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Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Two Kinds of Scared Writers (and How to Overcome the Fear)

Note: This is a guest post by Harrison Demchick. Harrison came up in the world of small press publishing, working along the way on more than fifty published novels and memoirs, several of which have been optioned for film. Also an award-winning, twice-optioned screenwriter, and the author of literary horror novel The Listeners, he’s accepting new clients in fiction and memoir at Ambitious Enterprises. Join him on Facebook.

Let’s admit it: We’re all a little bit scared of the writing and publishing process. Especially if we’ve never done it before. We feel it as we stare at the blank page, or as we hit the send button on that first e-mail to an agent or publisher, or as we wait for the first review to pop up on Amazon.

It’s okay to admit that. Because we all feel it. And we’re not alone.

Have no fear of writing.

Two Kinds of Scared Writers

During my weekly writing group, I’ve been working on a screenplay that begins, oddly enough, with a weekly writing group. My main characters are a pair of best friends named Mindy and Lane, and what I’ve realized during the development of this story is that Mindy and Lane represent two particular kinds of scared writers. They’re the kinds we all see in our writing groups and workshops.

There’s a very good chance we’re one of them.

1) Mindy is the writer who doesn’t finish.

She has ideas, but she never really pursues them, because she sees every obstacle as a sign that she isn’t good enough. And if she did push on and did finish a draft of something, it would be bad, and then she’d know she could never be good enough. So she comes up with ideas, abandons them, and struggles with the next one.

2) Lane is the writer who doesn’t fight.

He has a finished manuscript, but he doesn’t want to do anything with it. It’s the creative accomplishment that matters. But really, he fears what comes next—agents and publishers and rejection. Or he fears the marketing battle any author, traditionally published or self-published, must face. Maybe, at heart, he too doesn’t think he’s good enough, so he hides behind the pretense of contentment and never works for his real dreams.

I was always a lot more Lane than Mindy. Even though I’d been a developmental editor at a publishing house for some years—in fact, in a lot of ways, because I’d been a developmental editor for years—I didn’t want to push ahead toward publication for my manuscript, The Listeners.

I didn’t want the marketing fight. I didn’t want the headache.

I’d written a book, and I liked it fine. That was enough, I insisted, and I put off publication for some time on that basis. I had novels to edit and screenplays and songs to write. I didn’t need The Listeners.

I called that rational, but…

There’s a difference between rational and rationalization.

The truth is that I was scared.

After so many years of working on behalf of the authors whose books I’d edited, fighting to get them the recognition they deserved, I was scared about working, and fighting, for myself. I knew that quality does not lead automatically to success. I knew there would be frustration ahead. And maybe a part of me wondered, too, if I really was good enough.

Either way, I balked.

In my screenplay, Lane is lucky, because he has a friend like Mindy to push him along. I was lucky too, because I had enough friends around to tell me I was being an idiot. I dove in, and The Listeners was published, and while no one would call it a raging commercial success, I am now an author without fear.

You know. Until the next one.

But the point is this:

Maybe you’re a Mindy, and maybe you’re a Lane. Maybe you’re a little of both. Either way, you can’t let fear of the next step define you. When you defy the fear, you end up with a published novel. When you give in, you end up only with regret.

So what do you do? You keep walking.

If your problem is that you never finish, then don’t stop working on that story. Carve out time every week, maybe even every day, and write it. Don’t pay attention to word count, and don’t count a day as a failure if you end up with no more writing than you had before—or even if you end up with less. Just work.

We all face the same obstacles, we are all in this together, and the only way forward, no matter how many new ideas seem attractive when the old ones become difficult, is to keep on walking.

If your problem is that you don’t fight, then trust the people around you—the friends who have been encouraging you the whole time.

No one starts a race with the intention of stopping halfway through. Fear will turn to disappointment if you let it, so you, too, need to keep on moving, whether it’s to an agent, a publisher, Amazon, or even (and ideally first) to an editor like me.

And here’s a secret:

Most of us who are actually in the industry have been where you are. We get it. It doesn’t mean you won’t face rejection from an agent or publisher, or extensive feedback from an editor, but we know where you’ve been, and we know what you’ve faced.

There’s no shame in fear or hesitation. The only cause for shame, in all of this, is if you let it stop you.

So don’t.

Which type of fear is trying to stop you?

Share your story with us in the comments.

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This is a guest post. Let the author know if you enjoyed the post in the comments! If you're interested in guest posting on Positive Writer read the guidelines first and if you agree, then send your best work.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins

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  • Wow. Thanks for this powerful post, it really spoke to me. I feel like I used to be a Mindy and now I am bordering on being a Lane. I guess that is progress but I need to keep going! 🙂 What really stood out to me is this, “When you defy the fear you end up with a published novel. When you give in, you end up only with regret.” That is it in a nutshell.

    • Harrison Demchick

      Tracy, I’m glad this helps! What may also help is that we’re all a Mindy or a Lane at some point. Much of the writing experience is personal, but a lot of it is also universal, and that certainly applies to fear.

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Great post! I see my self in Lane. Not because of fear but because of lack of good timing. Every time I am ready to send, life sends me a crisis that needs my whole attention. One of these days I will be able to handle both book publishing and life.

    • Harrison Demchick

      That’s the struggle! Obviously, there are some things that do take priority over writing. There have to be. But there are also a lot of things we *give* priority over writing, even when they don’t deserve it. Those are the things we need to learn to set aside, at least for a handful of consistent hours every week, and devote the time instead to writing.

  • Hi Harrison,

    Great post!

    I wish other newbie writers and authors would embrace this advice. Courage doesn’t mean that you won’t have become vulnerable, but it does mean that you will have the passion and zeal to make it to your destiny or destination.

    In fact, I have written about that the very law of courage in my most recent book, “The True Writer’s Life”, http://amzn.to/1whuX1s

    In that book, my main thesis is the following:

    Inside every reader is a writer, and inside every writer is a spiritual being, but even deeper than all of that, inside every spiritual being lies the ability to tap into the heart and mind of God.

    In essence, courage is a superpower of the spiritual man within. And I believe that we develop that power by constantly developing and growing spiritually.

    Again, thank you for this post. I really enjoyed it.

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      Loved your response #HUGS

      “Courage is the superpower of the spiritual man within” – nice!

      • Hi Krithika,

        Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

        God Bless You!

        It would be a great honor of mine if you were to make a purchase of my book at the link above and share a positive review.

        Do you have any books out?

        • Krithika Rangarajan

          My pleasure, William. I will definitely check out your book. #HUGSSS

          As for whether I have penned one, the answer is, unfortunately, no. For more than three decades, I shunned my ardor for words because writing wasn’t an ‘acceptable’ career in my culture. And I didn’t have the guts to stand up for myself – heck, the thought of becoming a writer never even crossed my mind because I had already convinced myself that it was a silly dream 🙁

          At age 32, I finally chose to embrace my soul-mate: words 😀 I have been helping others with their blog posts, which is a definite privilege, but I can sense a deep yearning to write for MYSELF and MY audience. 2015 is going to be a FUN year! 😉

          Much love
          Kitto

          • I wish you all the best in the new year!

          • Krithika Rangarajan

            Thank you so much! 😀

          • Your welcome!

          • Krithika Rangarajan

            Oh – and I bought your book. 😀

          • Oh, and thank you!

            Did you get the e-book or hardback (or paperback) version?

            If you don’t mind, I would be honored if you could give me a positive review on Amazon.

            Thanks a bunch.

    • Harrison Demchick

      Thanks, William! I don’t know if it’s spirituality that’s the key per se, but it does have a lot to do with spirituality’s cousin faith. You need to understand that, if you’re putting in the time, eventually you will get where you need to be.

      • I agree 100% that if we put in the time we will get where we need (and want) to be.

        However, the very thing that jolts us to our writing chair or inspires us to begin putting words to paper, I believe, really does have everything to do with the spiritual man inside us.

        It is the soul inside the writer that is fighting to be set free, and it is through writing and sharing our words with the world that allows that freedom to be tangible and experiential.

        Or, at least, that is my opinion on the subject.

        Again, great post!

        • Harrison Demchick

          I suppose I don’t account much for spirituality or soul. But maybe these are all different names for the same thing, interpreted differently depending on who we are as writers and people. One person’s spiritual man is another’s self-confident writer. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what gives someone faith in their abilities, as long as they hold to it.

          Really interesting thoughts! Thanks, William!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Harrison

    Thank you for a lovely post. You have a talent to weave intuitive insights with your masterful writing skills!

    Can someone be both Lane and Mindy? Or maybe there should be a separate kind of fear named after me….it is scary, but the only choices I have are ‘to persist or perish’.

    I choose to persist.

    Thanks a lot
    Kitto

    • Hi Krithika,

      Persistence is another principle of success. And it is coupled with comment.

      If you consider the law of opposite, failure is only the result of doing the opposite of those two things.

      Keep the Faith and Never Stop Writing!

      • Krithika Rangarajan

        Thank you so much, William! #HUGSSS

    • Harrison Demchick

      Thank you very much, Kitto! I appreciate that.

      And absolutely, somebody can be a Lane and a Mindy. Or a Kitto. And if we define a Kitto as one who experiences fear, but persists anyway, then, well, that would be a fine legacy.

      • Krithika Rangarajan

        Aww..thanks for a very encouraging comment! #HUGSSS

  • I’ve been a bit of a Lane and it’s time to stop. Thanks for the insight.

    • Harrison Demchick

      KW, I’m happy to do it!

  • anda

    So, i’m a Mindy. And here’s why: i’ve started more than one book and not finish a single one. I have even written 90-95% (90.000 words) of a book when i stopped. i know the ending but i couldn’t finish it. I always found the excuse that I don’t have time. After a break of a couple of months in which I haven’t written anything, I review one of my other stories. I started to write at that story and now I’m almost at the finish line. I wonder if I will finish it. I can blame the Christmas this time. 🙂 By the way, I really liked your article!

    • Harrison Demchick

      Thanks, Anda! And being a Mindy is nothing to be ashamed of–especially not as you launch back into your work aware of the mistakes you’ve made in the past. You’ve got about a week until you can blame Christmas for anything, so make it count. I’d love to see that story when it’s done.

  • Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

    Total Mindy. Before, I was a Mindy because I was all about the ideas, but never the structure. Now that I’m taking my writing seriously (learning the craft and writing regularly (inspired or not)), I’ve been able to continue much farther into the draft of this WIP than with others. Having said that, I’m finding that Mindy is peeking her head out again – this time because my first draft is failing miserably at meeting the expectations I set for it when I first started writing it. At this juncture, I’ve committed to finishing and reworking the WIP – stubbornly writing 500w every other day – and consoling myself with the hope that all first drafts are bad…

  • Favorite quote: “Don’t pay attention to word count, and don’t count a day as a failure if you end up with no more writing than you had before—or even if you end up with less. Just work.” What a brilliant reminder!

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