Question: What do I do if I feel afraid or anxious about writing my novel?
An author friend of mine and I were talking about the new fiction projects we both are working on. She commented that she wished she could jump into a new story as easily as I do, but that she often feels afraid to write.
Now, I don’t know all the reasons for her fears. But I do know that anxiety seems to be a fairly common experience among fiction writers. Contrary to my friend’s compliment, I also sometimes feel afraid or anxious about my writing. Here are some reasons why we writers may feel anxious or fearful about beginning a new fiction manuscript:
- Writing a novel is a huge undertaking that may require months or years to finish. What if I get stuck and run out of energy? What if I lose interest half-way through? What if I can’t think of anything to write? What does that say of me, to fail in that way?
- Writing a novel requires a lot of emotional energy. It may require the fiction writer to confront unpleasant memories or draw on painful experiences. Conversely, it might make the fiction writer face the reality that her real life doesn’t measure up to the fictional world she has created. Even if emotional pain isn’t involved, creating authentic character emotions requires a lot of energy and effort from the fiction writer. Sometimes we just don’t feel up to the task.
- Writing a novel requires ongoing and daily commitment. It takes a good bite of time from your day. Many fiction writers feel overwhelmed at trying to fit one more task into their daily schedules.
- Writing a novel may involve tasks that the fiction writer finds unpleasant, such as research, plotting, revisions, or even just the writing itself. Even though we writers love to write, sometimes we hate it, too.
- Writing a novel and finishing it means that then we must either work on submitting it to editors or agents, or–if it is already under contract–going through the process of revision, and then promotion. This can be an intimidating process
The most effective way I’ve found to deal with these writing fears is to face them head-on. Reflect on how you are feeling. Why are you afraid or anxious? List out the reasons.
Next, write out the worst-case scenario for each fear. What is the worst that could happen if that fear comes true? What will the consequences be? Usually, when we do this, we see that what we fear really holds no true threat for us. This can help us overcome that fear or anxiety.
If we still fear failure or are struggling with anxiety, maybe it’s time to talk to a creativity coach. This is what I recommended to my friend, because I have benefited from it myself. A coach can help us deal with, and then move beyond, our writing fears or anxieties.
There’s no shame in feeling afraid to write–many fiction writers feel this way. But don’t let it keep you from doing what you love or reaching your fiction writing goals.