The Writer’s White Elephant

“The white elephant in the room” is a problem that everyone knows is there but no one wants to acknowledge. Yes, yes, I know it’s cliché but every writer has a white elephant in the room. I sometimes think I have a whole herd of them and the leader is fear.

It’s important to know that writing fears are normal. All writer’s have them, even the most successful. The good news is that each and every one can be overcome.

Here’s a list of the most common fears writers experience.

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of not having the talent to write
  • Fear that no one will like or want to read their work

Failure can have different meaning to each of us and covers a wide range of things. Fear is crippling and can stop us in our tracks. We want to feel good enough. We want to be confident in our craft.

Writing is hard work. Many successful authors say each time they start a new story they feel fear. That’s a pretty good indication the fear of failure is common for all writers. It’s important for you to shift your attention from the failure illusion and look at what’s really important. Create realistic writing goals. Like most things, the more you practice the better your writing will be and the easier it will be to reach your goals. Write every day and each time your reach one of your goals it’s a success.

Easy reading is damn hard writing – Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of the biggest questions in a writer’s repertoire is “What if?” The best use of this question is to help us brainstorm our stories. This little question is sneaky and can creep up on us in areas that can change our focus before we realize it. Some examples are:

  • What if I can’t finish my book?
  • What if I can’t write well enough?
  • What if I’ve spent all this time for nothing?
  • What if I can’t get an agent?
  • What if my book doesn’t get published?
  • What if it gets published but doesn’t sell?
  • What if my family and others hate my book?

If we allow it, these “what if” questions will serve to create doubt and fear in us. Let’s try looking at the “what if” questions in a different way.

  • What if I can finish my book?
  • What if I can write well enough?
  • What if I’ve spent all this time and have a wonderful story to show for it?
  • What if I can get an agent?
  • What if my book does get published?
  • What if gets published and sells well?
  • What if my family and others love my book?

When the “what if” questions creep up on us, we can ask them in a positive way that dispels fear and replaces it with hope and confidence. Fear may always be lurking in the shadows of our mind but you can choose to focus your time and energy in a positive and encouraging way.

Writing is hard work. It takes daily practice and diligence. Keep a positive attitude and you CAN succeed!

You only fail if you stop writing – Ray Bradbury

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