Monday, January 28, 2008

A Writer's Biggest Hangup: Fear

One of the reasons I'm grateful for JHS is because it forces me to overcome (or at least ignore) my biggest reason for procrastination: fear.

I think it's one of those things most writers struggle with. I can always think of a million reasons not to submit a story, write a query, or apply for a gig. I sit down to write, and as soon as that cursor starts blinking at me on that huge blank screen, the nasty voices start to kick in. "You can't do this. You're not imaginative enough. You won't be able to think of anything to write. There's no way you're good enough."

Sometimes, it's really hard to squelch that voice. I have to deal with a lot of my own inferiority issues when I sit down to write. Why would anyone care about what I have to say? And isn't there already enough writing out there, clogging up the Internet, magazines, and newspapers? How will mine ever stand out?

Not to mention the fact that rejection is a huge part of any working writer's life. Sometimes I wonder if I have the tenacity to keep going if editors reject my work.

But what scares me even more is…what if they say yes?

As a beginning writer, the fear of success is even more crippling than the fear of failure. Because once an editor says, "Okay, we want to work with you," that's the point where I have to look like I know what I'm doing. I have to set fees, and I have to produce what I promised I'd produce. And I'm still at the point where that's a pretty frightening concept.

The funny thing is, I'm not a complete newbie at this. I've been Web writing on a very part-time basis for a couple of years now, and I've even had a story accepted in a print mag. (And been paid for it, too.) But I think, no matter how many times you've been published, the nagging fear is still there. You're putting your words, your creations, out there for someone else to judge and possibly say, "No, that's not good enough for us." And that takes a lot of courage.

For me, it's absolutely imperative that I squelch that fear…or at least ignore it long enough to sit down and write that story or article and send it out. My dream is to be a full-time freelancer, and the only way that's going to happen is if I apply for jobs and build up my portfolio (and my bank account).

And I'm getting better about that. Participating in JHS over at Absolute Write this month has helped immensely, because I'm so inspired by the talented and motivated writers over there. I've written and submitted more in the last week than I ever have before in such a short period.

In the last week, I've:

  • Written and submitted my final column to Nights & Weekends.
  • Written and submitted a 1,000-word short story for the Writers Weekly 24-hour short story contest.
  • Applied for three Web writing projects.
  • Gotten a positive response from one of them, wanting to see an article on spec. I don't usually write on spec, but I made an exception since this would lead to an ongoing gig. Wrote and submitted the sample article last night.

It's an ongoing struggle, but I'm taking it one day at a time.

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