just with the writing itself, but the countless other things that we sometimes feel are resting on it. Friends and family can be supportive (or not) but sometimes the fear comes rushing in and we are stalled. The odd day here and there is to be expected but sometimes the feeling hangs on. In fact it will not quit. It becomes the little voice of doubt that eats at your soul, nibbling away at you bit by bit. Day by Day. Maybe your latest submission is being rejected left right and centre. Maybe you feel as though time is ticking by and that you will soon run out of that ever-diminishing pool of opportunity. What will x think if they saw this? What if I never write anything any good again? What if I’ve never written anything that’s any good…

However great a man’s natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Luckily, competent writing can be learned. There are any number of books out there to teach you how to write. My favourites? As a general starting point The 38 Most

Cover of "The 38 Most Common Fiction Writ...

Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham, then, once you have your bearings a little bit and can appreciate what he’s saying it has to be Stephen King’s On Writing.

But for combating that dreaded fear it has to be Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. For sheer verve and spontaneity of spirit Bradbury is the best for lassoing that elusive mojo. If you have any interest in writing and you don’t have this slim but vital book I urge you now to make the purchase. Bradbury knew all about the power of the human spirit, the power waiting there for you to tap once you free it with just the right amount of encouragement. Bradbury is the encouragement.

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

King also has a thing or two to say on the subject of fearfulness in the writer. “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come into it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

So don’t let those demons deter you – fight back! You have the power. Reclaim your fearlessness.

Who do you rate as the best for writer’s advice (maybe King and Bradbury are not your favourites)? How do you avoid that sinking feeling at the keyboard, and what really scares you as a writer? Who inspires you? As always don’t be shy – share!

– Grab the bull by its Horns – colinshingler.wordpress.com

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23 comments on “Fear and the Writer

  • Thanks for the recommendation. I’m also going to give the Bradbury a try. As for books about writing that inspire me: well, it’s not really an inspiring book (nor is it intended to be) but I love “The King’s English” by Kingsley Amis. Amis gives excellent advice on how to write clearly, avoid pitfalls etc. He is often curmudgeonly, more often very funny, but always practical and to the point.

    • The best ‘how-to’ manuals entertain as much as they instruct (one of the few exceptions to the rule would be Strunk and White’s Elements of Style which, I think, is heavier on the info side), so I’ll gladly check out any that are funny. Thanks for the suggestion, and do let me know how you get on with the Bradbury.

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is the book that got me back writing. It’s funny, generous and messy. Anne Lamott is like a wise-cracking big sister who nudges you not to take yourself so seriously and JUST WRITE!

    • Sounds an interesting one, and not one I’d heard of before. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” I think we can identify with Lamott, here 😉 Thanks for adding a new one to the suggestions!

  • I’m not a writer yet (especially not in English) so I won’t answer your questions the way a real writer would do ;-D But as I do write a lot, I know what you’re writing about here. Those fears are familiar with me.
    Anyway, the point is that as I’ve never read a book with writing tips, I just wanted to thank you for recommendations 😉

  • My fear is that I have nothing to say. But, there are those times I review a sentence or even a fragment and it reads exactly on the page as it sounded in my mind. I read it repeatedly and hope it won’t be the last time I am able to make my words harmonize with my thoughts.

    I have Stephen King’s On Writing and will look for the Bradbury book.

    Thanx for the suggestions!

    • It’s those fleeting moments that keep us writing 🙂 I think, so long as we have contact with the world around us, there will always be something to say.
      I’ll be posting about ways to create ideas, and avoid writer’s block soon, as I know it can sometimes be difficult.
      Thanks so much for dropping by, Paula, and I hope you enjoy the Bradbury, it’s such a well deserved classic.

  • I’m terrified every single time I ‘write’ a blog post so goodness knows how I would feel if I was trying to write for real! I just wish I had more time to read everything you write – I’m never disappointed.

  • I love Stephen King’s book and am a big fan of Anne Lamott, too. I just drove through the area near San Francisco where she lives yesterday and thought of her. It was lovely in the springtime. I love your blog; thanks for visiting mine!

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