My long service leave is over and I have returned to work. The glorious hours of time for writing are gone.
I completed about one-third of my novel (as well as writing a number of blog posts for my own site and Write Anything, and a couple of flash fiction pieces). I am disappointed in the output, but satisfied with what I have done.
Back at work, my senior students are preparing for their Trial Higher School Certificate examinations. It means time has to be given over for marking exam papers. Lots of exam papers.
The reduction of time to write has amplified something that started off benignly, close to the end of my leave, but has now taken root.
Something has crept into my thinking.
It’s like a bad song you hear on the radio and it burrows into your ear (anything cheesy will do, or something from “The Sound of Music” or “Mary Poppins” – yep, you’re humming something already). You start humming it in the shower, while you’re driving, and it somehow becomes the theme song during the most intimate moments with your partner.
And it’s starting to worry me. Something has happened and it’s affecting my writing.
I haven’t added to my word count in almost 4 weeks. I have stopped. My novel gathers digital dust as it waits patiently for me to return.
But this something has crept into other parts of my writing, too.
I have two short stories waiting for me to return to them. I have a short piece ready to send out, but hesitate to click the “Submit” button.
What is this thing that haunts my writing?
Fear affects almost every creative person and almost every creative endeavour at some point. Whether you’re starting out or been creating for a long time.
Fear is crippling and debilitating. It can cause a work in progress to stall, languishing in digital purgatory while it waits for you to get back to it.
Fear makes you question your ability and belief in your writing. You end up asking, “Why am I doing this? My work sucks greater than a vacuum cleaner.”
Fear makes you create excuses for not writing, to find some other activity to fill your time. Suddenly your socks and underwear drawer is tidied, labelled, alphabetised and colour-coded.
Fear distracts you with all manner of shiny things on the internet.
Fear short changes your dreams. It gives you a Happy Meal (without the toy) when you asked for steak with the side order of chips and salad, and a strawberry milkshake.
Fear undermines the core of any creative endeavour.
Fear steals your creative flow.
What can you do about it?
Listen to the fear.
Hear what it has to say.
Weigh up carefully what it says. Act upon good advice if it is warranted.
Then upside its head and give it a wedgie.
A creative life lived in fear is a travesty and accomplishes nothing.
Someone will say, “I want to be creative but I am afraid to start.”
Do not be afraid.
Trust in yourself – self belief is crucial. Do not doubt. He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). You create because it’s a compulsion, a drive, a passion.
Trust your planning - Know when you intend to create (write, painting, draw, sculpt, rehearse). Protect the time, and get it done. Writers: this also applies to your outlining: if you know where you are going, you have already joined the dots. All you’re then doing is colouring in between the line to make a pretty picture (you can, of course, colour outside the lines too).
Trust in the work – There is a difference in knowing if a piece of work is below par and letting the fear subvert a good work. If the work is good enough (drafted, edited, beta read, rewritten etc), trust in its ability to reach and engage an audience.
Fear manifests itself to each creative person in different ways. Some doubt, others procrastinate, some quit.
Turn the fear into a motivating factor. Let it become a driving force.
I have faced the fear. I am moving forward.
Turn your fear into excitement. Same chemical in the brain, different interpretation.
Don’t let the fear defeat you.
When was the last time you faced up and confronted your fears, and won?