Writing Fears

Stacey Kite

Stacey Kite

I have not been writing for the past six weeks. Instead, I’ve been painting like a crazy woman in order to revamp my portfolio for an upcoming SCBWI conference. After that, it will be back to splitting shifts between art and writing.

As everyone on this blog has said, it’s really tough to get back into your story when you’ve been away from it for an extended period of time, and I know it will be difficult for me. There are a lot of reasons for that, but for me, the biggest one is fear. When I sit down to write, especially if I’ve gotten out of the habit, I have to overcome a lot of fear.

mule blue w-wht space copy

  • Fear of writing something really stupid … and not realizing that it’s stupid. (Been there, done that, have the critique scars to prove it!)
  • Fear that the lines I thought were brilliant and witty read as flat and snotty.
  • Fear of committing unconscious plagiarism. Is that clever line that I came up with really mine, or is it from a book I read six months (or years) ago, and I just didn’t remember reading it?
  • Fear of committing grammar abuse and punctuation atrocities. I’ve been trying to read (and understand) Strunk and White for a while now, though it gives me brain cramps. Megan—the world’s sweetest copy editor—has been a treasure, translating it into non-grammarian English for me. But I have a long way to go here. I’m still a serial comma abuser with a colon phobia, though I do now understand the difference between dependent and independent clauses. (Thank you, Megan, for answering that question and explaining it in a way that I could actually understand.)
  • Fear of homophones like here and hear. Spell checker can’t save me from those. I was mortified a couple of months ago when I received written critiques from my writing group and everyone had marked out isle, replacing it with aisle (groan!) It wasn’t just a typo. I’d made the same mistake four times in as many pages. Don’t get me wrong, none of the critiquers made fun of me or anything. They didn’t make me feel stupid about it—though they certainly could have—I made myself feel stupid about it.
  • Fear of factual errors. Big ones that I didn’t bother to look up because I thought I knew the answer.
  • Fear that my plot is terminally flawed or terminally convoluted. Or both.
  • Fear that I’ll never finish the first draft.

I guess when it’s time to sit back down at the keyboard and get to work, I’ll just need to tell myself that, most of the time, the only way to get to ‘good’ is to pass through ‘clunky.’

And no matter what, my novel is not going to be the worst ever.

In my recent marathon painting sessions, I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books—most fantastic, but a few have been truly atrocious. Those books, the bad ones, give me hope. I love reading (or listening) to poorly written books. They make me think, ‘Somebody wrote that—and she didn’t die of embarrassment. So no matter how bad my stuff is, I’ll survive.’ I just have to hope that someday, if I do ever manage to get published, my book won’t be on somebody’s favorite bad book list.

2 responses to “Writing Fears

  1. Megan Norris Jones

    I’ve read your stuff, Stacey, and it’ll never be on somebody’s bad list. Anne Lamott wrote an excellent little book on writing called Bird by Bird in which she recommends writing what she calls a “sh**ty first draft.” Her words. But I remember them whenever I’m dissatisfied with my own writing. It doesn’t have to start out good. I just have to keep at it till it becomes good.

    Also, I’m glad to know there’s one more person in the world with a clear understanding of dependent and independent clauses. The grammar nerd in me rejoices.

    • I’ll try the “sh**ty first draft idea”, Megan. I just have to figure out how to put blinders on my muse-mule. (She’ll balk for sure, and probably kick, buck and bite–she’s such a snot.)

      And everybody would understand independent and dependent clauses if they had you explaining the difference because are bilingual–you can speak both grammarian and non-grammarian English.

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