Fighting through Fear

There’s no shortage of blog posts and articles on writers’ block at any time, but there seem to be a lot of them now, with the new year. I’m one of those who doesn’t believe in writers’ block as a thing in and of itself, but I experienced a bit of block myself this week, when it came time to do the assignment for the writing workshop I’m currently taking.

Last week’s assignment I pretty much put off to the last minute, and wound up dashing off something I didn’t really find interesting, that I suspected wasn’t very good. The instructor called me on it (though nicely), which I totally expected.

This week’s assignment was a challenging one, and I put it off too.

I was blocked on it, and when I took a minute to think about it, I realized it was because I didn’t want to throw out more crap and get called on it again. But what that really was, was good old fear.

I believe that’s what’s behind most of what we call writers’ block. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of getting bad reviews, if we publish. Fear of rejection, if we’re sending materials to agents or publishing houses. Fear of… I don’t know. It’s kind of irrational when I think about it. As this very instructor has said in other workshops, what is there really to fear? It’s not like an agent, editor, or reader is going to hunt us down and shoot us for writing something not so good. If we send something to an editor or agent and it’s no good, it’s not like they’ll remember it–or the writer. Or if we self-publish, neither will readers, if they read it at all. And I have zero illusions that the instructor for my workshop remembers anything that students send in for these short, 200-400 word assignments. That’s just silly.

This week’s assignment was to write about someone in a blizzard. It helped that we had our first, real snow of the winter last night (one that’s pretty but didn’t stick to the roads, my favorite kind!). That led me to think of some cool Ohio history–something that interests me–so I wrote about a girl in the Blizzard of 1950 and sent it off. And yes, once I got going, it was fun to write, getting all those historical details in without coming out and writing a dateline. Here’s hoping that will show through for the instructor, because I’d like to think I’m learning something in that workshop. 🙂

What I’ve been reading: Still working on the same novel as last week, so I’ll discuss after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Here are last week’s goals, and how I did.

  1. Finish two more scenes on the novella – Done
  2. Complete last week’s assignment for the workshop- Done
  3. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week – Done
  4. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella – Done

Yes, really! I met all of them, even the bonus. It helped that I finally kicked the last of the crud last weekend, and have been feeling better this week (two weeks is an improvement over last time I got this sick, so my supplements must be helping :)).

So this week’s goals are:

  1. Finish the next scene in the novella
  2. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week
  3. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella.

These look less than last week, but I expect the scene to be a long one, and I have plans all day Saturday, so taking that into consideration. Luckily, it’s the last week for the workshop, so no assignment.

What about you–have you had to fight through fear lately, whether writing or something else? Did the fear turn out to be something silly, and what did you do? How are you doing with whatever goals you have so far this new year, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

10 Responses to \

  1. Glad to hear you’re feeling better, Jennette. I have a fear of driving in the snow, so good thing I don’t live in snow country! As far as writers block and fear, I think you’re right. Fear of writing crap is a big deterrent. I have to give myself permission to write crap. Sometimes that’s what we need to get going and then the good stuff comes, and then the editing! Yay for you making progress with your novella!

  2. I have to fight through fear every time I sign up for an author event! Haha! But I push through. Actually, since I became a writer, I’ve pushed through a lot of fears. It feels different being on the other side, I guess. Or maybe it’s old age… 🙂

  3. I was also a “girl in the Blizzard of 1950.” We were just moving into our first new home on New Year’s Day and I couldn’t believe the snow that was falling. But for a 6-1/2 year old, it was fabulous! What kid doesn’t love snow? However, I think that my parents probably weren’t as happy with the snow as I was. I had no fear of anything that day–only sheer joy!

  4. Thanks, Lynn! I hate driving in snow because we have to go sloooowww, and so many people don’t know how to drive in it. As for the writing, it’s better to write crap than nothing! You can always fix it later.

    Stacy, there’s a lot about being an author that makes us get out of our comfort zone, that’s for sure! Though I notice the older I get, the less I care LOL!

    Patricia, so nice to hear from you! 😀 You are so right, snow is great when you’re a kid and get snow days! And when it was fun to play in the stuff, rather than have to drive in it. And I will admit it seemed strange to think of a time my parents were alive as “historical.” 🙂

  5. Sometimes all it takes is that “ah ha” moment when you realize what the problem really is; in your case labeling your “writer’s block” as fear. Now you can deal with it because you know what it is. Other times is just plain old failure to accept that we can only do so much and sometimes our brains need a break.

    I’m glad you’ve gotten through. Keep pushing is usually the best way, but sometimes not pushing at all works too.

    Hey, at least you wrote something right? You can edit crap. You can’t edit a blank page.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. I really admire how you’ve set up your goals so precisely AND by adding that bonus, you can celebrate going above and beyond! Makes me think my ‘to do’ list is rather too long. Re fear and writing, this can create a barrier. Sometimes I think maybe I won’t finish my current project. Most of the time, I just keep editing and writing and don’t think about the maybe.As long as I’m improving (editing) and getting new words on the page (writing), I’m ok. May every week go so well for you.

  7. Look at you go when you’re back on your feet Jennette! You had a fabulous week attaining your goals. But the fear. Oh boy do I hear you on that one. I put aside a MS for a few years while I rewrote and edited my first MS. And it seems like I’ve been editing forever. Like I’m stuck in edit mode and now, I am trying to wrap my head around the new story again. Ever since I started this story I’ve been afraid that I might not be a strong enough writer to write it. You know, all that newbie stuff that floats around your head. So I agree, I think writer’s block is fear. 🙂

  8. I’ve experienced writer’s block a few times, and while I think fear can be part of it, I think another part of mine was simply burn out. I was working multiple jobs and trying to be great at everything I did and I think I was just exhausted. I do sometimes still hit blocks, but I think I’ve identified the cause–I think I need to work on structure. My way of dealing with it is to force myself to keep writing and remember that quote from Nora Roberts: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.” I’m also reading “Story Engineering” and going to read a few more books about structure this year. Hopefully that goes a long way to helping me work past those moments of sometimes crippling self-doubt.

    Great progress on your goals, Jennette! Have a great week!

  9. Patricia, my brain definitely needs a break sometimes! And yes, you can always fix the writing if it doesn’t work.

    Beth, thanks! And funny you mention fear that you won’t finish – that isn’t a bad thing, as it can be motivating in a good way!

    Karen, that fear that we’re not good enough to write some story doesn’t go away–at least, it hasn’t for me. We just have to learn to ignore that one and push through!

    Denise, you are so right about burnout! And that sometimes, the block is because something isn’t working in our story. Hope the book helps, I’ve heard a lot of good things about that one!

  10. That fear comes from the same place in my brain that has me noticing cobwebs/dust/dirt while I’m working. I think it’s a protective thing ie I could fail so let’s not feel that pain, let’s clean. HAHA.
    Here’s to pushing through the fear and creating!