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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fraidy Cats

The doorbells rings, and two flashes of orange fur fly by. Our cats are scared of strangers and hightail it to the back bedroom whenever anyone comes to visit. One of the fainted-hearted felines is so skittish that we announce ourselves each time we enter the house so he won't bolt.

I'm like my cats, afraid of things outside my comfort zone. While I admit to being an introvert, as are most writers, I won't go so far as to say that I have the same level of xenophobia as our cats.

I will, however, confess that I am claustrophobic and suffer from both altopobia (fear of high places) and the closely related aeroacrophobia (fear of open, high places.) Throw in my aviophobia (fear of flying,) and you can imagine the gouges my fingers leave in airplane armrests.

Just recently I experienced a rare but rather debilitating case of graphophobia (fear of writing.) For a writer, this can be quite a drawback, let me assure you.

Okay. Truth be told, I'm not afraid of the actual process of writing. It's more that I fear I won't be able to produce a decent piece of prose. I won't go so far as to say I had a full blown case of writer's block. I wrote, but I wondered if anyone would want to read the ramblings I produced while I was mired in self-doubt.

I read a blog post recently from C.J. Redwine, one of my fellow 2008 Golden Heart® finalists, which addresses the need to write despite our doubts. Her advice to those of us waging a war with words that won't do what we want was simple. Keep writing.

When I attended the Redwood Chapel Christian Writers Seminar in 2007, the keynote speaker, Kay Marshall Strom, said she doesn't believe in writer's block. Writers write. That's what we do. We are professionals who persevere, put fingers to keyboard despite our emotional state and get the work done. Laughter erupted when she said that a dentist would never close his office one day because he had a case of dentist's block.

After learning that two of my manuscripts had finaled in the prestigious Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest, the Oscar of the unpublished romance writer's world, I did everything but write for the next few weeks. I started this blog, set up my website ( and joined a number of online writing groups. Useful? Yes. Fun? Definitely. But tending to those tasks didn't get my revision done.

Why did I stop writing? Because I felt pressure to produce writing worthy of my new status. The joy had evaporated. The words wouldn't come. My creative juices turned to vinegar.

What did I do? I faced my fears. I took the sound advice of CJ, Kay and many other's. I sat down and put fingers to keyboard, and guess what happened? I got unstuck. James and Rebecca began chattering in my head once again. Scene after scene improved. I rediscovered the thrill of writing.

I don't think our cats will ever overcome their aversion to the ringing doorbell, but I can face my fears. When graphophobia threatens to overtake me, I won't be a fraidy cat. I'll keep on writing.

What fears threaten to cripple you? How do you deal with them?


C.J. Redwine said...

Hey girl! I just found your blog. I love this post (and not just because I'm mentioned) because I know what it feels like to be so inspired for days on end and then suddenly become convinced that I can't write another decent word. Yikes!

Also, I love that you write inspirational (at least from your posts it seems you do). I cut my teeth on Janette Oke and Bodie Thoene and even the classic, Grace Livingston Hill. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for dropping by, C.J.

Yup, I write inspirational romances. My five manuscripts are historicals set in the heart of California's Gold Country, and each one has a faith element. I like the opportunity to add my Christian worldview to my stories.

I've read oodles of Grace Livingston Hill novels. She had such unique voice.

I own all six of the Love Come Softly DVDs that have been released and watch them so often my seventeen-year-old daughter just rolls her eyes.