It has taken me over 15 years to get back to writing and start taking it seriously.
I have been reading and writing since I was barely out of diapers. And yet I never dared to think of myself as a writer. “God, no I can’t be one of those,” I thought. I allowed my fears of writing to rule my life, to make me not even admit to myself that I was doing the same job that writers do.
My fears took the form of excuses, but they still were fears in disguise. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being accused of
impersonating someone I was not. Do you relate to any of these?
Fear #1 – You are not good enough
All of my life, I thought I was a mediocre writer – that my work was not worthy of being made public.
For one, I wrote in a very ‘bloggish’ style. A conversational style that has been made popular by the likes of Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha , Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and David Nicholl’s One Day. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t find any books that would say to me “your style is valid too”; colloquial is good.
Writing in a personal, conversational style where it feels like you are having an intimate conversation with your reader is not only perfectly valid but highly sought after. The stronger your voice is and the more opinionated you are, the more interesting writer you will become.
I wish somebody had told me 10 years ago. I wish somebody had told me to stop comparing my writing with others.
What has been keeping you from calling yourself a writer?
Is it a different sort of style, love of genre or form? Whatever it is, embrace it and work it.
Writing is about voice, personality and delivery, not the placement of your em-dash. (Which I love to use by the way). People are looking for honesty, not perfect prose, which means you have all the creativity you need.
Banish perfection and hone your craft. Remember imperfect is interesting. Doubt is good – it helps you steer in revision.
Sit down, start writing and don’t think. That’s all you need to do to write. Don’t think – just write.
Fear #2 – You have nothing to say
Feed your brain. Read, observe, participate, live.
Record your ideas: a small writing pad and a small writing device are your best friend. You can lug them around and there is no excuse to be two feet away from one at any time. My best ideas come when I am doing the dishes or about to fall asleep. Both are not ideal. If I couldn’t touch some sort of notebook when I reached for it, I’d lose all sleep.
Get rid of distraction: turn off the Internet, your phone, and TV. Disappear for a while in your writing. And you will amazed and how much work you can accomplish.
You need what you need to know. You don’t need 50 personal and writing books to tell you that. They make you feel like you are not creative enough, organized enough, fit enough, clever enough. You are all those things. Have you lived a life? If so, that qualifies you to write.
There is only one thing you need to write – you need to have a life. Write about what you have lived through – tell your own stories.
Fear #3 – You don’t know where to begin
It’s very simple. All you need are a few things:
- A quiet place to sit.
- A paper and pencil or computer.
- Ability to be by yourself for a while.
- Willingness to explore yourself.
What you DON’T need:
- An expensive education or writing degree.
- Expensive stationary and office supplies etc.
- Expensive computers and software.
- Anything new.
Fear #4 – You don’t have support
Writing is a communal act – you don’t do it alone.
Don’t fret if your family gives you blank stares when you suddenly announce, “I want to write.” Don’t lose hope when your partner doesn’t break into a dance of joy upon hearing this good news.
Don’t be offended if your friends nod their heads politely, while keeping an eye on their kids chasing each other at the park, or trying to kill someone. It’s very unlikely that you will find support among your family and friends – unless you are incredibly lucky. Give them time, let the news sink in, for both your sakes. Remember they are new at this too; they will eventually come around.
Go on on an active hunt for like minded people.
Have you been following any writers’ blogs? Read the ones that offer courage and inspiration to keep you going as you hone your craft. They will keep you motivated. Even better, start a blog of your own if you haven’t already.
Go to the local library and find reading or writing groups. Join an online book group where all the “book obsessed” hang out. Attend live readings. If you are too shy to do these things, join anyway and lurk. Speak up when you have the courage. Don’t talk about your work for now – just listen.
All in all, remember these 3 rules:
1. Stop thinking.
2. Start writing.
3. Don’t think about it.
Be interesting and you will make your writing interesting. Write honestly and passionately and learn along the way. That’s how all the famous ones do it!
Which fear of writing is stopping you from writing? Do share in the comments below.
(Photo credit: An open old book by the candlelight via Shutterstock)