"Listen...you know those days when you get the mean reds?" --Holly.
"The mean reds? You mean like the blues?" --Fred (Paul).
"No... the blues are because you're getting fat or because it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?" --Holly.
"Sure." --Fred (Paul).
In light of gardening season I'm going to start a miniseries on the weeds that have been messing with my writing life. Maybe you notice them springing up in your manuscript...or in your own heart. Some of these will be emotional/spiritual issues that cloud up our writing lives, others will be on craft issues.
Have you ever had the mean reds? I mean in your writing life?
An intense fear that holds you captive. Thoughts such as:
I'm afraid I'll never be good enough.
....of what my critique partners/agents/editors/readers will think about my manuscript.
....of hitting the "send" button to an agent, to a contest, to an editor.
....of wasting my own time and my family's time in my pursuit of writing.
....of writing true from my own heart, perhaps this is the most scary of all at times.
What are your fears?
So how do you turn them off?
1) Our first line of defense: prayer. I would like to say this is the one I always turn to immediately.
Here's some Scriptures that bring me comfort:
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
Let's remember that we're writing for the Audience of One. When we fear God, the fear of man begins to dissipate.
2) Remind yourself that its all a process.
Maybe you didn't just sign a contract from your favorite publishing house. Contest results can be elusive.
We will never reach that coveted state of writing perfection. Never.
A few months ago I presented some writing to my face-to-face critique group. Two members asked me whether this was an older piece of writing because it wasn't the quality they were used to seeing from me. That was encouraging to me, because it showed me even though I hadn't seen the growth, it was there.
3) Don't be afraid to write badly, particularly on your rough draft.
Jennifer Egan, 2011 Pulitzer winner gave the following as her favorite craft tip in Writer's Digest (March/April 2012). Please note I am in no way advocating her book, I have not read it so I can't vouch for it.
Write Badly. Just write a lot of terrible stuff and wait for it to get better. I think the feeling that it needs to be good, that you need to wait for it to be good, is a recipe for writer's block. I've written so badly that my working title for The Keep, my last book, was A Short, Bad Novel. I'm not going to exceed that. I don't want to shoot too high. I would urge anyone to write badly and deal with the bad feelings that it brings in order to get into the habit of being a habitual writer and being present for the good stuff when it comes.
I find those words tremendously encouraging and you know what they show me?
Our insecurities about writing will not go away if we are published by X publisher, sell X copies, make the New York Times list or even win a Pulitzer.
God is the only one who can help us put our insecurities in perspective.
4) Don't second guess anyone else's reaction to your writing.
Don't try to figure out what was meant by that Genesis judge's comment. Don't fret if you don't know how to apply the advice your critique partner gave you.
God will grow you in your writing. Allow for his timing. Don't let fear hold you back from learning, but wait for his timing.
Just like in our spiritual life we have a growth arc. So many times I find myself frustrated because I'm not learning craft in MY time.
Do you struggle with fear in your writing life? What helps you through the process?