I run several writing workshops during the year in Ottawa, and one of the questions I always ask new writers is what obstacles they have to finding time to write. Lots of writers say things like job, school, family responsibilities and so on. Those are the easy ones.
But what inevitably comes up during the discussion is the word “fear”. We are fundamentally frightened creatures, don’t you think? So putting ourselves out there in the public where others can mock us, make fun of our writing or otherwise ridicule us requires a lot of courage.
I’ve learned over the years that being frightened of some things is good. The part of our brain called the amygdala is a remnant to the days of the cave when fear kept us from being eaten by saber tooth tigers and such. Today, we don’t need it nearly as much, but the amygdala—the prehistoric lizard brain—is still there, still telling us to be afraid of things.
Overcoming this fear of putting ourselves and our writing out there in the public is not easy, and I don’t pretend it is for anyone, including experienced writers and authors. I’m certainly no exception.
So with that in mind, here are my top 5 fears of being an author. Let me know if you can relate to any of these:
1. Being laughed at
Yes, it sounds crazy and silly when I wrote this out, but it is a real fear. It takes me right back to the schoolyard when I’d do something strange and others would giggle. Except this time, they’re laughing at my writing and by extension, at me all over again.
2. Being successful
What if my novel actually takes off? What if some Hollywood producer wants to turn it into a movie or TV series? What if it sells a million copies? The chances of any of these things happening are remote for all of us except the handful of celebrity authors who write full-time. But I have a natural proclivity to self-sabotage, so if I found even a sniff of this kind of success, I don’t know how I’d act. It scares the hell out of me.
3. Being a complete failure
In some ways, if my novel became a complete bust, it would be easier to handle than if it became a success. How’s that for being screwed up! Still, none of us wants to fail. None of us wants to put all that effort into writing, not to mention the real costs, only to have our story not selling at all. That would be a real boot to the berries, metaphorical or otherwise.
4. Being judged
Well this is an old fear that many of us have. Being ridiculed is part of being judged isn’t it? But I find this kind of judgment is not simply about someone finding us or our stories silly; this is more about them finding us personally incompetent, blind, stupid, moronic... pick your word. So, yeah, with fragile egos and low self-esteem, some of us really dread this aspect of publishing our work.
5. Following up
You’re only as good as your last book, so the pressure is always on to not only keep writing, but to keep writing better stories. I fear that I may not have another decent story in me. What happens if the next thing I write is completely rejected by my readers? Then what? This fear can become so powerful that it even threatens to stop me from writing altogether.
Can you relate to any of these, or do you have other huge fears of writing and publishing? I’d love to hear from you.