Lots of people want to write a book – apparently, in America, it’s 81% of people!
Some actually do it, but others tell themselves, I’ll write it when the kids have started school. When they’ve left home. When my job isn’t so busy. When I retire… The truth is, it can be really difficult to get down to actually making that first start.
Writers – even the published kind – can be a pretty fearful bunch.
When I first began to write, I didn’t know I needed to be scared. I was twenty-one years old and fresh out of university, and as I wrote my first novel (a romance novel called Star Love, which was basically my fantasy about a pop star falling in love with me) I was completely driven, absorbed with my story and able to ignore the sceptics around me. Then came rejection – caringly worded, but rejection nevertheless. One short paragraph for all those months of effort. I was hooked on writing by then – couldn’t have given it up if I’d tried. But now, post-rejection, it was harder to ignore those doubters around me – the cynical responses when I told people I was writing romantic fiction. The jokes about pink dresses, bouffant hairdos and little yapping dogs.
I pressed on, but underlying all my efforts, there was a big, enduring fear. ‘This is my dream. What if it doesn’t work out?’
I know now, that I was far from being alone. A few years ago, I carried out some research with established writers about their fears when they were just starting out. They were much the same as mine – anything from I feel silly saying I’m a writer, to I can’t stand the thought of adverse criticism of my writing, to How do I know when my novel is finished?
For this reason, when I began teaching my creative writing classes a few years ago, I decided to include a confidence-building element alongside the writing instruction. The students who took the plunge to come to my classes really benefitted from this approach, and their writing flourished as a result. I was thrilled by this.
Fears about writing are very powerful things. They can stop you from ever picking up a pen or switching on the laptop. After all, if you don’t produce anything, don’t finish anything, or never show your work to anyone, then it can’t be judged, and you can’t fail.
Except to yourself, of course, and that’s possibly the biggest failure of all.
Fortunately, it worked out for me. Those early efforts of mine gradually began to get published (although not Star Love, thank goodness!) – enough to keep me writing and to make me crave more. Over the years, I began to write what I wanted to write, instead of trying to please other people. I was also commissioned to write educational fiction, and my books have been published by Cambridge University Press, Cengage Learning, Omnific Publishing and Crooked Cat Publishing. I’ve also self-published.
Recently, I’ve pulled together the fears I see my students dealing with on a day-to-day basis with my own experience of triumphing over fear, to create an e-course called Feel The Fear and Write Anyway, which will be available soon. In it, I’ve tried to provide the kind of reassurance, practical advice and insight I could really have done with when I was first starting to write. And above all, I want to get students to start writing, as well as to help them to make invaluable connections and friendships.
A group of my current students have been trialling the course for me, and I’m really excited about their feedback.
In the meantime, I decided to give people the chance to start working on their writerly self-confidence straight away, so I produced a free video series – The 10-Day Fear-Busting Challenge for Authors, which people can sign up to now. Every day for ten days, you receive a daily email with a link to a short video which looks at a different author fear or obstacle, and it’s designed to be reassuring and inspiring.
You can sign up for the challenge here.