No matter what I say, if you’ve yet to publish a book you will learn more from doing it than I can ever tell you. More about your fears, the things that hold you back, and how to overcome them. I continue to learn about mine, and even a decade into serious pursuit of fiction writing I’m finding new fears as I progress.
Fear hurts. It’s probably the thing that hurts most in the writer gig. There’s also the “someone said something mean” kind of hurt for writers, but the reason it hurts is tied to fear.
When that time comes, I shall be here in your corner. Solidary among all writerkind!
What you’ll find is that fear comes in all sorts of nasty shapes and sizes. Some of your fears don’t seem like fears at all, they seem like planning, like preparing…until you spend years at that and are no further along developing your craft or your career.
Once you finish a book, there are new wounds waiting to be opened — new fears that will assert themselves and force you to find a workaround. But…that’s the deal. With a creative career, there’s no avoiding fear. Tackling that which hurts, which causes the rawest emotion, is how you find your voice, where you create your best work.
If you feel like getting upset over the “performance” of your first books, whether readers like them, whether they sell (if/when you publish them), whether people review them…maybe indulge it for like a minute and a half with your first book. But I will tell you I have seen writers lose their minds with what comes after the publishing. Namely, crickets.
The crickets hurt. Writers are often tapped into their emotions, which is rather important for adding depth to story, but can be a damn nuisance when trying to parce out what’s a normal reaction to just having reached one of your life dreams. The post-first-book stretch is something non-writers can’t quite get. You have this *thing* out there, and it contains a piece of your heart and soul…and even your spouse is tired of hearing about it.
However, take the crickets as a blessing and stay positive about your potential. Not the potential of that first book. YOUR potential.
In the long term, spending all of your time worrying about the book you *wrote* instead of worrying about the book you are *writing* is a disaster. Remember the long game? Remember how Rome wasn’t built in a day, and only a village of Amish can raise a barn that fast?
Keep right on doing your thing, even when something from outside your writing zone and thus outside of your control slaps you upside the head with mean. A blogger didn’t like your book, and has posted a two-star review. A former friend is doing nothing but spamming you about her Etsy company, but can’t be bothered to read your books or lend you support in any way. Your sister snarks over you missing a family gathering because you have a book to write/finish/edit/publish. A friend/relative says he’d love to write a book, if only he could find the time. (I hate that one. Can you tell?)
Refocus. None of that matters. (How you comport yourself on the interwebs matters. It really does, but that’s for another post.)
If you find that something is affecting you negatively — yes, I mean your writing productivity, but I also mean your spirit — try to cut it out. Whether it be Facebook, or reading reviews, or active promoting…if it hurts, don’t do it. Especially not in the early years. But do think about why it hurts, and try to move forward bit by bit, working through whatever fears you uncover.
The key to writing well and often is to stay positive and keep at it. Know that you are not alone in experiencing fear — every writer has to tackle their fears to move forward. But the key to being a writer is to write, a lot. So don’t get mired in fear — keep on producing.
It may help to picture yourself in a fortress in these first years. Maybe it’s a mountainside castle, or a fort on a stormy peninsula, or the last outpost of humans in the universe…whatever floats your boat. Make it your happy place. You make the rules. You decide what breaches those walls. Know that your future is in your control. What you’re building right now is your own.
What you have accomplished starting out as a writer is nothing compared to what you’ll do in years to come. Enjoy the ride! Stay positive!
For a full list of Own Your Writing Career posts in the order they were written, visit my Writers page. I’ll be back with another Own Your Writing Career post next Thursday. Until then, happy writing!!
“Own Your Writing Career: Staying Positive, Even When It Hurts” copyright © 2015 by J.R. Pearse Nelson