Much of the advice one hears about writing falls into what, for lack of a more inspired term, I’ll call the man-up category. As in: Just do it! Believe in your book! Persevere! Embrace your creativity!
I’m all for confidence, although it’s not always in great supply in my life. I do believe that perseverance–which appears in many different forms, not all of them recognized by the Writer’s Marketplace crowd–is a very useful quality for a writer to have. We have all heard that lecture, and too often it has the effect of making the audience feel inadequate. (“If I were a real writer, I wouldn’t take no for an answer.”)
It’s time to rehabilitate fear as part of the writer’s arsenal. In man-up parlance, fear is a no-no. Fear is the bad thing, the inner critic, the cork in the bottle, the voice that says you’ll never amount to anything, you have nothing to say, you really are a talentless hack, you killed a tree for this?
A lot of fear is destructive and distracting. Let me argue, though, that writers should learn to harness fear in a way that drives rather than hinders what we do and how we do it.
You’re a journalist working on a story. Are you worried that you’ll get your facts wrong and look dumb? That fear can drive you to make the calls and have the conversations that make the story worth a read. (There is such a thing as being too confident.)
You’re a fiction writer worried that your stuff just isn’t good enough to send out. Aren’t you afraid that you might be wrong (and wouldn’t you like to be proved wrong)?
Writers, what are you afraid of, and how can you use that?