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26 March 2013

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I’ve talked before about how people will send me something to look at that’s unfinished, usually a couple of chapters or just a beginning. I’ve also mentioned that not one of those people — regardless of feedback, which is mostly along the lines of “finish it” these days — has, as of yet, sent me a finished story to go over. It could be that I came across as a bag of dicks (a possibility that I will never discount), but there’s another likely reason I don’t see many finished stories.

It’s the same reason that, when someone actually finishes a novel, it goes straight into the proverbial desk drawer, never to be seen again. Or the reason why that manuscript will only be read by a few friends or maybe a family member — it’s never offered to the general public.

Simply put: fear.

Fear of being judged for something you’ve written. Fear of putting something out there, only to find that no one cares. Fear of criticism. Fear of bad reviews. Fear of your friends and family seeing you differently once they know what’s kicking around in your skull.

So how do you get over that fear and put your stuff out there into the world?

I can only speak for me, of course — but to quote Cyrus Grissom: “I never think that far ahead.” When I’m writing something, I don’t think about how it will eventually be perceived. That’s step 80 or 85 on the list of things to worry about (and I rarely get that far on any list). I don’t think about how my friends and family will see it, or if people will judge me. I don’t think about the story falling on deaf ears. I just write.

When I produce something, I try not to look beyond the end of my fists. I do it because that’s the story I want to tell right now. There will be plenty of time to ramp up the anxiety over bad reviews down the road (though I’m rarely bothered by them). If it’s a commercial flop, I can worry about that later, too (that’s one I have had keep me up at night). The only thing I’m concerned about is writing the story and making it the best I possibly can. Anything that happens in the future is unknowable, so why spend brain cycles worrying? Being afraid? To me, it’s wasted energy.

Then I send it off to my editor and get story notes and criticism. I could be afraid of what she’ll say, but I’m not. She wants the story to be the best it can, too, and all of her notes always reflect that. There’s no fear involved (for me) in making something better. We work together, make the story stronger, and send it out into the world.

I guess, where writing is concerned, I try to focus on the task at hand. The future will be what it will be. If anyone judges me for something, that’s their issue, not mine. If any reviews come out and say the book is the worst thing since Creamed Hitler (For Kids!), that’s their opinion, and that’s fine by me.

I’m not fearless by any stretch. I’m just lazy, and I don’t like expending energy when I don’t have to.

As with everything on this blog, I can really only speak for myself. But what keeps you from putting things out into the world? What’s the one thing you’re afraid of if that thing — that book, that painting, that film script — sees the light of day?

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