The Fear of Writing or; Upping the Ante

snoopy writingRemember in grammar school when the teacher decided you’d achieved enough gold stars and moved you to a harder group?  Remember your first day in the group when you realized those coveted gold stars would be harder to achieve?  (Well, that’s the way it was back them thar days, so bear with me).  That exact feeling hit me after joining my new online writers’ group.

The group emphasizes writing original fiction, (read: stories with original characters), not fan fiction.  There’s a certain snobbery element attached but I understand the reasoning. The site’s purpose is to stimulate creativity so a writer can spread her wings. This is not to disparage fan fiction writers (indeed, I’m one of them) by saying their stories cannot be quite creative. However, it’s not until a writer branches into her own universe can she take full flight without the encumbrance of copyright issues and the preconceived notions of an audience.

As soon as I joined, I posted examples of my fan fiction. They received only a few reviews. There has not been enough feedback upon which to assess my strengths and weaknesses or even receive validation that I have real marketable talent. So, I felt stymied by a low lying creeping fear. Now that I had talked with writers intent on publishing their works, I heard a niggling voice in the back of my mind. Could I make the transition from fan to original fiction? Could I leave the preconceived world of Guy of Gisborne, for example, and create my own universe? Did I have the imagination? Of course, I should not have compare myself to people who have been honing their skills a lot longer than I have but I know in the publishing world, TPTB make comparisons all the time.

I’ve been reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness for the past several nights. It soothed me a bit not because it’s astounding award winning material, but because I felt good enough to have written that book that an editor thought well good enough to publish. (This isn’t a slur on Harkness, or maybe it is; I could be delusional and unmarketable). Then there’s the 50 Shades of Grey series which in my opinion is poorly written fan fiction, but those books have flown off the shelves. I don’t fancy myself a Maya Angelou or Colleen McCullough but I wouldn’t mind being somewhere in the ballpark some day. I don’t expect to compose a classic talked about long after I’m gone, but I do want to make a living as a published writer.

This brings me back to the fear of having stepped out of my comfort zone by joining the group. I’ve been warned that before I even get to The Book, I need to write – a lot. But over the last several weeks, I wrote nothing. I used to write stories in my head, behind my eyelids, but even that didn’t occur. Feeling a bit paralyzed, I finally poured all this out to the writing group. They all said they felt the same fear. It’s what motivated them to keep improving. Confidence and no fear, they said, would indeed leave me clutching at delusions.

Finally, somebody in the chat counseled that I simply sit down and write. Write less than 1000 words based on a set contest prompt. Keep it simple, change it up, and don’t think too hard about it. Just do it, they said, like the Nike slogan: dredge up anything, polish and post it. Then the big fear and angst would be out there, over and done with. So armed with the prompt, “There was no reason to look back” I finally hashed out an original short story and posted it to the contest. I don’t expect to win, but the whole point is to gain experience writing. Funnily enough, it’s only been three hours and already I’ve gotten 2 very good reviews. Whew.  I’m not sure if I expected to implode had the story not gone over well but I’m happy for the positive feedback.

You know, the chat group was right.  All I needed to get that first story out there.  I feel the flow already.

If you want to read it, it’s here.


14 thoughts on “The Fear of Writing or; Upping the Ante

  1. It’s a good story! I haven’t left feedback over there because I’m not a member, but I’d happily give it 4 stars… 🙂

  2. That was a terrific read, Judi! 🙂
    I could see the monochrome environment and feel Izzy’s need to get out. For the duration of the story, I felt as if I was in the room, too.
    Good job. I’d give it 4-1/2 stars. Why not 5? ‘Cause I want more … 🙂

  3. So, I created an account and left some feedback. I’ve been needing to get involved and this was the impetus to do so.

    • Thanks for the feedback SM, I really appreciate you taking the time there. I’ve faved you and look forward to reading your work. 🙂

  4. Cool! Love the story! I know exactly what you mean about ADOW and 50 Shades. I find people to read crap (not meaning the two books above) and say it was great! So I think, write what you want. Some people will like it, some might not. Me, I know I’m not a writer. I love writing, so I have some respect for it, and know my limitations. Good for you – follow your dream!!

    • Thanks Marie. 🙂
      I’m bouncing a bit because I just learned my entry won in a 24 hour writer’s contest. Color me SHOCKED. Woohoo!

  5. That was my reaction to Harkness as well. She’s a much better scholar than she is a novelist (which made me wonder whether a scholar can make the transition). I think you’re right that you just have to jump in and practice writing. Congratulations on making the leap!

    • Thanks Serv! I don’t have problems with Harness’ writing per se, it’s just some of the plotting has me laughing out loud in the unfunny bits. Still it reminds me I don’t have to be the next Harper Lee to reach the Best Seller’s List. 😉

  6. Cool fic! It reminded me of the crisp futuristic fantasy stories by Poul Anderson and others where moral dilemmas are reframed as fatalistic tragedies–or, colloquially, as payback–and always with a techie hum of phrasing and terminology. Cheers! ;->

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  8. Even Jasper Fforde has come around when it comes to fanfiction, and he was dead set against it! ( 🙂

    When I did a creative writing course, someone complained that the setting felt copied from Harry Potter. Which was quite funny, seeing as how it starred my HP world roleplaying characters. “It’s too Harry Potter-y!” Well, uh, that was sort of the point? 😉

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