Writing is pretty easy for me. I have never experienced writer’s block. In fact, I have never looked at a blank page for long. I can always come up with ideas and things I want to write about. In fact, I have a backlog of lists and ideas and things to write that could keep me busy for the rest of my life without one new idea.
When I do sit down to write, the words flow. My stories and characters take flight and I get to enjoy the story as much as a reader, as I write. My essays generally are mostly formed in my mind before I sit to write them, so they are also painless to get on paper.
That doesn’t mean all writing is easy for me. I have three challenges that come up for me time and again in my writing.
The first is that I have big ideas that don’t come out in an organized fashion. The first draft of my posts looks like I threw spaghetti on the wall. The final draft is the five or six noodles that stuck. Sometimes I need to break the ideas apart further and put them into several pieces.
This has happened with nearly every post I’ve written for Iron Ladies. Leslie Loftis will read my first draft and suggest I break it apart into two, three or four pieces. Then, of course, those pieces start to wander. I need creative and intellectual discipline to stay on point and then illustrate my point without losing track. This is really hard for me. My mind wants to wander and explore. The more I need to get to the point, the less I want to.
The second struggle is that I don’t like revising. Revising is so tedious and boring to me. This is related to my first struggle because I have big, wandering ideas and I love to follow them wherever they go. I like the spontaneous nature of writing, the free-flow of ideas. I don’t like the drudgery of fixing, moving, rethinking and perfecting.
My third struggle is by far my biggest and most crippling. I won’t even call it a struggle because struggles are things I deal with and overcome, even if begrudgingly. This is clearly a fear. It is a source of anxiety and it is holding me back in very real and tangible ways in my writing. Not only is it holding me back but it has been holding me back for many years. It is irrational and unsubstantiated, and additionally, it is ever present in my mind. It colors everything I write and every thought I have about writing. I think about it every single day. Every time I sit down to write, it is on my mind. And every time I want to write, I often decide not to because each word I put on the page puts me closer to having to face this fear.
I am afraid of being published.
There, I said it. You might not realize how intimidating this would be for me because I publish blog posts almost weekly, but I have had this book of essays about 80% finished for two years. There is always something I need to revise or rethink. But I know deep down that the book is fine. It’s not going to get a lot better. It doesn’t need to be perfect and the only thing holding me back is fear.
What’s worse is that I don’t just have one book “nearly” finished. I have several. I have three books of essays, a collection of short stories, and a novella. If I publish one book, there will be pressure for me to publish the others.
What’s ironic is that I’m not afraid of not doing well. I am confident my writing will do well. People will buy it, readers will enjoy it. I may get a few who don’t like it, but overall, my writing will be well received. I am not afraid of failure. I am terrified of success because success will force me to face this fear again and again.
And if I do well, receive praise, make some money, I will feel pressure to finish my other books, write more long-form pieces. In other words, if I do well, I will inevitably have to face this fear of being published over and over again. I won’t have any good reason to quit.
I’m actually feeling sick right now as I type this. Part of why I am typing this is to hold myself accountable and admit my real fear in the hopes that I can get some power and perspective over it. But I also know that doing this is just going to put more pressure on me and that fear will get closer and more real.
One thing I can’t stand is when people talk and talk without doing. I even wrote about the importance of finishing things in a different post in April. Do you know what I had on my mind in April when I wrote that post? The exact same “almost finished” book that is “almost finished” today. I have reorganized chapters, rewritten the introduction, scrapped the ending, rewrote it and went back to the original countless times, not because it isn’t good but because I’m afraid to finish.
Th fact that I’ve been continuously writing and creating has comforted me. I can tell myself that I am “working.” The book is “in progress.” I am writing and getting words on the page and so it is not like I am being lazy. In fact, I am quite prolific. But I am deluding myself. I need to admit that writing is not my problem, confidence is not my problem, but finishing and publishing are my problems. And the only thing holding me back is me.