Monday, October 29, 2012

“Is Fear holding you back as a writer?”

I want to pose this question to you today.  What is stopping you from writing?  There are times in our lives, and this has happened to me, where I have feared putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Yet, I have learned that the more I write, the more I am able to write, if that makes sense.

Going back between 1999 [when I first started writing seriously] and 2009, I was a prolific writer.  I’ve always written but it was after attending a nurses’ twenty year reunion in May of 1999,  I really went for it.  They were such an inspiring group of people, some whom I’d kept in touch with for years, others I hadn’t seen since 1982, but that night lit a flame for me.   I went home and wrote a short story entitled ‘The Reunion’ based on that night.

I typed it up and submitted it to Woman’s Realm.  I only had an electric typewriter back then although soon I had a computer and went on line and it changed my world.  That short story was rejected but I received a handwritten message from the editor which I still have somewhere which said, ‘I am SO sorry we don’t accept unsolicited stories.  Good luck!’  I didn’t even know what unsolicited meant back then.  Although it was a rejection, somehow it gave me hope.  I read into that message, rightly or wrongly, that she liked the story and it might be worth submitting elsewhere.  So I thought the best thing to do might be to mix with other writers and learn more.

I joined a writing group that was run by a tutor from Cardiff University, this was at Dowlais library.  And whilst I imagined the members would be men in dickie bows who liked nothing better than to smoke cigars and sport monocles; and women in their satin dressing gowns who reclined on chaise lounges like Barbara Cartland, they were nothing of the sort.  They were just every day folk who had a talent for writing and I learned so much from them.

Once I started going to the group every Tuesday afternoon, which was held in the basement of Dowlais library, there was no holding me back.  We were given writing exercises and expected to return with a short story, poem or essay by the following Tuesday, and I always did!  The thought of showing up the following week not having anything to read out to the group, mortified me.  Often though, I would scribble something down quickly before I left the house or in a café in town before taking the bus to Dowlais.  Yet, the funny thing was, those off-the-cuff pieces were often my best work.

Since then I’ve hardly stopped writing, even though I no longer attend the group.  I’ve written short stories, articles, poems and novels.  I’ve even had work published in magazines, on websites and at publishing houses.  I’ve written during breaks at work, on buses, trains, waiting rooms, park benches, etc.

I am a big believer in the fact that if you want to write you will.  Nothing or no one will stop you.
Something highly traumatic happened to me during August of 2009.  I had just completed the first year of my Open University Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing.  I could have given it up the way I felt as my world crumbled.  It was if someone had stepped into my life and thrown a grenade.  Nothing made sense to me any longer.   

I am convinced that keeping a daily journal of my thoughts and feelings kept me sane and focused.  It also stopped me from getting badly depressed.  I had little sleep and would wake maybe at 5 am and sometimes would cry as soon as I opened my eyes.  My routine was to keep my journal by the bed to record my inner thoughts and feelings.  Putting pen to paper was so cathartic.  Often I’d transfer the words to my blog next day but after a while I removed them.  They still exist in draft form and could form the basis of some sort of self help book for other women who were devastated in the same way I was over a relationship breakdown.

I decided the best thing I could do for myself was to sign up for the second year with the Open University even though it was costly, but it was the best thing I ever did as I still had to produce short stories and poems.   In fact, it was during that awful time that I wrote some of my best work as the emotion I was feeling poured out into my stories and poems.  The only thing I had problems with was novel writing back then.   I set a couple of half started novels to one side.  Although now I am back into the swing of things.

What I’m saying to you is that unless you are really ill, depressed or suffering from some sort of trauma, there is no excuse not to write.  Although even then as in my case it could actually help you to write through those times!  In fact, to be honest you are probably making some sort of excuse not to write in your life right now.
Often, I think it’s fear that holds back a writer.  Fear of not being able to produce something, fear of not finishing something and fear it’s no good.

Fear is the enemy, acceptance is the key.

Accept that you might write rubbish to begin with.  You can always rewrite that rubbish but no one can fix a blank page.

Keep a journal of daily thoughts, memories and activities that might get you back into the swing of writing.
Please don’t tell me you don’t have the time to write.  That’s rubbish and you know it.  So often people say that.  If you really want to write you will.  It might mean making sacrifices during your busy day, like getting up an hour earlier, staying up later, recording your favourite television programme, etc.   

It’s very rare that no one has time to write anything!  I might forgive if you if you are the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe though!  Not if you’re an everyday person who has time to watch television, dwindle away hours on Facebook or spend time doing other things.

So, what’s stopping you?  Pick up that pen and write or place fingers on keyboard and start today.  You’ll be amazed what you can achieve because even if you don’t feel like writing to begin with, once you get into the flow you will want to keep writing.

It’s all about how much writing means to you.  You need that burning passion that’s as important to you as the air that you breathe.  Do you have it or not?  Because if you don’t, you aren’t a writer, you are someone who likes to think they could be a writer without the blood, sweat and tears.   And as we all know, without pain there is no gain…


Anonymous said...

Fear has held me back from writing. After winning a Best in Class award for a short story, I found it very difficult to write until I realized that fear of not being able to do as well again was the problem. Perhaps that's a problem for others too and maybe the reason why there are so many one book authors.

Lynette said...

Yes you make a good point there, Jim. Hope you are well. Are you on Facebook by the way? If you are you can find me there as 'Lyn Evans'. :)