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This Writing Life: Doing What Scares You

24 January, 2011

I’ve been thinking today about fear, particularly as it relates to writing, because I’m finding myself facing it in two different ways. First off, it’s finally got to the point where I have to start cutting and rewriting the novel I’m editing. For months, I’ve been making notes and deciding what needs to be changed, but the process of actually making those changes is much scarier. The second fear is one of finishing a handful of short stories, but not because I’m scared of the editing process this time. Instead, it’s the fact that, once I finally say “This is done,” there’s nothing to stop me submitting those stories for potential publication – and, of course, potential rejection.

How I’m going to work through this fear isn’t something I’ve entirely cracked yet. I will, I suppose, just keep working, doing a little bit at a time until actually reaching the end creeps up on me in an unassuming and non-scary manner. It’s the why I’m doing it I know far more clearly. You see, it many ways it would be much easier for me to start something new: to do some research and start a new novel, for example. No mean feat, of course, but it’s still easier, because I’d be a long way from the finishing line. The hard slog of writing a novel doesn’t scare me any more. Deciding I have to stop tinkering with something because it’s done, on the other hand…

As with all things in life though, it’s doing what scares you that’s really necessary. If I keep writing first drafts but never editing them, let along submitting them, I’ll spend the rest of my life writing solely for myself and never getting published. That’s not something I want to do, and I’m going to have to face my fears to avoid it.

There’s a saying that you should ‘do something every day that scares you’, which for a long time I thought was a load of rubbish. The more I think about it though, the more it makes sense. You don’t have to go sky-diving or swim with sharks every day to experience fear, because it’s doing much smaller scary things that will make the biggest difference to your life. In my case, that’s going to be editing this novel and submitting a few short stories. Scary, yes, but I think I’ll feel a lot better when I’ve done them – until the next scary thing comes along.

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