Friday, April 22, 2011

The Fear of the Writer

We tend to not talk about fear. Whenever writers talk about fear, it's often the fear of bad reviews and rejection of the manuscript. While those fears can be quite nasty (I still hate getting rejected, and getting several one-star reviews in a day really makes me want to go back to bed), I haven't met one writer whose fear or reviews or rejection actually kept them from writing.

Those fears happen *after* the fact. The crime is committed, the book/story is written. It's Luther's "Here I stand, I got no choice" (one of the great Acts of Defiance in history - "Fuck you, Pope!" - but hey, it helps having some kings and dukes and counts on your side while you do that...)

However, writers tackle other fears *before* the fact, too.

Bear with me, while I move back to what triggered that thought.

I read (ok, started reading) an interesting book on writing (if you could see my study - I have a bookcase full of them), which has an exercise that knocked my socks off. It's "The 90-Day Novel" by Allan Watt (self-published via Kindle).

One of the first exercises was "Write down your fears about the novel" (we're still in the "why don't you just write the book" chapter).

Next exercise: "Now write the one fear that you *haven't* admitted to in the last exercise" (paraphrasing here).

Then came the cracker. "How does your fear relate to the fear of your main character in that book?"

My socks were blown clean off. There's one book I keep pushing in front of myself, namely my WWII novel, which I started in late 2009. In the meantime, I've written half a dozen novels, so it's clearly not writer's block.

Examining my fear and comparing it to the fear of my main characters, I worked out they are identical.

Both characters, but mainly Richard, have that deep, gnawing fear of not being "good enough" or "worthy". David struggles with getting the whole Jewishness and Americanness together in his mind (basically denying one and being denied the second for his troubles), whereas Richard has the towering spectre of his father, his social class' duties/obligations and the fact that he grew up too fast and has too much responsibility while living in a culture where he has to be a certain way or risk imprisonment and death.

Fear of inadequacy. Of being unable to process things as they should be processed. Being unable to do things as they "should be done".

It's a small thought, really, and it's amusing that a paragraph in a writing book got me there, but it's a valuable insight for me.

Now that I know what I'm up against, I can fight it. While the characters face their fears, I might be able to get that book written.

And on a totally unrelated note, happy Easter for those who celebrate it. In my case, Easter means chocolate eggs and lots of sleeping and a fair amount of writing. But that's great. :)

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