Writers' Biggest Fears
I used to hide my writing under the bed in notebooks like secret treasure. I’d write stories and never show them to anyone. Sharing my fiction made me shake, if I tried to read it out loud. Having other people read it left me feeling queasy. Did they really like it? What did it really mean when someone told me “you write beautifully.” I’ve heard that so many times over my life and I always hate it. Because it tells me so little and I want to know, do you feel what I feel? Do you see what I see? Or is it just a matter of choosing pretty little words? Are you just saying that? And if I do write beautifully, why keep writing, if I have somehow magically achieved perfection? I compare it to stage fright, and it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older.
At the root of it, I was afraid people would catch a glimpse of my dreams and thoughts and think I was crazy, weird and judge me. It’s silly, I know. All writers are crazy and weird, and who cares? We have to be to do what we do, to dream on paper for hours and weeks and months and years. So how did I overcome my fear? By facing it. By doing what I love, by getting up in front of a crowd and hiding my shaking hands and realizing: It is what it is. It doesn’t matter if you like it or if it’s perfect. It’s my art, and I’m not hiding it anymore.
I realized I am not alone in my writerly fears, so I posed the question of greatest fears to a bunch of talented fellow authors. What are you most afraid of when it comes to writing? Here’s what these brave souls said.
“That someone I respect will hate it.”
—Bull Garlington, author of “The Full English” and “Death By Children”
“To contradict a fact or a character's personality traits in the book. Yikes!”
—T.L. Harty, author of “Behold Ellowee”
“Rejection. I hate the idea of people rejecting my words. They are like my little babies and when something I write is rejected it feels like they are picking on or rejecting my kids. ”
—TaKaylla L. Gordon, author of the forthcoming “One Date Rule”
“I find writing in itself fearful: the spigot it opens, the secrets it bares, the hidden depths it discovers. I keep a quote from Faulkner above my desk, from his Nobel acceptance speech. ‘The basest of all things is to be afraid.’ I think of how brave he had to be to risk the muddy stylistic swamp of ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ to write from the point of view of mentally handicapped Benjy Compson. He gives me courage, but that doesn't take away the fear.”
—Maggie Kast, author of “The Crack between the Worlds” and “A Free, Unsullied Land”
“As a nonfiction writer, my biggest fear is getting a fact wrong. With my first book, as time went by, I realized that the "expiration date of a fact" applied to everything I'd written over a 3-year period. Since I quoted stats about women who had been elected to the Senate, I had to update those stats with each election. The way I overcame this challenge was to keep up with the news. Plus the four professional women who endorsed my book helped me catch an updated fact or two. Having as many eyes on your facts as possible is important in nonfiction writing.”
—Melanie Holmes, Author of “The Female Assumption: A Mother's Story, Freeing Women from the View that Motherhood is a Mandate”
“I'm always afraid of being mediocre and trite, without offering middle grade readers something which will inspire them and push them to be change agents. I don't think that fear is ever lessened, but once a reader tells you they loved a book and it made them change their thinking, it gives you the fuel to continue to pursue that goal in the next book.”
—Childrens author Bibi Belford, whose books include “Canned and Crushed,” “The Gift,” “Crossing the Line” (to be released Aug 2017) and “Another D for DeeDee” (to be released in 2018).
“Let's say I'm ‘writing on it.’ As someone who primarily writes memoir and on difficult topics, it is hard to publish the not so pretty truth. I have little problem putting the words down, it is only when they lay there, exposed and vulnerable that I have a flutter in my gut. How I handle it is to accept that a flutter is a good thing...it means I've gone where I'm uncomfortable going and that is how I define living without a leash."
—Deb Lecos, author of the forthcoming “Walking on the Bottom of the Ocean”