When I first started tinkering around with writing fiction so many years ago, I went out and read several magazines and browsed through a bunch of books on writing. I didn’t set out to find anything specific; just some basic knowledge to arm myself with as I got started.
The one piece of advice that was repeated in nearly every article I read was this: Overcome your fears.
Fears? What are they talking about? I asked myself. We’re not fourth-graders trying to talk ourselves into jumping off the high-diving board at the swimming pool–we’re adults looking for solid advice on writing compelling fiction.
I shrugged off the “fear” parts of the articles and sometimes even stopped reading at that point. I figured that they were talking about the insecurities people have about showing their work to others or facing rejections, and had no desire to waste my time reading the Writer’s Digest version of Dr. Phil.
Above all else, I didn’t need the advice. I have no fears.
Or do I?
Everyone’s got a weakness. And no one likes facing that weakness. This week, I sat down with a 21-page short story that had been sitting in my “first draft” pile for longer than I care to admit. I spent ten minutes or so skimming over it and realized that the story needed about 21 pages of revisions.
My response: I closed the document and went back to working on my fantasy trilogy.
And at that instant, I recalled some of those articles I had previously ignored. To make things worse, I realized that I had ignored them for the wrong reasons. I threw out the articles not because I had no fear, but because my fears were different than the ones described in the articles. But that wasn’t the point of the articles. The point of the articles was to overcome your fears–not theirs.
My fear wasn’t that someone wouldn’t like my work or that a publisher wouldn’t accept it. No, my fear was admitting that sometimes I’ll need to do some hard work when I don’t feel like it. I saw my fear when I realized that I had a great story buried behind 21 pages of first draft and it was going to take a lot of work to rescue it. But I didn’t face that fear. Instead, I took the easy way out and went back to novel pre-writing.
So I guess the moral of this story, if one exists, is that you should not only face the fears you know, but also seek out the fears you don’t even realize you have. Those are the ones holding you back the most.
And in my case, the fear is of a little bit of hard work.
What is it in your case? Figure it out. And defeat it.