No Fear in Writing (and Revising)

530196_275656205873774_455569301_n1I recently caught some flak for reposting a comic on my Facebook author page, because the comic contained profane language. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. However, the irony of the comic is that it was about how fear of rejection and judgment by family members can keep you from finishing your novel. As in, “I can’t let my (mother, sister, daughter, wife, son, husband, father, brother) read this! So I might as well put it on a shelf and go back to the gardening.”

Granted, there are probably more mature and creative ways of saying it, rather than a plethora of four-letter words. But the point was clear: fear can paralyze you as a writer.

Fear in almost every capacity keeps us from being fully alive. Fear of vulnerability, fear of loss, there are all kinds of fear that hold us back personally and spiritually. But fear of rejection and judgment are biggies in the writing world. These fears can kill your writing dream. And I mean, kill it dead.

If you want to be a closet writer – the kind of writer whose great-grand-relative discovers stacks of unpublished manuscripts after your funeral forces an estate sale – then fear of rejection isn’t a problem. Write, (wo)man, write! No holds barred. Who’s gonna read it anyway? And who cares what they think? You’ll be long gone by then.

But if you want to be a published writer, if you want your work in the hands of strangers and friends alike, then expect to be rejected. And judged. And misunderstood. A lot. Starting with the first agent you query and ending with the critic who lambasts your last written words. Some days it’ll roll off your back like water off a duck. Other days it will sting like a fat-tailed scorpion.

That’s because being a writer isn’t about pleasing everyone. It’s not about endless accolades without risk. Writing is about diving into the human experience and coming back up with words to describe both the joy and sorrow here on earth. It’s about pain and bliss and heartache. It’s extreme and unapologetic, and some people just won’t get it. That’s okay. They don’t have to. They don’t even have to read what you wrote.

Want to know the single most important difference between unpublished writers and the published ones? Here it is: Published writers are willing to face rejection and judgment. Over and over and over again, from personal and public sources.

Nobody ever said writing would be easy. But wow, there is nothing else quite like it.

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  1. #1 by symplysilent on April 10, 2014 - 3:29 am

    Forgive me, but I’m not making the connection between your opening words, and the latter part of the article.

    Allow me to make an observation. To have any hope of being published (assuming a writer does not self-publish), the non-superstar writer must conform to certain standards. For instance, if a writer has no knowledge of the Three Act Story, or repeated use of adverbs, or indiscriminate switching POV’s then that writer has no hope of being published. They might as well submit a first draft, complete with spelling and grammar errors.

    Given that the bar is set so high for an author like me, I would be foolish to post something that would, at some future point surface, that caused embarrassment. Think of the terrible mistake Lynn Shepherd made. She will go to her grave with that constantly thrown in her face.

    So, you posted what might be an offensive cartoon. Can you retract it? Sure. Can you erase it? Nope. Will it come back to haunt you at some inopportune time? I hope not.

    Thank you,

    Silent

    • #2 by annaldavis on April 10, 2014 - 1:45 pm

      Should a writer conform to certain standards? ABSOLUTELY. In addition to being a writer, I’m also an editor for a publishing house. Writers must play by the rules. Being published requires competence. But allowing fear too much control results in a blank page, day after day, and a failure to move forward in the craft.

      The funny thing is that I’m not really a fan of profane language, and the last thing I want is to offend anyone. I even considered removing the offending post from my FB feed. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I appreciated the message behind the comic (if not the foul language). Then I got all fired up, and wrote this blog post.

      Thank you for reading, and taking the time to comment. Happy writing!

  2. #3 by Kara B. Wilson on April 10, 2014 - 3:30 am

    I love your perspective about rejection with writing. I’m a writer too, and I was just telling a friend today that I look at it as a game with about ten levels of rejection. Seeing it that way helps me try to not take it so hard. It also keeps me focused on what I love: the writing process.

    • #4 by annaldavis on April 10, 2014 - 3:14 pm

      “A game with about ten levels of rejection.” Great way to look at it! And when you finally beat a level, the thrill is just that much more intense. But you’re right… The joy is ultimately in the writing process itself. Thanks for a terrific comment! :-)

  3. #6 by Larry Who on April 10, 2014 - 4:25 am

    While writing my memoir, the thought which hit me right between the eyes was that my mom might read it. I did not care what others thought, but my mom – that might be a different story. I eventually laughed at myself because what’s the reason we write? So people read our stuff.

    Okay, mom, go ahead and read it. I’ll live through the experience and might even write about it.

    • #7 by annaldavis on April 10, 2014 - 3:15 pm

      And amen.

      Your memoir is powerful stuff, Larry. I bet it will make your mom proud.

  4. #8 by Krista McKinney on April 14, 2014 - 3:05 pm

    We writers, by nature, tend to be a little masochistic, I believe. We concurrently want everyone to just LOVE what we write without question, but put our work out there to be rejected time and time again – then get an adrenaline rush from the rejection. We may be wacko, but what great writers of the past weren’t at least a little bit (or A LOT) wacko? Great post, once again!! :-)

    • #9 by annaldavis on April 15, 2014 - 1:36 pm

      Thanks Krista! “We may be wacko” — and loving it! Makes life more interesting, right? And rejection is just another stepping stone to success, plus some great fuel for channeling angst into writing.

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