A number of circumstances have raised something inside me recently which I call The Writer Fear. The Fear is actually a mixture of many emotions which can be called upon at the touch of a delete key and sometimes is perpetuated by yourself, and sometimes by others.
Fear Emotion #1: Rejection
Ah, the eternal fear of being told no. I was told in January that my resolution should be to send more short stories out. I know a number of people who have had great success in magazines and e-zines, some in anthologies, who are trying to encourage me to do the same. But what if they say no?
That’s the thing, isn’t it? If they tell me it isn’t good, is it my writing, or what they’re looking for? What are these invisible hoops I have to jump through? The letters and e-mails which say ‘we enjoyed it, but…‘ don’t make you feel that much better. Because the ‘but’ is the only thing you see.
And the fear of the ‘but’ is what stops you sending. If they outright say they hate it, it’s better (marginally) than that mysterious ‘but’. Going on to…
Fear Emotion #2: Failure
When someone recommends you, that’s terrifying. Today, a friend asked me if their younger brother can read a story I wrote a long time ago. It hasn’t been edited for years and instantly that paralysing fear that a child would see through me was all over me like a rash.
Children are discerning readers. They are blunt and honest. If he hates it, what then? Have I ultimately failed at writing an engaging young adult text?
I don’t generally let people read what I write unless I have full control over its distribution and I am absolutely sure that it is as perfect as it can be. This story is not perfect and good God I want it to be. If it is not perfect then I have failed. Right?
Fear Emotion #3: Regret
While I’m busy wringing my hands and deliberating whether or not to send something to a contest, time is ticking by, and before I know it the deadline has passed. Part of me is relieved. The other part of me always, always, feels regret.
Am I stupid? How is anyone going to ever see my work if it is never read? If I don’t put myself out there, I am only stunting my own growth. The only person who suffers in this arrangement is me. And I know this.
If I send 100 stories out, if I get 100 rejections, I perpetuate The Fear. And yet, what happens if someone likes one? Or if I never send those 100 stories?
In short, I am my own worst enemy. I feel this fear while writing, after writing, and after editing. It is something I live with day in, day out. So much so that sometimes I fear reading in case it pushes that fear back into me, the fear my writing will never be publishable.
It is rather melodramatic. I think a bit of fear is good for you. It pushes you to strive for better. But when it’s a hinderance rather than a help, shouldn’t you do something about it?