Facing Your Creative Fears

Every tomorrow has two handles,” Henry Ward Beecher once said. “We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”

I’ve been thinking about this while hostessing the October and November writing challenges and reading between the lines of some questions and comments.

It’s a Choice…Really!

All our writing tomorrows give us that very same choice: fear or faith in our creativity. Do we face our blank computer screens or empty tablets with fear or with faith? Faith encourages us and spurs us on. Fears paralyze—and need to be dealt with.

Writing anxiety comes in many forms and develops for a variety of reasons. If we harbor writing fears, how can we identify them, eliminate them, then regain faith in our writing tomorrows?

Dealing with creative fears generally involves a three-part process.
1. First, identify the fears. Otherwise you’re only shadow boxing. What are you afraid of? That your ideas are stupid or overdone? That you don’t have the talent to be a published writer? That your friends or family will ridicule you when they find out what you’re trying to do? That you’ll be rejected? That you’ll be wasting your time, that being a writer is just a dream that will dissolve in the face of reality? That you’ll never be more than a mid-list author on the brink of oblivion?

Writers have many fears, and this takes many new authors by surprise. “It’s a vital thing to remember both as creative people and those who have the opportunity to nurture the creativity in others: Creativity requires courage!” said Thomas Kinkade in Lightposts for Living. “It takes courage to push ourselves off center, to think in nonstandard ways, to journey outside the ruts. It also takes courage to resist the pressure of those who very much prefer to walk in those ruts.”

2. Second, if your fears are just myths, debunk them. Write down and study your list of fears. Will your husband/wife really laugh at you for wanting to write? Do you really not have any talent? (What about your writing teacher or critique partner who loves your stories?) Will you really go insane like all the famous writers you’ve read about? (Well, actually, you might. . . just kidding!) In The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes says, “All writers must confront their fears eventually. The sooner they do this, the better their work will be.”

Besides, if you don’t, you’ll go from blocked to frozen, then give up. Quitting is failing. While none of us may ever totally conquer our writing fears—and some experts say that this writing “anxiety” is actually indispensable writing energy—we can rise above the fears sufficiently so that we can work. And in doing the work, day in and day out, the fears begin to dissolve. They become like the monster we were so sure, as children, that lurked under our bed. After enough years of NOT being eaten alive at night or being grabbed by the ankles when we jumped out of bed, we finally concluded the monster was in our imagination and forgot about it. Most of your writing fears will do the same thing IF you face them and feel them—and write anyway.

(Come back Friday for ways to deal with the fears.)
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