May 22, 2012

What Do Writers Fear Most?

I recently read a great little survey on a friend's blog (Zena Shapter), and I thought it was so darn interesting I've decided to run a quick poll myself. Look to the right--that's it, you've got it!

The topic is, what do you fear most as a writer?

Feel free to leave comments on this post, and look for my analysis in a week, along with the fears of great writers throughout history.

Results are in! Click here to read the summary.

31 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing this. Let us know the results.

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  2. My biggest fear is my books being lost in the endless queues of other books and not get its chance. There are alot of writers out there and alot of books. I fear not being found.

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    1. That's a great point, Krista. I don't have a book on the shelf yet, so this fear remains to be discovered :) From what I can tell, there's always another hurdle, no matter how far you "make it," right?

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  3. I'm wondering about the distinction between fear and doubt. The first takes me to issues like abandonment and nightmares, perhaps the stuff of fiction. Doubt is what I face down every day -- until I reach my writing goal. I think we writers must have toughness to persevere! Thanks for writing about this, Melanie.

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    1. Yes--what is fear, and what is doubt? And is doubt a form of fear? For me I would say that most of my "fears" are more like anxieties. Do I fear not getting published as much as I fear cockroaches? Not on a primal level.

      But I fear not leaving a mark on the world--that, truly, sends a shiver down my spine. The next question, of course, is what qualifies as leaving a mark on the world?

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  4. Originally my greatest fear was other people reading my work. And I know, what should I have expected sending my work off for publication. Just let me say, it was a real scare to hear a publisher tell me 'how many' would be reading my work. Admittedly I panicked, and why today I put a lot focus in branding my work, and myself, in a way that builds an audience of mutual respect.

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    1. Yes! These days I find myself wondering--do I need to get my platform in order NOW? What about a facebook author page? What about my brand? My blog's fine and well, but if I sell my MG series it's not a fit. So then what? It's very easy to want to get ahead of myself. I imagine when the time comes it's a big moment to digest.

      One of my more irrational fears strikes me nearly every night. Our dog passed away recently. There's no one downstairs "guarding" the house anymore. Every night, before I go to bed, I have a little panic that someone will break in and steal not only my laptop, but my backup drives, and my work will disappear. Thank you, imagination!

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  5. I have been writing stories and diaries since I was eleven years old, and now that I am approaching 50, my greatest fear is leaving this earth without ever having finished anything! I guess if I ever make it past that hurdle, I would next fear not being published. And after that, (take a number, my fears are quickly gathering into a line), a negative response from the reader, not having time to write, feeling like what I write is not important enough... oh my.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Susan! I imagine those diaries are real treasures to look through.

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  6. More than anything I think I fear my own reaction to negative reviews. I haven't developed thick skin yet, and I've seen some of the nasty reviews on goodreads that would make my cry if they were directed at me. That's about the thing I think about the most, other fears would include my agent deciding I wasn't actually as good as he'd thought and dumping me, and my book never selling. lol, things I try not to think about.

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    1. I'm in the courting stages with a couple of agents right now, and I can imagine even once you are signed, you fear dumping. It's like trying to find a boyfriend, only you're paying him. 0_0

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  7. My biggest fear is making a fool of myself. Looking and/or sounding like a complete idiot. I guess that means that whoever published me would be a complete idiot too. :) I recently re-read my one and only book published--a Silhouette Romance about a guy who lost a lot of weight and looked like Elvis. Of course, it being a romance, he had to tangle with the daughter of an Elvis fanatic. Now go back to my fear of making a fool of myself. I have to say, OOPS, already done that! :)

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    1. You should share the link to your book! It sounds super entertaining :)

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  8. Hi Melanie, a newie here and came over from SheWrites. Great site you have here and a very valid question. All writers have fears, just different fears. That is a given. But if you did not fear you would not be human. Fear can be a great motivating factor if you use it correctly. You need to conquer your fear, work through it, see it for what it is, and tell yourself, I can do this, I will do this, and then do it. Do not wait for someone to push you, fight for your right to choose to conquer your fear, own it, then fight it. This builds enormous character and is the most thrilling high, the sheer adrenalin that comes from having your first piece of writing accepted is validation of the fact you are doing something right (write). A bit of self hypnosis and flashback to re-create that feeling helps here. Having the passion to write is not enough, you have to write what comes from the heart, not to please others, but to please yourself first.
    What is my greatest fear? Self-marketing, social platforms, tweeting and exposing and opening myself up to the millions 'out there'. I do not write for them, I write for myself to prove I can firstly, then to help others where I can, and will willingly share my life and writing 'experience' on a one-on-one basis, but I find marketing and selfpromoting tough. So my biggest fear is not living up to my full potential (not being the writer I know i can be) and as my daughter said on my tombstone she will add the words, Here lies my mother, who almost wrote the book she has wanted to write all her life. That gave me a wake-up call! So I have started the book, a memoir/fiction one, and a blog on my other passion, political satire on the freedom of expression and secrecy bill that is being tabled and debated in South Africa. I refuse to be 'shut up' and muzzled (another fear conquered) but the social marketing is a tough one for me. How do I conquer this one? I know this comment is very long, but I am not a short and sweet person, I need to put everything down in detail, which is something I am working on too, the KISS principle. Keep it short and simple stoopid, this comment is mine to me, not to you.

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    1. Hi Tessa! I love reading all of your thoughts :) This may sound strange, but one of the things I'm not looking forward to is using Facebook as a marketing tool. Right now facebook is purely about friends and family for me. I have everything set to private.

      I know at some point I'll need to start an author page, and I'm not looking forward to mixing the worlds. I know I can manage to keep a lot private, but FB is just not my favorite medium. I do it for the grandmas right now. I guess I can only hope one day to do it for the fans! :)

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  9. This is the reason I am paralyzed so often when I sit down to write: I fear that I cannot write as well as the great ones, so why try? It seems I am not alone, according to the results of the poll you are running. I believe I have great ideas for poems, short stories, essays, novels, and nonfiction books and articles. I want to write my memoirs from a few different angles. Yet I cripple myself with doubt. Perhaps I should write a memoir about this doubt, and writing about it will free me. When I left for college to study journalism, my mother took me aside and told me to take secretarial courses so I would have something to fall back on if things didn't work out. Ouch! (She was a secretary at the time and hated it!) I went on to graduate with honors and work as an editor. I then graduated with honors from law school. Yet I still compare myself to everyone around me and believe that I am less.

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    1. Oh, and at the time my mother said this to me? I had graduated third in my high school class and was going to college on a full academic scholarship and other scholarships based on my academic achievements. I can't blame my mother, because she was raised at a time when women didn't have "careers," but she was sure trying to break out of the secretarial ranks when we had our quiet little discussion. I have long forgiven her, because she was only trying to help me, I am sure. Still, her words always made me doubt myself. I had been approaching college fearlessly, but from that point on everything became more about trying to please everyone around me and less about trying to achieve the things that were important to me. I do not believe I had been that way in high school. Now, I am much older, and I am still trying to reach that state of fearlessness, or at least some degree of it when I sit down to write.

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    2. Hi, Peggy!
      You have SO MUCH to write about! Let it come out, who care where it goes or why it's there. Shedding the past is a process. No matter what you're writing, these auto-biographical elements have a way of sneaking in.

      My first novel had a lot to do with that. That's part of why it just doesn't quite work. The characters and places are lovely, but the story isn't big enough for people outside of my brain. It took awhile to realize that first project was practice.

      So, get practicing! Then you can get to writing what you really want to write. My favorite thing about words is that they can be deleted.

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  10. Hi! New from She Writes. :) I think my biggest fears about writing is finding the time to effectively do the things I need to do around my full time job. Does anyone else have this problem? I have been writing since I was a child and have not really finished anything to submit for publication, with the exception of one article to a magazine or the music reviews I submit to Muzikreviews.com weekly.

    To plot or not to plot and follow through with said outline is another. I get so wound up in the semantics, I lose sight of where I need the story to go (this would be better...no...this.) Sound familiar? Then enter fear of failure and fear of success. (Damn, I am a mess aren't I?) :)

    The thing I try to remember as I endeavor to keep writing is that the only failure is not to write at all. Anything can be fixed except a blank page. :)

    Best,

    Dana

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    1. One of my favorite techniques, that use nearly every day, is writing XXX whenever I want to pause in my writing. Sometimes it stands in for a word I can't think of. Sometimes it stands in for a whole sentence or a paragraph.

      That way, I can keep writing. Sometimes I know what's coming "next," but there's a black hole between here and there. So I skip it. I go where the words are. I can fill it back in later--or else there's a high percentage chance I don't even NEED the words I'm skipping.

      As you said, the most important thing is to keep moving forward. It is so very hard to find the time, so removing all road blocks is the most important thing. I still have those days where I end up with about a handful of words to show for my efforts. I try to accept that those were not days meant for writing :)

      Nice to meet you, Dana!

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  11. Hi, Melanie...I surfed over from She Writes.

    Maybe I'm just cocky, but I'm not afraid of negative reviews, because of the old cliche about opinions (everyone has one). And I'm not afraid of folks reading my work, because (again, I'm cocky)...I read a lot of stuff on the Internet and think "I can do this. I can do better than this." My first love is horror, although I'm still "learning my chops" as a writer.

    What I'm afraid of is that the ideas will simply dry up, or that my ideas have funneled down from somewhere else and a savvy reader will think I stole it, even if I never read the "source" material. This is why I work hard on character development and dialogue/interaction, rather than plot--if there are only a handful of stories, and the good stuff's already happened to someone else, then at least they haven't happened to my characters!

    I think I stopped being afraid when I realized just how much work it is, and how little money/fame/reward there is for writing. I write because I love to write, and that writing is as breathing. I don't do it with any goal in mind other than writing itself.

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    1. Hi Selene! Nice to meet you.

      I don't know about the cocky thing . . . I have been accused of being cocky in the past. I think people mistake my confidence in my creative abilities for cockiness. Do I think I'll sell a million books? Not really. I know too much about business to think that. Can I write a good book if I put my mind to it? Yes, I think so. Call it what you will!

      A friend of mine read my latest book and said, Wow, you could write like twenty of these! I had a small heart attack, but I don't think she noticed. The idea of coming up with a series freaks me out a bit. What if I'm a one-hit wonder?

      That's the great thing about creative endeavors. No matter what part of it you're cocky about, there's something else waiting to freak you out.

      Best of luck to you!

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    2. Great question, Melanie. I came across this on www.shewrites.com I have so many writing fears, it's ridiculous! I think ultimately though, it's never knowing when I'm done. When I'm ready to send it out. I also worry that new changes in my life will wipe out my dreams of writing and publishing...

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    3. Great question, Melanie. I came across this on www.shewrites.com I have so many writing fears, it's ridiculous! I think ultimately though, it's never knowing when I'm done. When I'm ready to send it out. I also worry that new changes in my life will wipe out my dreams of writing and publishing...

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    4. Hi, Katie!
      Nice to meet you. I have some days/weeks that make me feel like there's no way I'll ever finish the the task on hand. I feel this way during editing more often than not--the middle of a book is like an everlasting gobstopper.

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  12. Hi Melanie,

    I never knew I could write or probably it was hidden for all these years together. But, after giving it a go, fears of not maintaining standards, losing rights and lack of time are things which affect the tempo.

    I like your concept, it surely will help me overcome fears.

    Thanks!

    Best
    Aniruddha @asastikar

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  14. What do I fear the most? Snakes...

    But as a writer what do I fear the most? Public speaking. I can only hope to someday get to the point of doing signings and appearances to help market my books, and I know that I'll have to get up in front of a crowd and speak. It terrifies and thrills me at the same time.

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    1. I'm more of a cockroach-screamer myself.

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