The Fear Place

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy, happy, happy to be writing another romantic suspense for Dorchester. Especially this one (Triple Exposure), which is a book I've dreamed of writing for some time. Since the research will involve another glider flight (yea!) and a much-anticipated visit to the beautiful West Texas town of Marfa, I'm especially excited...

I am also scared as hell.

Not about the soaring (which I love) nor the prospect of driving nearly ten hours each way and meeting strangers in a strange place all alone (love that kind of thing as well). It's the pressure of wanting this book to be perfect when I'm not, of wanting it to be successful because I care so deeply. And the especially tight deadline doesn't help.

To be an artist of any sort is to dwell inside the fear place. We're afraid because we can neither anticipate nor control others' reaction to our labors. Afraid because the reality never measures up to the ideal held in our minds. Afraid, in my case, that the necessary constraints of deadlines will cause me to get sloppy in my work.

So today, I ask myself what's worse than a tight deadline. To which I answer "No deadline at all." Today I ask myself what I'd rather be doing. To which I answer, "Nothing" and write on.

So what's your creative fear place? Is it the writing, the marketing, the selling? And how do you overcome it to do the work you love?


Allison Brennan said…
Colleen, my greatest fear is that the book I'm writing now (this goes for ANY book I'm writing) is garbage; it will never be as good as the last. As storytellers, we want each book to be better than the one that came before, but fear we'll never be able to recreate what worked before, or fix what didn't. It can be paralyzing. But because we're professionals with deadlines we write on.
Christie Craig said…

Oh, boy do I know the fear place. It's there that I hear the voice whispering, "Soon, everyone will discover your secret. Soon everyone will know that you are a faker, that you really can't write."

As much as I don't like self-doubt or hearing that scratchy voice, down deep I think it serves a purpose. To motivate me to keep learning, to write better. So whenever it starts whispering, I stiffened my backbone, pull up my big-girl panties and write another scene.
Ciara Gold said…
Great question. Anytime an artist puts their work on display, they are in essence sharing a piece of themselves that is very personal. Setting ourselves up for critism is not fun. We just all have to remember that each reader has a different opinion on their likes and dislikes. I hate the fear and worry and yet, I must embrace it, because it's this fear that keeps me writing to the best of my ability. It keeps me striving for a better book and it keeps motivated to learn all I can to make my work shine. That's all we can hope for.
Diana Groe said…
Ok, brutal honesty. I'm afraid of being a fraud. We recently made some big life changes, including moving across the country away from our extended family. Part of the decision was so I could write full time.

My fourth Leisure book will be coming out next March. It's DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, a really fun story that I'm so excited about.

It's the waiting for the next contract that's driving me crazy. Once my editor and agent get things nailed down for the 5th one, I'll start feeling legitimate again. Till I start worrying about the 6th.

I have a feeling it never ends, but I sure wouldn't trade it for my old day job.

Diana Groe/aka Emily Bryan
It helps, doesn't it, to know others have to cope with the same fears? Having supportive writing friends makes so much difference. I love that in so many ways, we bolster each other rather than compete.

Hugs to you, Diana, and everyone waiting for another (or a first) contract. That's a tough place to be, one that breeds a lot of doubt.
Teri Thackston said…
I agree with everyone's that fear that someone will suddenly say "wait a minute: SHE can't write!"
My biggest fear is pitching my stuff--screwing it up and having the agent/editor LAUGH at me or stare at me like I'm speaking in tongue or I forgot to put on my clothes.

I had the chance to observe some pitching disasters at a group agent meeting at National and while I was flabbergasted that I wasn't one of them, I had the opportunity to brainstorm WHAT TO DO IF... so I should be more relaxed the next time!
My biggest fear is pitching my stuff--screwing it up and having the agent/editor LAUGH at me or stare at me like I'm speaking in tongue or I forgot to put on my clothes.

I had the chance to observe some pitching disasters at a group agent meeting at National and while I was flabbergasted that I wasn't one of them, I had the opportunity to brainstorm WHAT TO DO IF... so I should be more relaxed the next time!
Jennifer Ashley said…
Colleen: This year I won a Rita. This year I made a major bestseller list for the first time. I should now have huge confidence in both my ability to write and my ability to sell my writing.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I wrote those books eighteen months to two years ago! I'm in a completely different place now (mentally, if not physically). Who knows if I'll ever win another award or hit a list again?

I'm on deadline for two books that have to be good. Period. I barely have the time to write them, but too bad for me. I don't know if I can finish them in time let alone have them do well enough that the publisher won't be disappointed.

I just turned in a third book and I'm terrified it won't 1) have the flavor of the other books in the series; 2) sell as well as the other books in the series. There will be a year and a half gap between books 2 and 3, and who knows if the readers will remember or care anything about the characters after all that time?

So, yeah, I get the fear thing.

No, I wouldn't trade my current job of full-time writer to go back to hose and a cubicle!
TJ Bennett said…
I came to the startling realizations that I haven't written anything NEW for a year. I've revised two books that sold, and rewrote the last quarter of another to get an agent, but nothing new for a year. So, I've started (at your gentle prodding, my dear, and thank you) to write something new, and for the first few pages, I was terrified. It was so HARD! I was sure I couldn't do this again, that my career was over, yada yada. But, you know, I have this critique group that kept haranguing me for pages...LOL! So, this week, something clicked, I slid into the groove again, and it's going to be okay. Until the next time.

Suzan Harden said…
What am I afraid of? That someone will find a way to take the writing away. It's the only way I've stayed sane the last five years.
April said…
Every writer I've ever known shares this fear--no matter how many books the author has successfully written and published. It seems to be part of the way we're wired to think of all the ways things can go wrong.

I try to remind myself to think of how things could go right. I keep a list of past successes and keep awards right where I can see them when I write--to remind myself I've felt this way before and I've been wrong and maybe I am this time, too.

I write the first draft as fast as I can so that I don't have so much time to be afraid. Then I go back and read it over quickly so that I can see the good parts as well as the ones that are crap. (Old way, making changes as I go, it was much too easy to be mired down in the parts that were crap and forget there might be anything good, too.)

This is not a career for cowards! And we're not--because we keep writing even though we are afraid.
Moondancer said…
I truely believe if you're an artist of any kind and you are without any fear you are in for trouble. Useful amounts of fear can allow you to think things through before you open your mouth, or put things on paper, to keep you from you stumbling over your own opinions and getting into trouble. Too much fear can cause you to never try at all.
Moondancer has brought up such a good point. Fear doesn't have to have a stranglehold; it can be an ally, too.

I've appreciated all the sharing!
I've posted a follow up discussion, "The Brighter Side of Fear" on Monday's blog. Please drop by if you're able!

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