There is a thing, a squirmy thing deep down inside damn near every writer, a thing that screams and claws and demands attention, pulling back against every sentence and every word and every letter that is attempting to escape your brain through your fingertips.
Truthfully, fear can be your most powerful tool and greatest ally. Before we get to how, I have to apologise. I’m sorry if I’m the first to break it to you; for most, fear never goes away.
Oh, it changes, as you do – which is part of what makes it so insidious – but it never goes away.
For the beginner, it is the fear that their craft is not good enough and will falter, possibly with catastrophically humorous results.
The words laid down do not form a foundation strong enough to bear the grandness of the vision… or something similarly overwrought.
For the intermediate artisan, who has some trust in her ability to write, then next brutal assault from fear is the thought that she has nothing to say. The sentences come together in a workmanlike fashion, but they have no depth, no power and no meaning to anyone but dear old mother. (For some, this is perfectly fine and doesn’t bother them in the slightest – many writers have made entire careers out of saying not much at all).
Finally, for the master, who has had some success, there is the fear of drought. That their best work is behind them and there is little reason to go on living, let alone writing.
To them I say “geez, you’re being a little melodramatic there, aren’t you? Lighten up. Here’s why:”
You might think that this is a piece meant to frighten away anyone with an interest in writing, but it isn’t. Fear is absolutely the greatest advantage a great writer has. Without fear, there can be no courage; without courage, there can be no greatness.
Fear tells you where you need to go; it’s a tool like an anti-compass, relentlessly pointing you away from what you need to be doing most.
You just need to read it backwards, is all.
And as for how to overcome those particular stages of fear? All you need is Blood, Sweat & Coffee.
Blood: Put what matters most of yourself into your work.
Sweat: Practice, every single damn day, to get better.
Coffee: Keep your energy up – you’ll need it to bleed and sweat even more.
What fear is your fear telling you to do?