Tuesday, September 29, 2009

8 Deadly Demons for a Writer... #2 Fear

Yesterday I started a short series about overcoming some of the inner demons that get in the way of writing or any goals in life. Here's a recap of that post.

So let's jump right in with Deadly Demon #2... FEAR

Fear - a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. (*as defined by Dictionary.com)

Out of the 8 Deadly Demons fear is one of the biggest. Think of a tall tree that looms high above while most of it's mass is firmly rooted beneath the surface. Like these roots, most fears are out of sight, but still powerful. People have been trying to battle fear forever. Leaders, poets, writers and many others have given us weapons in the form of words and actions meant to empower and encourage.

“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” The famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged a nation to stand up and take an active part in ending the depression. More of his 1st Inaugural Address can be found here: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/ .

But even with all that history and inspiration fear still rears it's ugly head. So, how do we stop it from interfering with our goals? We don't.

Fear is a natural reaction; a built in safety feature to ensure our survival. In small amounts it can be a great motivator, but when fear gets too big it can be crippling. Finding the right balance with fear is the only way to tame the beast so we can get back to creating. Easily said, right? Now let's do it.

First you have to list the fears that are getting in your way. Decide if they're real or imagined, and then find a way make each one less scary. Ok, here I go.

Fears as a writer...
  1. People won't like my book

  2. Publishers/agents won't like my writing

  3. I won't like my book when it's done

  4. Everyone will love my book and my entire life will change

  5. My kids will spill something on my keyboard, sticking the caps lock key, and I will write an entire book screaming.

Ok, so now I look at my list and decide what is real and imagined. Obviously #5 is not going to happen. (at least it better not...kids, you here me? Keep your stickies away.) I joke but we all have some irrational fears and it does help to write them down. Sometimes just seeing them on paper makes them a little less intimidating.

#1 & 2 are fears I can overcome by rationalizing. I think all writers fear rejection, whether it's a negative review or the 'no thanks' from an agent or editor. As much as I fear it, I know they are a natural part of the process. I take comfort in the fact that many famous authors have their own rejection scars.

#3 is more complicated. It is a fear that, at the end of it all, I will think my book sucks. But before I toss it in the closet or the fireplace I have to be sure that another demon (Self Doubt) hasn't disguised itself as fear. For anyone with a tough inner critic, this can be a common mistake if not an excuse to stop. So, until I deal with the self doubt demon I can't be sure how to deal with this one.

#4 may not sound like a fear to some. One of a writer's goals is to be published and to have their work read and loved by the masses. But with the recognition comes a new fear; of the unknown. What if my book is loved, I land a great agent, and a big publisher offers a contract? What happens then? How much will my life change?

Don't get me wrong, being published again is my goal. My first book, The Truth Lies in the Dark was contracted by a small publisher, so things have been happening slowly; which means not so many changes in my life. I think of this book as a great learning experience. I wrote it knowing nothing about the publishing world. I am proud to have come this far with it, but still feel like I am only at the base of the publishing mountain. It's scary not knowing what's next.

Another part of this fear is whether my family is ready for what may be next. I am a mom first and foremost, and have always been there for my family. Any work outside of the home I have done revolved around them. When they were young I worked as a preschool teacher at a neighborhood community center and as they grew I became a substitute teacher in our town's elementary schools. Writing is the first time consuming work I have done that is just for me. So, there is a fear of change for my family as well that I can't ignore. This is the point where fear starts to grow fangs and transform into another demon, Guilt. This is a now a whole new battle for another day.

Ok, we're almost there now. We have hopefully squished down our big bad fears so that they are not a deadly demon, but more like a Chiwawa with an occasional bad attitude. Just enough bite to keep us moving toward our goals, not running away.

There is one more thing to do to keep fear from bubbling right back up again. Set a reasonable mini goal that can be met today. Prove to yourself that you really did concur your fears. For me it is to to read and edit 2 chapters of my WIP. What will you do?

Writing this out was a very helpful exercise for me. I hope it helped you too. If you want to share your fears or comment on mine I would love to hear from you.


~ Kristin : )


  1. Sometimes fear's what makes me write too - fear that if I don't I'll find myself telling the stories to myself out loud on a busy city street and they'll lock me away...

    Getting the words on the page is fine. Letting someone else read them and take them off the page - that's #1 and 2 (and so far 2 seems dismally true).

  2. Yeah, the stories & characters have a way of getting out of our heads one way or another. Don't loose hope. Keep refining and submitting your work & you will succeed.

  3. I'm glad my writing season has evolved during my children's teen years, with one on the cusp of graduation from high school and one homeschooled. So if there was any major change in life due to my book being published, I would see it as the next phase in my journey.
    I find journaling, aka, writing something down, to be a terrific tool that works. In this case, getting our fears down to the molehill size where they belong.
    Thanks for this helpful post, Kristin.

    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Be Refreshed!

  4. Thank you for stopping by. This series is very personal since I am publicly battling things that writers usually keep to themselves. I am glad to hear from other writers who can relate.