Here’s a Secret…
Although it’s exciting as anything, I have a confession to make. I have a mortal dread of speaking publicly. This stems from an experience when I was in my early twenties, when, after watching a video of myself, I realised that I had a voice like Zippy from Rainbow. Ahem. It wasn’t quite the vibe I was going for, put it like that.
Ever since then, I’ve been utterly paranoid about my nasal Essex accent, despite numerous kindly folk telling me ‘it’s not that bad’ (whilst giving me a look of pity). I know, it’s a silly thing to fret about – but there you have it. That’s my big secret fear!
There’s a reason I’m owning up to this. Facing up to fear is a very real part of the writing process, and it’s only through battling through your fears that you end up being able to progress.
What’s so Frightening About Writing?
Many things, actually. Some people find the sight of a blank page completely terrifying. Others wilt at the thought of having to edit their novel once they’ve finished the first draft. And let’s not even get started on the submissions process – the thought of all those rejections? Eek.
In fact, at every stage of the writing journey, you’ll have to face up to some anxiety or other. Even showing your work to a loved one can be daunting… after all, what if they loathe it? Even worse, what if they say they love it, but you suspect they’re only being kind to protect your feelings? Oh, the horrors of paranoia!
As such, I know of several writers who hide their work away. They never allow it to see the light of day, regardless of how flipping awesome it is, because of that nagging, torturous fear. And over time, they inevitably stop writing, because they’re unable to move forward with it – which is a crying shame.
Techniques to Beat the Fear
There are loads of ways to overcome anxiety and fear – I should know, I’m probably more neurotic than most! Here are just a few methods I use, whenever I’m feeling panicky.
- What’s the worst that can happen? This one’s a bit of a cliché, but it really works. Imagine the worst-case scenario. Okay – you might get rejected by all ten literary agents. But so what? You’ve lost nothing, and you’ve got valuable information that perhaps your novel needs a little more work. I find this helps to keep things firmly in perspective.
- Take a deep breath then plunge in! I try not to think about things too much, as over-thinking is a sure-fire way to start the panic process. Just roll up the sleeves, take a deep breath, then crack on. Chances are that it’ll turn out far better than you’d anticipated.
- If you’re too comfortable, you’re not doing it right. I once watched a fabulous interview with the late David Bowie (a personal hero of mine). He advised people to view creativity as standing in a swimming pool. If your feet are firmly, comfortably placed on the floor, then you’re never going to achieve anything. True, you won’t be nervous or frightened, but you won’t realise your full potential either! Instead, edge your way out until only your tippy-toes are touching. You’re still safe, but you’ve pushed yourself to the limits. That’s when the interesting stuff starts happening.
- If you don’t try, you’ll never know! Last year, after I’d written Sol the Slug’s Night Before Christmas (my entry to the Amazon competition), I was agonising over whether to submit it or not. I wasn’t sure if the world was quite ready for a festive story about a slimy slug – one of nature’s most maligned and loathed creatures! However, my two boys insisted that I entered it, and at their advice, I did. Lucky thing, eh! Had I not, I never would have won.
- You’re made of sterner stuff. Sometimes, things can get dark and scary for a writer. Just wait until you get your first bad review! However, these testing times are brilliant for strengthening your backbone – especially if it’s your dream to become a writer. You’ve got to be tough to make it, and any set-backs, obstacles or negativity serves to turn you into a man / woman of steel.