By Jodie Cain Smith
I believe fear is healthy, for the most part. Fear prevents us from petting poisonous snakes, hugging sharks, and driving blindfolded over bridges. Fear tells us to read the expiration date on the milk carton and to put down the big, metal stick in the middle of a thunderstorm. Any fear that keeps me alive, physically intact, and free of food poisoning, I’m a’keepin’. However, one fear I must get rid of is the fear of writing.
What? Wait. Fear of writing? That’s dumb. Yes, yes it is, but it is an emotion I’ve experienced quite a bit recently.
My fear song plays out like this: I get an awesome idea, a premise that sucks me in. For a couple of days I bask in my brilliance. I research the heck out of it, ensuring every detail is accurate, plausible. I imagine the cast of characters and setting. After all of this, there is only one thing left to do – write the story. This is when fear grips my throat and the lightning that is anxiety pulses through my veins. My idea is too complex. My writing game is subpar. If I attempt to write this and fail, my whole career is over. My fraud as a writer (yep, we all feel this at some point) will be revealed.
Over the course of the last three months, as I have pushed to finish two current projects, I’ve experienced this fear time and again. Through this experience, I was forced to design ways beyond it because, well, my fear of failure beats all other fears. So, if you find yourself in a secluded corner hiding under a blanket sure that the blank screen boogeyman is coming for you, here are a few defenses I have deployed to beat the monster that is performance anxiety. (Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about writing, perv.)
1. Listen to your character even if that little tramp has ideas that in no way fit into your original plot scheme. It’s her story. Let her be a part of it. Let her tell it.
2. Just write. Everyday. (Well, at least Monday through Friday. Even creative genius needs a day off.) If the words are awful, write them anyway. Tomorrow is for fixing. Today we write!
3. Don’t be afraid to abandon a story and move on to a new one. They’re not all winners. Sometimes “killing your darlings” means abandoning the whole thing.
Now, don’t we all feel better? And, no one had to pay a therapist.