In his book The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes tells us that every writer worth his or her salt has a fear of writing. It’s not just a fear of being rejected by a traditional publisher, although fear of rejection often causes the would-be author to become what Ralph calls a “trunk writer” (someone who writes something, then puts it in a drawer or “trunk”). There’s also the fear of the blank page (or blank screen). We writers give it the nice euphemism of “writer’s block,” but more often it’s fear. What if I can’t come up with anything? What if I do and it’s crap?
Brenda Ueland has an answer to that in her book If You Want to Write. She says it doesn’t matter. She dares each of us to try to write the worst story we can because she believes even in the worst we can find great stuff. Brenda cautions the would-be author not to get too hung up on technical details of writing and encourages us all to put something of ourselves into everything we do.
While I agree with Brenda on both parts, Independent Authors do need to make each work as flawless as possible before going to print. It’s impossible to get anything perfect, but it is possible to make everything the best you can. Ralph gives several suggestions on how to do this in The Courage to Write. Another good source for things to look for is Edward C. Patterson’s eBook Are You Still Submitting to Traditional Publishers? When it comes to technical aspects such as punctuation, my favorite resource is The St. Martin’s Handbook. If you plan to freelance for magazines and newspapers, you’ll probably want a recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.
Knowing I have several good resources at hand helps me face the fear of writing, but I still find myself frustrated by the blank page on occasion. Ralph points out that many great writers have what he calls rituals to help them get started. Having a ritual may seem like a waste of time (sharpening 20 pencils before writing like Hemingway did certainly qualifies in my mind), but if it’s what gets you in the right frame of mind then it’s worth the “wasted” time. Personally, I know I can’t string more than two words together without having my desk relatively cleared of clutter and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea at hand. Whatever you need to do to psych yourself up to write, do it. Just don’t let your ritual become an excuse not to write.
Although I won’t go so far as to say embrace your fear, I will say that knowing the fear is there for your fellow writers can be a comfort. You’re not alone. Remembering that and having a few good resources at hand makes writing a little more enjoyable and a lot less frightening.