Writer’s Doubts – Angst of the Creative Mind

Do you ever feel that someone’s going to find out that you’re just a fake and everyone will know you can’t write after all? One of my writer friends wrote lately that she battles such fears all the time. I believe that writer’s doubt is something we all go through because this society values money rather than creativity…if creative pursuits make money then they’re valuable. For a society that emulates the starving women with breast implants, aesthetics are more than subjective…they are prescribed.

I struggle with writer’s block frequently as well. I will qualify that and say, “I struggle with writer’s inertia.” Yes, that’s much more accurate. In order to qualify as writer’s block, wouldn’t the writer need to be caught in medias res? I think that writer’s ‘inertia’ is more akin to a creative paralysis that takes over all the senses and keeps the writer from doing much more than staring numbly at a computer screen or reading other people’s work for inspiration. In one way or another, I read all the time. I buy writing magazines to help me understand my target markets. I read articles off the web and have a novel next to the bed. Some nights I stay awake beyond the smart person’s hour and qualify as a zombie the next day because I was reading. Advice from teachers and storytellers has always been to read everything: “Read anything and everything.” If that’s the case, then why is it not helping me?

I believe my writer’s mind has transmuted into an interloper–the internal critic. My writer’s mind is not a happy creature. It is not only a hermit at times–but a private saboteur. I begin projects and then a crucial section or the whole folder slides under the coffee table or between magazines, in an abandoned stack, shuffled off to the extra bedroom known simply as “the office.” The private writer doesn’t warn me right away that these things are missing. It plays games with me and waits to see if I notice. Of course, I don’t–out of sight, out of…

The solution to this problem must be the most obvious: organization and discipline. However, to someone like me, those words are daunting and elusive. I liken it to saying, “I’m going on a diet!” or “I really have to start exercising.” Stating the obvious doesn’t make it happen. I can say, “I will write every day” a thousand times. Saying that I will write, won’t bring the words to the page.

However, I believe that there’s a more deeply-rooted problem than disorganization. There is a creative angst that cloaks my senses. Through “Standing on the Edge of Creativity” I hope to demystify my own struggle with inspiration, creativity, discipline and organization. To begin this process of breaking through the fog, I have to confront my fear. I said, “FEAR.” That fear has become an opiate that doses my writer’s mind shortly after breakfast until well after midnight. Fear is my drug and I think I’m addicted. Now say it: “I’m a FEARFUL WRITER.” Has anyone created a Twelve Step Program for Writers yet? I think that writers are particularly afraid of rejection, failure, appearing stupid, enacting success AND change. Success brings change. With change comes the possibility of failure and rejection. It takes courage to put your words into the world for all to view, criticize, and deconstruct.

Are you afraid that you might not be able to complete a story or book once you start writing? This is a fear of failure. Are you afraid that a book or story won’t be any good or will never match your expectations? This again may be seen as a fear of failure but it’s also a lack of confidence. Self confidence is one thing that the fearful writer must FAKE if it’s missing. FAKE, self confidence? How can I say that? If you have ever been a retail salesperson, you know what I mean. Instead of selling a product to a customer, you must sell your confidence and competence to yourself. Ignore the nagging, that what you write won’t be good enough, and take action. Let the “doing” be your guide. Write a query and mail it without second-guessing yourself. Detach from the internal critic and be the writer you always admired. You fake that self-confidence until it becomes real. The act of doing things confidently will pay off and you will stop thinking about how you couldn’t do it.

But first, you and I must confront that nagging voice and call it by it’s name: “Fear! Come here and sit beside me. We have some things to discuss.”

Step one…

~~~Writer’s Assignment: Fear is My Rumplestiltskin~~~

The first steps to overcoming one fear or many involve the process of naming–identification can take away some of the power that fears hold over our minds. By acknowledging our fears and labeling them we are, in essence, changing the UNKNOWN into the KNOWN or the named. The universal fear of the UNKNOWN is very powerful. To take back some of that power, each writer can carefully create a list of all creatures that go “bump!” in his or her subconscious and trample on the creative impulses.

Therefore, it’s time to write down all the things that you, the writer, fear about writing. Delve deeply beyond “I’m afraid I don’t have anything worth saying” or “I fear I no one will want to read it.” Try to tackle long standing fears that only you might know. Are you afraid that what you write might resemble your real life too much and you don’t want to embarrass your family? Did you ever think that there are things that you MUST write but that you’re afraid to? It’s possible that you can’t get beyond those things that you must write until you free them from your mind by giving them identities on paper. Most of what you write will never be published. Can some of your writing fears be overcome by starting a journal? It’s possible.

Begin your list with at least ten things you fear about writing and the writer’s life. Find a name for each one of those nagging little creatures that keep you from writing and progressing. Are you afraid you’ll never make enough money as a writing to live comfortably? Are you afraid to test your abilities and try?

Once you’ve written your list, think of ways that you can prove a positive for each negative. Are you afraid to submit a query to an editor because you’ll be rejected? Choose a magazine that works with new writers (see a resource like The Writer’s Market) and analyze several issues of your target publication. Look for what the magazine publishes and what it doesn’t. Find a subject and an angle to present to an editor. Research how to write and query for the type of publication you’ve chosen. Remember that self-education is part of this process of dispelling the fears of the unknown. Now find the name and title of the editor for your target publication. Write your query with confidence and convince that editor that you are the best writer for the article. Perhaps, you’d rather write book reviews than articles. Book reviews can be written competently and in an interesting manner. You can build your writing confidence and credentials. The point is to write and act like a writer; present your work with confidence even if you have to put on a fake shell of confidence. The simple act of doing as though you have confidence can create the habit of confidence. To doubt one’s own ability is a learned behavior that can be changed.

There’s no need to hand over your writing dreams to a gremlin that hides in the shadows. I’m calling mine, “Rumplestiltskin.”

© 2002 by Renee Faucher

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