confessions / freakouts / novels / writing

The Fear

It’s a funny occupation to go after, writer. You live in your own head so much of the time it’s virtually impossible to know how you come across to others. I barely see myself most days, if you want the truth. Sometimes I’ll walk past a mirror and stop and go, That’s what you wore today?! It’s astounding how what’s in my head doesn’t show up on my face. I’m nothing at all like I thought I’d be. It’s the same with what I write. Sometimes I absolutely can’t tell if it’s any good—no idea of worth, none. Then other times I think it might be good. A little glimmer of a knot starts winding itself in the pit of my stomach—that’s the hope. That’s me, hoping someone else likes it, too.

Maybe this next confession is obvious. If you read this blog it’s probably alarmingly, annoyingly obvious. But I get *very* nervous when people read what I write. “Why did you publish a book then?” you might want to ask me. Some days I’d answer, I’d honestly say, “I really don’t know.” And here I am about to do it again.

Sometimes I want to print out my pages, bind them up in a blanket, tie it with a bungee cord, wrap it in a plastic bag, wrap that in a second plastic bag, label it with an old priority mail sticker from the post office that says “Imaginary Girls,” and stow it up in the top cabinet we have over the bedroom closet.

But, um. I guess, since my agent sold the book and all, and since it’s due to my editor February 1, I guess I sort of can’t do that.

Really, I don’t want to.

Because other times I am so *excited* that I wrote this book, I want to share it with all the important people in my life. I like it and I want them to like it, too. I want E to see it. I want my agent to see it. I want my editor to see it. I want my best friend from junior high school to see it. I want my writer friend to see it. I want my mom to see it. I want strangers on the street to see it. I want you to see it, and I have no idea who you are!

I keep going back and forth between those two extremes.

It’s *very difficult* for me to show my writing to other people, especially when it’s not “done” yet. (Or after; you wouldn’t know it, but after is hard, too.) Lately I’ve had all these wonderful writing friends and acquaintances offer to read my manuscript for me if I need another reader. I’m honored by that. I’m thrilled. I think it’s really nice. I probably won’t send it out to more than a few people, though, only because I think it’s safer to keep things close. And by safer I mean I’m trying to keep my heart from exploding. I can’t show you my manuscript yet due to my health. Maybe later, after my editor has had me revise it. Maybe once there’s an ARC.

All this is well and good and one of those quirks certain writers get that maybe a few people in their lives—maybe one person—finds cute. Like, Ha-ha, she’s so shy, isn’t that endearing. It’s not endearing at all. It’s hellishly annoying. It’s a handicap. It’s like entering a fistfight with one hand tied behind my back.

Because that’s the thing. Writing takes courage. Creating something from absolutely nothing—a blank page, a white screen, a wordless abyss where not an inkling existed before I got to it—takes COURAGE.

I had it then. I’ll find it again before it’s time to hit send.

14 thoughts on “The Fear

  1. Yes, you will. You will!! And a wonderful book will be made and the world will be better for it!!

    Every time I think, okay, I’ve got this down, I’ve done it a few times now, piece of cake from here on out, something happens and I slide down that slippery slope of fear. I hate it. I wish I could be confident all the time!

    But I wonder if that fear at times isn’t necessary, to keep us on our toes, and to keep pushing us to do our very best?

    I mean, as much as I hate it at times, I have to say, it makes me work hard. Really, really hard.

    • Lisa, what a wonderful, encouraging comment. Thank you so much! I do think you must be right… it’s what’s needed to keep us on our toes and push us further. And I do work harder because of it. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

  2. I feel this way often when I’m finishing something up. I’m feeling it right now in fact.
    I think that there is doubt and fear when you are pushing yourself as a writer. When you are not settling for the safest route. When you have to give up control a little because the story is taking over.
    And that in turn makes the writing exciting. So take a deep breath and plunge.
    I think you won’t hit the ground.

  3. I just watched “A Circle of Friends” again last night, and there was one line that really struck a chord with me…and I think it may with you, too. Benny said to Jack Foley, “You mustn’t mess me about. I know I may look like a rhinoceros, but I’ve got quite a thin skin really.” (Well, the bit about looking like a rhino certainly doesn’t fit you – at all – but I think you see what I mean.) For all our bluff and bravado, we writerly types tend to be rather thin skinned, I think.

    • I’m afraid I have awfully thin skin for a writer—I’m not cut out for this biologically. The best thing for me to do to help myself through it? Distract myself.

      Hey now… that’s the whole reason I started this blog!

  4. I know how you feel. I’ve just submitted my first chapter to a critique group for the first time ever and I’m terrified. I’ve been working on this novel two years and they are the first people to see it. The rhino hide is wearing thin.

    • Charlotte, Congratulations on sending to your critique group. I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working on your novel and I’m thrilled for you!🙂

  5. Nova, this is SO true. A friend of mine from work was printing of my ms on Friday (I’d sent it to her ages, during a rare confident moment). She told me she was going to read it this weekend, and I physically winced and did this weird sort of curling-up-into-a-ball thing, which was impressive as I managed to remain standing throughout. She laughed.

    Writing is a strange old business, and you’re right – it takes courage! You’ll definitely get yours back before Feb 1st, oh yes indeedy.

    • I can completely picture the wince-ball-curling reaction! I can see just exactly what that must have looked like. I bet your friend loved your ms, btw! Just a feeling🙂

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