Facing Writing Fears – Part 2

Last week I dug deep and chatted about what I fear most about writing, if you missed it, you can check the post out here: Facing Writing Fears – Part 1.  This week I look at what my core-creative FRABs are by breaking down my writing fears, and looking at why they exist–what are they trying to protect me from? Then, using Sooz’s method I’ve come up with ways to help mitigate these fears, and shrink them into oblivion.

Part 1 covered the first two steps of going from FRAB ( Fear-Related Artistic Block) to Fab, now on to Step 3.

Step 3: the science of fear and working out creatively what the core creative issues stem from

Sooz talks about the science of fear, which basically means if we fear something our brains go back into instinctual mode, chemicals are released that can make us feel physically uneasy, emotionally drained and spent. But if you acknowledge them, understand them, and show them ways in which you can help them, or help ease them, then the power they have over you weakens.

You just REASON WITH THEM. Show them the steps you’ve taken to safety-proof yourself, and they back off quietly. (Sooz, From FRAB to Fab – Part 3)

I looked over my acknowledged issues above, and then looked at Sooz’s creative fears, I really, REALLY identified with this one:

You are not and will not ever be good at writing.

These are the questions I identified with:

  • Do you ever think or feel that your creative endeavor is just a giant waste of time? If so, how often do you feel that?
  • Do you ever think or feel that if your project isn’t “perfect” it’s not worth doing? If so, how often do you feel that?
  • Do you ever feel incredibly enthusiastic for a project, only to then find yourself stalling after (or perhaps before) you begin? How many projects do you have like this?

YES, YES, YES to all of the above. It is really clear from the issues I acknowledged, that a LOT of them stem from this issue.

The other issue that Sooz listed I kind of identified with it, but I needed to modify it to fit my real fear.

Everyone is writing much better stuff than you, they are all surpassing you, and soon they will all have agents and you will be left out in the cold, all alone. Never going anywhere with your writing. 

One of my huge fears in everything, including beyond my creative life, is being left behind or ‘the fear of missing out’. In my creative life this means I am constantly trying to push myself to get things done quickly, like right now, NOT TOMORROW. Never tomorrow.

What this also means is that I am full steam ahead, until I am exhausted. And then the fear kicks into overdrive: oh my god, you’ve stopped writing, but that means we won’t get the first draft done by the end of July, which means I won’t get the draft to my CP’s until September… and then, and then. And then no writing happens and I am paralyzed. This Fear is my greatest antagonistic force, blocking me from achieving my goal.

You may be suffering from this fear if you do one or any of the following:

  • Set yourself intense deadlines and then freak out when you do not reach them, and this will SAP you creatively. To the point where you binge watch ALL of Dexter, or True Blood, Or The Vampire Diaries (sometimes and instead of or). 
  • You track how other like-minded, same-stage, writers are going with their work and you freak out when they seem ahead of you. Oh my god, I am never going to catch up. They will leave me here in the dark. All alone. 
  • You are constantly going back to craft resources, then back to your writing, then back to the craft. You are terrified that you don’t know everything you need to know in order to turn this book into the greatness that you know it can be. But then you torture yourself, should I be writing more, or should I be learning? Have I learnt enough? I have never learnt enough.

Sooz say’s these fears are wanting to protect you from something.

For (1) your fear is trying to protect you from the pain, time and effort of failure

For (2) my fear is trying to protect myself from being left behind and from having regrets by not doing all I can do to make my writing perfect.

Step 4: Safety proofing through mitigating our fears as much as we can

Sooz says:

When you get right down to it, our FRABs have our best interests at heart. But we can take care of ourselves, right? Though, our brains way overestimate how much failure/judgement/embarrassment will hurt–and that’s a bad thing.

Sooz talks about making a back-up plan, if we show our FRABs that we are fully prepared, that we have mitigated our fears as much as we personally can by taking proactive steps, then our FRABs will decrease and become manageable.

Our fears protect us, but in order to manage them, or to show them that we have this under control, we need to have a back-up plan and a risk mitigation strategy.

Risk mitigation strategy – showing the fear that you got this

FEAR One: My writing sucks

The first thing Sooz says to do is to work out what your ‘seat belts’ are – your protective measures to soften the pain of your fears coming to fruition.

Seat belts:

In order to satiate my fears, I will always wear the following seat belts:

  1. I will continue to study the craft of writing, in order to constantly learn and develop my skills and competencies as a writer. I will read blog posts by my favourite authors who write about the craft and devour books on different aspects of the craft. This, I will do, even if I get published. Because the learning never stops.
  2. I will revise, and revise, and revise. And even when this draft is crap, I know I can and will strengthen it in the next version, and if not then, the one after that, until I am proud of my work.
  3. I will always reach out to my critique partners and beta readers before querying agents.  My trusted CP’s will reassure me when it is time to let this book loose on the world, and I will be comforted knowing that I have done the best I can by it, at this point in time.

These measures mean I won’t put out writing that I do not stand by. I will put out the best writing that I can at that point in time, and this writing will have been critiqued and reviewed by CP’s who are better at writing than I, and whose judgement I trust.

Airbags

And if that fails, I have what Sooz calls an airbag – the back up plan in case the worst case scenario eventuates. I give my writing to my CP’s, and it is not fixable, it is too crap and they can’t see they light at the end of the tunnel for it.

  • If my writing never improves, and I can’t get an agent ever, then that’s okay. I have a really excellent primary job, I enjoy my job. I will keep writing because I enjoy it, and if my writing improves then I will write for me, and not for others.

FEAR Two: I will never get an agent and everyone else will surpass me.

Seat belts:

In order to satiate my fears, I will always wear the following seat belts:

  1. Since everyone is surpassing me, I will do what I can to set goals to get ahead, I will honor my writing by finishing this draft, revising it to the best of my ability and giving it to CP’s. I will honor the craft by continuing to learn and develop.
  2. Since everyone is surpassing me, I will let go of the things that I can not control, I can’t control when I will get an agent or a publishing deal. I can control how much time I dedicate to writing, to learning, and to revising this WIP until it is in the most polished state.
  3. Since everyone is surpassing me, I will not compare myself with the success of others, there is no point, as we are all on different journey’s. No two the same. I will support my writing friends, who I cherish and wish the best, seeing there successes makes me want to work harder with my own writing.

Airbags

And the ultimate airbag, is actually the same as the one above:

  • If my writing never improves, and I can’t get an agent ever, then that’s okay. I have a really excellent primary job, I enjoy my job. I will keep writing because I enjoy it, and if my writing improves then I will write for me, and not for others.

Finding rewards in acknowledging and befriending your fears

Sooz say’s:

There are two types of rewards that can come from clearing up a nasty FRAB. The first is the immediate reward–the pleasure of production. If you’re like me, then creating makes you happy. Thus, when you’re not creating because a FRAB has you clogged, you’re not happy.

But there are also long-term rewards for befriending your fears.

Now we go back to our ‘mission statements’ from step one, just to remind you mine were:

  1. I want to feel okay with setting aside time to dedicate to my writing pursuits
  2. I want to feel okay with the writing I do write – that it is not crap, that I can and will polish it until it shines
  3. I want to acknowledge the craft and learn from it, but not be inhibited from writing because I feel like I don’t ‘know everything there is to know’
  4. I want to write more than 1 book per year.

And we turn these into rewards, which are what you can achieve when your FRAB’s and you are working together in harmony and not causing each other pain. My rewards when as I work on shrinking my FRAB’s (although they still guide me, and protect me from unleashing utter writing crap unto the world), are:

  1. Feeling good about setting time aside to dedicate to my writing pursuits, because writing is important to me, and even if this writing thing never works out, I can and will write, just because I enjoy it.
  2. My writing is not crap, and even if it is,  I can and will polish it until is shines.
  3. I acknowledge the craft and learn from it, learning and developing is a constant endeavor and will help me reach my goals. But I will not let this set me back, I will read craft books after I’ve written my WIP and during revision phases, but not during writing so that they won’t inhibit me.
  4. And with feeling good about the seat belts and airbags that I have in place, I am able to write more than 1 book per year as my FRABs will not hold me back.

That is not to say that my writing fears won’t rear their big gloomy grey heads, but now, all I have to do is repeat to myself my mission, and my reward and remember why I like to write. If I freak out about others getting further ahead than me, and get worried that I will be left behind and that my writing sucks, I  remind myself of the seat-belts I am wearing, that put me in the driver’s seat and let me control what I can during my writing journey.

I have safety measures, I have back-up plans in place, as well as rewards ready ahead of me, and as a result:

An incredible thing starts to happen: you stop worrying as much.

Maybe just a smidgen less to start, but each time you remind your FRAB that “you got this”, you feel a bit more empowered. And you remove a teensy bit of pressure from what you’re creating. Because it’s all good! If the worst-case scenario happens, you know exactly what to do–and you also know you’re not there yet. The car hasn’tcrashed. You also know that you don’t want to be there, stuck in a ditch on the side of a road*.

So you work a bit harder. You focus a bit more–because now you’re determined to avoid calling in the big airbags. You’re not proving your fear wrong but rather proving to the fear that you really do got this. By growing your skills, pushing yourself to your creative limits, and always reaching for better, you are in constant motion. Sooz, From FRAB to Fab – Part 4

I’m off to write now and to push my creative limits because on my writing journey I want to be constantly moving forward, towards my goals of getting an agent and publication.

Tell me, what are your writing fears? what are your writing goals and rewards?

 

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Facing Writing Fears – Part 1

For the past two weeks I have felt anxious every time I sat down to write at my laptop.

I have spent hours looking at the blank page–hours upon hours–and it’s not that I don’t know what should happen next in the scene. I do, I know where the story is going for a least a couple of scenes ahead of where I am.

Yet, words are evading me and sitting down to write feels like a chore. And I love to write. Stringing words together shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth.

I wanted to find the root cause: why has it been so hard to write? Why, when in the beginning the sentences were like melodic little birds, cheerfully chirping their way on to the page: optimistic, upbeat and in quick succession.

So I scoured the internet for help, and of course Sooz has done a series on this, because she has covered everything. It’s called from FRAB (Fear Related Artistic Block) to Fab.

Sooz says:

Since we often forget about fear, dismiss it as simple laziness, or simply don’t speak of it (since no one wants to admit to such a weakness), we never deal with the fears. As such, they continue to pop up and keep our words/art/creativity from flowing. (Sooz, “From FRAB to Fab – Part 1″)

Sooz has listed off some symptoms of which the following relate to how I am feeling with my writing:

  • You don’t feel like writing, even though you’re pretty sure you love your story.
  • You know you’re not just lazy because you’re BICHOK-ing every day…but every. Single. Word. You. Write. Feels. Like. Crap. And it’s just agony getting any words out.
  • You know you’re not just writing the wrong thing because you feel this story is right and you’ve daydreamed for hours and the appeal of cookies just isn’t hacking it
  • You think you might need a new computer. Or a new program. Or a new writing space. Or just a new set of pens. Whatever it is that you need, it’s different from what you currently use to write with–and you simply can’t write again until you have a new program/office/playlist/pack of highlighters.
  • Whenever you sit down to write–or even think about sitting down to write–your chest kinda caves in and your stomach knots up. You might power on through that feeling…or you might go do something else instead. (Sooz, “From FRAB to Fab – Part 1″)

So I realized I have some significant fears holding me back from achieving creative-flow with my writing. MASSIVE amounts of fear, and in order to tackle it, I need to be honest with the things that are holding me back.

Sooz’s guide to tackling the fear includes four steps:

Step One: identify your FRAB mission statements

I’ve written down what I want to change in my creative life, these are my mission statements:

  1. I want to feel okay with setting aside time to dedicate to my writing pursuits
  2. I want to feel okay with the writing I do write – that it is not crap, that I can and will polish it until it shines
  3. I want to acknowledge the craft and learn from it, but not be inhibited from writing because I feel like I don’t ‘know everything there is to know’
  4. I want to write more than 1 book per year.

Step Two: Acknowledging what it is that you fear

Instead of fighting our fears, or rationalizing our fears, we need to acknowledge them, become intimate with them, befriend them, and only then can we understand the root cause of our difficulty and the ways in which we can overcome them.

When you fight your fears by dismissing them or pretending you’re not afraid at all, you’re only brushing the fear beneath the rug. (Sooz, “From FRAB to Fab – Part 2“)

And

But rationalization is really just another form of fighting a fear–of telling a fear it isn’t valid and to go back whence it came. But fears aren’t rational, so how could trying to rationalize them–trying to force them into submission via logic–ever possibly work? (Sooz, “From FRAB to Fab – Part 2“)

My fears:

  • I am the WORST writer and no matter how much time and energy I put into learning everything I can about writing, it will all end up being for nothing. It will never be worthy of others eyes. Why are you spending so much time on this day in, day out? Why?
  • No CP/Beta is ever going to want to read this mess, they will think it’s my shitty first draft (even though it’s the 9th rewrite)
  • I won’t do justice to my characters, to my story world, they deserve better than this. And I can’t give it to them. Gah. Give. Up.
  • Even if I get my WIP polished and through CP’s and Beta’s, it won’t matter, because it’s still sub-par and no agent will want a bar of it. Why are you spending so much time on this? Why?
  • What if I spend all this time, years upon years, writing, and sacrificing other pursuits, only to end up with nothing?

Pretty intense stuff, this session requires you to look at your fears honestly, to dig deep and find your deepest darkest fears. But next week, in Part 2, I look at what my core-creative FRABs are by breaking down those concerns I listed above, and looking at why they exist–what are they trying to protect me from? Then, using Sooz’s method I’ve come up with ways to help mitigate these fears, and shrink them into oblivion.

Let me know do you face writing fears? Do you feel like they hold you back? Would you consider writing your own mission statements and setting out your fears? 

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