Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing Scared

Photo by: KristinNador

Lately, I’ve been struggling with getting words on paper. There is a massive portion of that that is being emotionally and physically drained because work has been hella busy, yo. There’s a much larger part of that, though. The larger part is that I’m scared to write.

I do remember the last time I actually tried to sit down and get some writing done: I submitted a short story. This story had been making the rounds for a while, and obviously meeting rejection. I wasn’t really worried about that, though. Although I think that it’s the best I could make it, I also knew that there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be accepted anywhere. I acknowledge that I’m still learning the craft, and I’ve been entirely too on and off with my writing--I need the practice and the rejections. Once I’ve had something published in a professionally paying market, then I can begin working toward a new goal.

So, I did another once over of the story to check for anymore screw ups or typos and sent it on its way again. With nothing else to do, I opened up an e-mail from a friend who had agreed to beta read a different story for me. My writing friends are limited, so I try not to abuse the few I have and flood them with requests--especially since my time is so limited and I feel bad about not being able to reciprocate. I opened the e-mail and read through my friend’s critique--tough, but a fair assessment of the things wrong. I won’t lie, it stung, but not bad, and it immediately gave me ideas for how to fix the story. The fixes that I had in mind would mean effectively rewriting the story. It involved massive changes. Only the basic premise would remain the same.

I opened up a new document, and tried to outline the story--just a few sentences per scene to help me stay on track. If I don’t outline, I have a tendency to meander, write into scenes, write out of scenes, or come up with concepts that are grander and lend themselves more neatly to novels than to writing a short story.

I wrote a bit of an outline, got annoyed, deleted it, wrote another outline, got annoyed, deleted it. Then I tried to just jump right in. I wound up deleting everything that I wrote there, too. It was all just...absolutely awful. Even as I typed it, I knew it was terrible. Something felt off. Maybe it was that I didn’t to have to write it all over again. Maybe I’d be more invested if I gave my brain a break from that story.

Instead of forcing it, I opened up a different story--I have a bunch in various forms of completion, so there’s usually something I can be working on. I tried outlining it. Couldn’t. I tried jumping into it. It worked a liiiitle bit, but eventually I hit a wall with no idea where to go from there. Frustrated, I got up, left the room, and I haven’t really been back since.

Ever since then, every day, I think about how I should write, and then I go sit down and watch Daria, or Red vs. Blue, or some movie or documentary on Netflix. As the days have passed, I’ve felt worse and worse about not writing. It made me feel like I wasn’t a real writer. I feel like those guys that go to Starbuck with their laptops, hoping that one cute and curious barista will ask them about their latest Grand Manifesto. I recognize that if my ass isn’t in my seat, and I’m not getting words on the paper, then I can’t really claim myself to be a writer. Writers write. Posers talk. And I definitely wasn’t writing.

My blog writing began to fizzle out as well. I couldn’t come up with anything to write about. The few meager attempts I tried, my hands felt clumsy and unsure, and the words were slow, awkward, and uninteresting. Everything I wrote sounded trite, or boring, or unfocused.

So, I shied away from the blog, and I shied away from the computer. Thinking about writing made me feel terrible--guilty for not writing like a should, and shame because I knew that anything I wrote would be garbage anyway.

I have tried, lately, to write. Even today, writing stuff was difficult and clumsy, like playing a musical instrument when you haven’t touched it in a while. You sort of remember the motions, but everything feels off and the sounds produced aren’t what you would call “music.”

What’s the point of all this? I realized what happened. I got the yips. I got scared and discouraged and started to doubt myself. I’m terrified to write again, terrified that it’ll be bad, that I’m a bad writer, that I’m wasting my time. But I’m hoping, by writing this, by confronting my fears head on, I can garner up the courage to put fingers to keys and get something out. I’m starting with blog posts--things with no stakes. Next I’ll try to write some fiction for the blog. Then I’m going to commit to writing and editing a story to get it ready for submission. Something completely new, with no feelings or emotions wrapped up in it.

We all write scared. The key, though, is to write.

At least...I hope.


  1. I agree--to be a writer, we have to write. When I'm working on a novel (all unpublished so far) I commit to writing 1k words per evening. Nowadays I don't write nearly that much, but I sometimes force myself to sit down and crank out a short story, just to make myself write.

  2. I exist in a state of constant terror related to writing. Fear of rejection, fear of no one listening, fear of not liking what I write, fear of not having enough time to sit down and actually do the writing--I freeze up. Frequently. My computer is covered in cobwebs. The internet echoes in the dearth of my professional submissions.

    There was one summer, several years back, when I received a few rejections during what was already a "dark tea time of the soul" and I snapped. I was convinced I should never write again, that I wasn't ever meant to do this kind of thing. I was ready to give up. But, after some deliberation and a long, hard cry, I realized that writing is the only thing that brings me true joy (so far). I couldn't give it up without losing myself in the process.

    So, I just started to write. Random things, thoughts, little scenes, just to get it out, under the strict guidelines of "do it anyway." It really does help just to write.

    Now, if I could just work up the courage to submit more, I'd be cooking with gas!

    1. I'm glad that you have been able to push yourself, to just do it anyway. I've been making that attempt here of late. I realize that nothing's gonna get done unless I make it get done.

      Thanks for your comment. It's nice to know others go through this, too, and can get out of it.


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