I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, July 23, 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. (Not!)

Photo by drniels/Stockxchnge.com

I couldn't write.
Even worse, I avoided writing. Choose between writing or cleaning out my refrigerator or organizing my sock drawer? Guess what? I chose scrubbing out my salad crisper or matching Hanes socks.
I was more than ready to craft my book proposal. Working title. Check. Purpose for writing the book? Check. Detailed marketing strategies? Check. I even had some statistics and spiffy chapter titles.
But fear strangled my creativity. Back in high school drama productions, I never experienced stage fright. But I saw others freeze up when it was their time to enter stage left. Weighed down by layers of makeup and costumes, they couldn't recall a single line.
Weighed down by reams of research and my own expectations, I now battled "writer's fright."
Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
Each wasted second of writing time reverberated on every clock in my house. I purged my pantry of outdated canned goods and ransacked my closet for no longer fashionable outfits.
But I didn't write a single word.
I contemplated going AWOL from my critique group. Week after week, they asked, "So, how's the proposal? Got anything for us?"
"It's coming along," I said, despite the fact that my proposal was going nowhere.
Finally I confessed I was immobilized by a book proposal. "I don't think I can do this. Why did I ever pitch that book idea?"
Writer's fright was running--and ruining--my life.
The group encouraged me to take a few deep breaths and push past the fear. "Write something. Anything. Bring even a few paragraphs to the group next week."
Time to wrestle my proposal into submission.
I can't lie--it was a painful process. I pulled out my one-page pitch sheet and transferred all the information onto that still blank page. Then, one section at a time, I fleshed out my proposal.
A week later, I presented my synopsis to my group. They did what any worthwhile critique group does: lovingly shredded my writing to pieces and then told me to try, try again.
When faced with writer's block, sometimes all I can do is clean out my closets while waiting for the block to crumble. When it comes to writer's fright, I learned it's a do or die battle.
I chose to fight back rather than watch a good idea endure a slow death.


  1. Glad you were encouraged, Kelly! Sometimes I need to be re-reminded myself! :O)

  2. This soooo fits in with the book I read along with my devotions this morning. Mark Batterson writes about "the fear of foolishness". It gets instilled in us early on. But M. Batterson says "faith is the willingness to look foolish". Interesting thought!

    I guess old Noah did look a bit foolish building his ark on dry land. And Sarah probably looked foolish sewing maternity clothes at age 90.

    I'm off to face my fear of foolishness and start the next chapter on my WIP.

    Thanks for the great thoughts, Beth!

  3. You're so right about fear strangling creativity. I wrestled with that for the past several months, but now I believe God has given my writing the transfusion it needs to live again.

  4. Love this and love you, Beth. For the last stretch of time I'm so immersed in writing projects that my socks are unmatched & fridge needs cleaning, but I know that if I let days go by w/o writing, ideas grow cold, excitement wanes, and then writers blocks does set in as in rigor mortis. Thanks for sharing these great ideas for us to ponder, and ponder again.

  5. Great post, Beth! Um, since I haven't yet beat my fear, how would you feel about writing my proposal??!! I'm determined to have the thing done by ACFW, but every time I try to work on it, the Cowardly Lion song from "Wizard of Oz" assaults me and I slink away from desk, seeking solace in a can of pop and an episode of "Gilmore Girls." I need help!

    Or, I just need to read and re-read and re-read your post. Thanks for sharing, pondering friend!!

  6. Beth! Thank you for putting a name to my issue! I thought it was block. But if the symptoms of writer's fear are nasty household chores, then you have correctly diagnosed my issue. For the past several months, I have cleaned toilets, organized under the kitchen sink, and alphabetized canned goods in order to avoid writing. I am meeting with a friend on Tuesday morning to brainstorm a new story, and now that I know FEAR is my biggest issue, I will do whatever I can to keep it from quashing the excitement I know I will have. And if I find myself failing, I will come back to this post and pray...because God has not given us a spirit of fear of power and love and (this one is particularly fitting) A SOUND MIND!!!

    Have I mentioned lately how much I love this group?

  7. Just do it, Melissa. Just dig in and do it. I often tell myself, "If you can't write a good proposal/chapter, then write a bad one. You can edit a bad one, but you can't do a thing with a blank page."

    Okay. I confessed. I talk back to the voices in my head.

  8. Pondering all the comments . . . Sometimes this blog is almost like a group therapy session, ya know?
    Just so you know, said proposal was completed and went on to become a book, despite all my fears. True confession: At one time during the writing process, I thought, "Where do I get off thinking I can write a book?!"
    And I had a book contract, for gosh sakes!
    Melissa, don't forget, you are surrounded by writing friends who are willing to help you write your proposal--me included.
    That's a Bona fide offer.

  9. Powerful post, Beth. You know how to encourage through personal experience. I'm so glad you fought back with words.

    I'm still writing--slowly. Not sure where my heartbeat is. Or my pulse for that matter! But I'm alive and well. Words still chase me down until I give up and say "Uncle."

    Love ya, friend...

  10. Hey Beth,

    Yea! I get to read one of your blogs on here! :)Thanks so much for the post! It has me pondering and remembering to think on what is true! Fear is not truth, but it sure builds up big walls in my thoughts sometimes! As I continue to adventure of writing, I will be referring back to your post. I have also appreciated the other comments today, as they challenge me to move forward, daily! Thanks to you all for sharing with a newbie!

  11. Well, Tiffany, since you were part of that critique group--and I wish you still were--I know God has wonderful plans for you as a writer. I also remember how you encouraged me during a time when all I thought I could do well was stare at a blank page.
    Love ya right back!

  12. Jeanne, you've got to start somewhere. I can't wait to see your path along the writing road! Are you counting the days to the StoryCrafters retreat yet?

  13. Thanks Beth for such encouragement. Writing can be so daunting. Our internal editor sits on our shoulder and tells us what we've written is terrible.But you are so right--we have to stand up to the fear and tackle it. One step at a time.

  14. Sometimes we have to tackle the fear, Pat. And sometimes we make it back up, one step--one written word--at a time.

  15. Thanks for this post, Beth.
    It's nice to know I'm in good company as I face the blank page. My biggest enemy is the dreaded internal editor - I must learn to turn it off more quickly than I have in the past!

  16. Beth, I almost think you can see into my office. I've got a book proposal due on Monday and I've only got the outline and table of contents finished. My crit group has been asking to see it for weeks. It's so good to be reminded I'm not the only one struck down by fear. Thanks for the encouragement!

  17. Ava, I think it's good to be reminded that we are not alone. Sure, there's lots of time it's just me, myself and I--and my manuscript. But connecting with other writers through this blog and other writing communities helps me through the tough times. And I understand about turning off the internal editor. Sometimes I have to turn it off so I can just enjoy a good read, much less experience forward motion in my own WIP.

  18. Edie, you're in my prayers as you finish up that book proposal! You can do it--just ignore any sudden urges to clean out a closet!

  19. Beth,
    So if we look in your sock drawer we'll be able to tell if you've been writing or not? LOL

    Such a great post. Creativity is hard to judge. What one person finds beautiful with Monet paintings can be a turnoff for someone else. Writing is no different. And as the creator of the manuscript, proposal, synopsis, we often are never sure if we are good enough to do it. When I start something I hear my eight-grade english teacher ranting over my poorly written book report. With the help of fellow writers (the ponderers in particular) I don't have to ponder, I just tell that voice to shut up and I'm going to do the best I can.

    Like someone said earlier, its easier to edit something written, that to edit a blank page. So go for it! You can do it! Even if you have to clean a closet or two in the process!!

    Thanks for your wonderful post!!

  20. When I read about what other writers are tackling, it helps me face my own fears. Fear today--that I will not write what's in my heart---and write so much for formula that it won't be me. I know--I need to do a little of both and the story I want to write hasn't fully materialized yet anyways.

  21. I like how you expressed that, TT. (I hope you don't mind the abbreviation. I'm prone to nicknaming my friends.) I think the fear you won't write what's in your heart is a healthy fear is perhaps a healthy fear, one that would almost protect our writing, not hinder it.

  22. Beth- as I read this, I sit here, I have my proposal file open and my words are backed up like the Hoover dam was relocated to the middle of my heart. (Maybe it was a stimulus project... could put people to work if they moved that dam...wouldn't be the lamest stimulus project I've seen.. just sayin. ) Timely, is an understatement.

    I'm going to make a confession:

    For a long time, I've avoided blogs (forums etc) that are written by and for writers.. *gasp* I know.

    Some of them massage ego's so often, I wonder if they are written by frustrated masseuses who have a phobia of bread dough.. (What? Of course, they must be afraid of bread dough...otherwise they'd be a baker. It's a natural fit!) Anyway-those are the publish yourself, everyone has a book in them, you can do it too, type blogs, that I think build up hope when skills are lacking. (I'd rather be told I suck outright and to give it up, (Not, that I could) than to be led on- but that's just me.)

    Some writers blogs are so laden with angst and (dare I say: bitterness?) that I can't bear to read them. It seems like instead of loving their art, and the creative process they live in the angst of writers block, unpaid bills and hatred for publishers. Not what I need to fill my head with.

    Still others are really PR blogs, that SAY they are written by a writer... but the only updates you find are their next project's release date and PR updates.... they make writing seem like a never ending water park with sunshine and screams of "wheeee!" as they slide from one project to the next...

    Which just makes me feel jealous. (I'm keeping it real here... no point pretending it;s not true.)

    So- instead, I've stuck to blogs by agents, editors and publishers, trying to get the info I need, without the side of angst and spa ...the problem is, the advice on those blogs is like reading parenting books: everyone has a template. Everyone has an opinion, they often conflict and can paint a pretty bleak picture for first time authors...

    Then, I landed here. (Thanks, Beth My personal Editrix and Book Doula )

    Here, I find: honest, authentic talk about the writing and publishing process. The good, the bad the ugly and even the cute. (see: kitty post)

    I'm finding this is a place like MOPS has been for me.. a place to be surprised to find out I'm not the only one, and to find help from those who've been there, done that and are doing it again.... on every blank page.

    All this to say: thank you.

    My name is Tracey and I'm a writer, with writer's fright.

    But that dam is about to be breeched. with a flood of words! Even if they trickle out one drop at a time... ;)

  23. Yay, Tracey! Welcome. So glad to have you here!

    Beth, I think my husband would appreciate it if my writers fear manifested itself through household chores. lol