Lillith Black

Exploring life through writing

Why am I afraid to write

When I was a child, I loved to make up stories. My best friend and I would talk for hours and come up with the craziest stories that we would sometimes write down. As I got older life happened, story-telling and writing were placed on a ‘way back’-burner. First I didn’t have the time and then I didn’t have the courage. When I moved to United States, the notion that English was my second language made me feel inferior and even though people were amazed of how well I spoke being in the country for such a short while, I always thought that they only did it out of kindness of their heart. I was happy to finish the computer college with straight As, but I wasn’t convinced that my English was good enough to write. I had always prided myself of having a built-in spell-check in my native language; I could speed –write and never make a mistake. With moving to US all that was no longer applicable and therefore I had to start from scratch. Being a perfectionist didn’t help either, the doubt was always there.

Finally, after living here for twenty years, having attended colleges and writing many papers and essays, receiving praises from my writing group I decided that maybe, after all, I can do this writing thing. Having jotted down the beginnings of many books throughout the years, books that were later scrapped, I decided that one of these stories deserved a chance to live and be written out into a novel. It had to be a love story. A love wanted and un-attained, a love that caused suffering and immense joy, a love that struggled and survived. And of course it had to have something otherworldly in it (have I mentioned I love sci-fi and paranormal?)

So the “Sleepwalker Chronicles” I began to write. And as I finished the first couple chapters, the fear began to grip me. What if my writing was not good enough? What if my story was not original enough? Would I be able to get a 100,000-some words out of me? And if I finish this novel, would I be able to write another one?

Overwhelmed, I became writing-paralyzed. I stopped writing and haven’t written for several months. My novel was on my computer desktop and on my flash drive. I would see those files every time I would use my laptop. My notebook with scribbled ideas was lying on my writing desk, sending guilt trips my way.

They say you can stop writing because you are simply afraid. You can be afraid of failure and you can be afraid of success. I was definitely afraid of both. And more. My personal list of fears went something like this:

  • English was my second language and I built my sentences in a weird way
  • I suffered from run-on sentences
  • I had no idea what I was doing and it was obvious to the whole world
  • I couldn’t possibly come up with something original or awesome
  • I was not a master of a plot
  • I couldn’t plan out the whole novel in advance with a detailed outline
  • My characters would all sound the same when I was done
  • I would get a bad review and it would crash me
  • People would question if writing was a legitimate occupation if I write full time
  • “You are a writer?” would be followed by a smirk

I have more but I will spare you. As all fears, most of these were created by me and I’m the one who kept on feeding them with doubt and quest for perfectionism. I decided to work on it. I joined two writing groups, began to read books again, books on writing, love stories and self-improvement books. My two favorite books from last year are “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and “Hector and the Search for Happiness” by Francois Lelord. These books gave a different perspective on a life around me, meaning of happiness and made me realize that a lot of things that I feared, things that I took personally, things that I suffered from were not really there. They were created by my futile attempts to read people’s minds and thinking that I actually can, trying to make everyone happy and forgetting myself in the process, wanting to predict what will happen tomorrow and naturally not being able to.

While searching for my happiness, I learned not to take things personally, to appreciate that I’m working hard at my job and it’s OK to take compliments, that it’s OK to get an occasional B in school (gasp), and that it’s not OK to bash yourself. I also learned that writing made me happy. It made me feel like I was searching for it my whole life, trying this angle and that occupation, this class and that book, and that finally “Eureka” and I got it. I realized that writing was what I wanted to do with my time, with my space, with my life, that was what I would be happy to be doing before I die.

I still have my fears, but I try to channel them into something positive I write more and it gets easier to trust myself with my writing. I try my best not to self-edit as I write and it gets easier to live with typos and a crappy first draft. I talk about writing, I let my family read my work, I let strangers read my work and it gets easier to admit, that I am a Writer.

What fears do you have about writing and how do you deal with them?

 

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8 Replies

  1. Brilliant, and moving. Once writing gets into the blood it will not be ousted by fears. Life can deal many duff hands, yet still you will write. All and everything that you encounter becomes the raw materials from which to craft. I wish you the best. By the way, that first fear listed above? Write 1st person, with your protaginist sharing that same 1st language, though there is nothing wrong with your English.

    1. Thank you, you are so right, once we begin to write, it’s like an itch. It’s there and I can’t ignore it. I will definitely try your suggestion. Have a fantastic day!

  2. Hi Lillith. I can’t imagine writing in a second language. It would be very difficult, as you have described. Your piece was tremendous. You have no problems expressing yourself in English now.
    My fear? That I actually can’t write, plot, tell a story, figure out Word, formatting, mobi, book covers, oh! not to mention getting an editor, and that finally, when I get my book(s) up on amazon, no one will like them or buy them, and worse still, I will get scathing reviews.
    How do I deal with these fears?
    I take each step at a time. I write almost every day. I finished a novella and now am writing short stories that relate to, are back stories to the novella.
    I read many writing and publishing articles from twitter links, belong to a writing group/workshop, am working, chipping away at the self publishing thing. It’s the tech that scares me the most.
    I read. All the time. I read indie authors and leave honest reviews. I’ve found some terrific indie authors’ debut novels. And I’m inspired by indie authors, who put it all out there, rip their heart bleeding from their chest and put it up on amazon, or B&N, or smashwords, for anyone to see and criticize. I’m inspired by the brave indie authors who do it all by themselves. Any alpha or beta readings, editing, formatting, book covers, they had to arrange, or do, all by themselves. Any expert help they had to find/get/pay for.
    AND, I figure, I don’t have to go through all this work, but I found out I love writing, and maybe I can tell a story. And what’s the point of all these stories lying unseen in a drawer and thrown out when you die? If you’re a writer, you need an audience to balance your equation.
    There we are. Writers!? Mercy!

    Louise Sorensen
    louise3anne twitter
    louisesor.wordpress.com

    1. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it! I have all the same fears, believe me! Just as you do, I read a lot. I read how-to’s and I read works of people that have done it. I dream that one day I will join them on Amazon (exciting!) and people will get to read my work (scary!). I am following a fantastic blogger who also released books on the whole formatting and publishing of an e-book, which is the most step-by-step I found to date. Her blog is http://catherineryanhoward.com/ and the two books that she has on self-publishing are ‘The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated: Caffeine-Infused Self-Publishing Advice’ and ‘Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing’. If you haven’t come across them yet, I highly recommend.
      I write and the more I write the less fear I feel. I used to value every word I’ve written as if there wouldn’t be anymore, so editing was a painful experience. As I wrote more, it got better and now I have to fight a desire to self-edit as I go instead! I find that writing on paper helps with that and just generally learning to ignore mistakes when I write my first draft.
      It’s all definitely a process in progress, but I’m stubborn and this year will be the year when I self-publish, so wish me luck!

  3. Thank you for this post. I have a graveyard of unfinished projects because of this fear of writing, yet, like you, I loved making up stories from a very young age, and experienced a pure pleasure in it. Then, I think, the critical inner voice, perfectionism and self doubt, grew over the years, particularly from years of writing essays at university, and now I find it so hard to trust the process. I often avoid writing and yet when I do it, I’m so much more peaceful and fulfilled. Right now I feel encouraged and most of all, not alone, having read your post. I am ready to go back to my book which is in bits around me.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Don’t listen to the perfectionist, nothing is ever perfect. Write for the joy of it, you can do this!