I once got into a discussion with someone about what we each thought was the most powerful human emotion, and some controversy ensued when I stated I thought it was fear. All animals, regardless of species, have a capacity to feel fear, and it keeps them alive in order to prolong the species. Love and hate are powerful, yes, but the atrocities committed by mankind often have their roots in fear – fear of a misunderstood Other, or fear of something being taken away.
Writers know all about fear. Love and hate inspire us to do things, to create great works of fiction, and to delve into the inner life of all humans to explore just what makes us tick. Fear? It stops us writing in the first place. We’re scared that if we do, people won’t like what we write. Maybe we won’t be able to finish that full-length novel. Hell, maybe we’re scared that people will like what we write to such an extent that our lives are changed forever.
So what is my greatest fear as a writer? If I’m honest, I don’t actually know. I’m not necessarily a person motivated by fear to start with. I’m motivated by wanting to learn as much as I possibly can in the short span of time I’m on this planet. Sure things scare me, but I always take the attitude that I’d rather give something a go and fail spectacularly than let fear hold me back and always wonder what might have been. Besides, I spend my spare time in known poltergeist locations – what have I got to be scared about?
Still, it’s all very well to be pragmatic but yes, I do still have fears. I worry people won’t like what I’ve written, and I do get scared that something I put out there for public consumption will meet a negative response. However, I think my real fear is never quite being good enough. I talked about this a bit last month when I discussed why I thought I couldn’t bring myself to finish my WiP. A worry that the book won’t fulfil its potential is not far off a fear that what I write will ultimately be appalling. I read so many other excellent stories and then read mine and think “I’m scared people will realise I’m a rubbish writer.”
So what to do! Well there’s clearly only one thing I can do. “Feel the fear…and do it anyway”. No one else can do this but me. I can’t sit here like some 1940s silver screen damsel, expecting someone to sweep me off my feet and make everything work out well in the end. I chose to be a writer, and that means I chose all the competing neuroses that go with it. So what if I’m scared that people won’t like my work, or that they’ll criticise my work? Let them! It’s their right to dislike my work, just as much as it’s my right to keep producing it.
That’s what I’ll tell myself at 2am when I’m sat staring at a blank screen, wondering why I’m wasting my life…