Fears Lying in the Dark
The truth about writing distractions
When I’m deep into a book, I write most days for two or three or four hours. Or I try to.
I admit, sometimes it’s hard. Like really hard.
Because, you know, distractions. Those pesky, relentless little things that are all around us hiding everywhere, waiting to pounce and keep us from moving forward and getting our creative work done.
Sometimes they are unavoidable.
Like the morning I was about to climb the stairs to the loft where I write (back when I lived in a townhouse with a loft) and I got a text from one of my tenants about all this water gushing down the wall, coming from the unit above. I had to stop what I was doing, pronto! And focus on my tenant. Aggravating, annoying, frustrating. Yes. All that and more. But also the kind of thing that is to be expected from time to time as a writer. Or any kind of worker. Stuff happens that you gotta pay attention to. Immediately.
It’s called life. Really.
Then there are the OTHER kinds of distraction. Those that are avoidable and unnecessary.
Like when I get caught up needlessly and endlessly chasing down a tidbit on the internet while doing research (supposedly) or when I follow social media down a long unending rabbit hole.
This second kind often leaves me feeling really guilty about neglecting my writing because I KNOW what it is really all about–-self-doubt or fear related to my writing cleverly disguising itself by inventing excuses not to write. Even with several books published and more on the way, this still hits me from time to time.
In the dark recesses of my mind I’m wondering whether what I’m writing really is good enough. Is it clever enough or interesting enough? Or even whether it’s relevant.
This fear never goes away. Really. It’s what we do about it that counts.
Overcoming Self-Doubt As a Writer
Our self-doubt often traps us to the point where we cannot move forward so we feel stuck. Because we ARE stuck.
Years ago, I realized this when I first wanted to become a writer. I was scared to let friends or others in my family see the work I had attempted. I didn’t want their undeserved praise or to be laughed at. Not that either would have happened, but that was my fear. So my writing sat for a while, going nowhere. Sight unseen.
I eventually decided that if I wanted to move forward, I HAD to let someone see my writing and give me an honest opinion. And that if I ever wanted to get better I would have to be willing to HEAR that opinion.
So I worked up the nerve to take myself—jitters and all—to a weekly fiction writing course at a local community college. That turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done to advance my writing skills and confidence. We wrote story after story, and the critiques I got from the other students and the instructor were insightful and invaluable. I learned what I was doing well . . . and also what needed work.
Not only did that course guide me toward building my self-confidence, it also helped tremendously with motivation because I realized my writing wasn’t as awful as I sometimes imagined. It wasn’t perfect–far from it–but I was inspired to keep going. And going and going. Because I realized that’s what we have to do as writers even when the going feels tough.
As I mentioned earlier, the self-doubt never really goes away completely. It just goes into hiding, lurking in the dark corners of the mind, only to try and resurface when we least need it. But that’s OK, really. We may not be able to snuff it out completely but we CAN learn to manage it. We MUST learn to manage it. That’s what successful authors do, day in and day out.
Thanks for reading Writing Creatively! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.