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Friday, August 28, 2009

Five on Friday: Fear ~ Friend or Foe?

I'm almost afraid to tell you this, but I'm a writer who falls prey to fear.

Ever happen to you?

In spite of the fact that my stories have finaled and placed in contests and that I've received positive feedback from contest judges and critique partners, the Voice haunts me. You know the one. The Voice that whispers in your ear, filling your head with uncertainty and causing you to wonder what in the world you're doing calling yourself a writer.

Five Things the Voice Wants Me to Believe

1) My main characters aren't likable or heroic enough.

2) My dialogue is weak and my character's voices indistinct.

3) The conflict isn't clearly stated or strong enough.

4) The plot isn't fresh or big enough to carry the story.

5) The beginning isn't catchy enough or chapter endings captivating enough.

I wrote for two years in isolation. I used the Internet for research, but I'd yet to discover the wonders of cyberspace or the bounty awaiting me in the blogosphere. During that time, I faced fears on a daily basis.

When I finaled in the Golden Heart in March 2008, a whole new world greeted me. I met other writers as well as published authors. Certain they had it all together, I kept my fears to myself.

As time went on, though, some writers and authors alluded to their fears in blog posts and on chat loops. I realized I wasn't alone.

Just this week, I was privileged to have lunch with two new author friends. I brought up the subject of fear. As I suspected, they aren't immune. One, a debut author with her first book recently released, fears being a victim of Second Book Syndrome, asking herself if she'll be able to produce another story her editor will buy. The other, a multi-published author with over seventy books to her credit, fears her stories will start sounding alike.

No. I'm not alone. But what do I do with the fears I face? Are they friend or foe?

When my fears serve me, prompting me to examine my story and make it stronger, they're my friend. However, when I allow them to take hold, squelch my creativity and stall my writing, they're a foe.

I know the Voice is there, but I can choose when I use what it's saying to inspire me to and when I silence it by reminding myself of truth.


Writing takes a great deal of courage. We continually put our creations out there to be critiqued, criticized and rejected. However, we must believe in ourselves and continue to produce the best stories we're capable of, given our training and talents. Courage, perseverance and passion are our allies.

• • • • •
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Is fear a factor in your life?
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What types of things does the Voice like to whisper in your ear?
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How do you face your fears and silence the Voice when it shifts from friend to foe?

14 comments:

Jessica said...

Oh yeah, that is one annoying Voice. LOL
I try to ignore her most of the time. Sigh. Not always helpful. The only thing to do is be stubborn and just keep writing. Try to improve and work through the fear. I guess that's what I try to do. :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessica, I think you've got a great idea. Stubbornly refuse to listen to the Voice. Maybe a pair of earplugs are in order.

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Hi, Keli!

Just today I heard the voice say that it wasn't worth it; that I couldn't really do it. Why do all that work and "waste" that much time on a story that will never make it? It's the fear of never being good enough to be published. Know that one?

It's stupid, that's what it is. I'll just do it scared, I guess. Because I can no longer stop writing than I can still my own heart from beating. Maybe along the way the fear will quiet down....

Have a great weekend!

Keli Gwyn said...

Kristen,

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

The Voice has done more than whisper that my work will never be good enough to be published. At times it's taken to shouting that most unpleasant thought. I find the taunts frequently take place when I've received disappointing news or read yet another blog post alluding to the fact that getting a book published is about as likely as winning the lottery.

I think you answered you answered your own question very well when you said, "I can no longer stop writing than I can still my own heart from beating." We must write because we love doing so, or the joy can elude us. If publication is the sole goal, I think our writing will suffer, along with our self-confidence and enthusiasm. Would you agree?

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Hey, Keli!

Thanks for coming by Write in the Way!

I definitely agree. Writing can't be about finding sole vindication in publishing. It's just really easy to lose sight of that. I think I definitely did that this week. So glad that the God we serve is the God of the impossible. It gives me courage to dream of overwhelming things like publication! Until then, I'm going to seek to remember that I love to write and for now, that is enough!

Cindy said...

That Voice whispers to me a lot about number 4 & 5 on your list. It also encourages me to compare my work to others, only to realize how short I fall.

This seems like a big contradiction, but sometimes the answer to this dilemma is reading through one of my own stories. Losing myself in a chapter I wrote and loved, with characters that were so close it was as if they were real. Then my passion returns, as well as my enthusiasm, and the Voice is silenced for a time.

Keli Gwyn said...

Kristen,

I enjoyed my visit to Write in the Way and learning more about India. Your travels and mission work sound fascinating.

Like you, I dream of publication. If the Lord has that in store for me, I'd be very grateful. In the meantime I do my best to experience Joy on the Journey.

Keli Gwyn said...

Cindy,

Comparison is a great item to add to the list. The Voice delights in taking that one and running with it.

I love your method of combating the fears. I've done the same. Reading my stories and spending time with characters who are so real to me and such a part of my heart does indeed restore the passion and enthusiasm. This is a wonderful to silence the Voice.

Diane said...

That little voice does bring a lot of fear at times. I try to bounce my irrational fears off of friends and mentally get back on track with prayer. :O)

Keli Gwyn said...

Diane,

I'm glad you hear a little voice. Mine gets pretty loud and annoying at times. :)

I have a great critique partner who helps me through those times when fears surface, but my best buddy is my incredibly supportive hubby. He's there for me though it all--mountaintops and valleys. I'm blessed, and I know it.

And prayer is vital.

Terri Tiffany said...

This is so funny as I just finished my post for tomorrow about self-doubt which stems from fear. Yes, I am afraid as I write--that no one will like it, that I wrote a book that will never get published and I fear I won't be able to write another. That is was the best I had in me! The list goes on!

Keli Gwyn said...

Terri, I look forward to reading your post. I think most writers fall prey to fear-based doubts from time to time. It's clear I'm not alone.

Carla Gade said...

Fear is definitely a problem for me. I have been struggling through this in my journey towards becoming published. It is a constant battle, but I am beginning to overcome with the Lord's help. Getting active in the online writing community has really helped bolster my courage and helped me to make progress in my writing career. Glad I'm not the only one, but hope we both get through it!

Keli Gwyn said...

Carla, I'm glad to hear you're making progress in the battle to best those pesky fears we writers seem to face. Like you, I'm buoyed by the support of others traveling the sometimes long and bumpy path to publication.