Writing Fear

David Mullin

Despite all the helpful and motivational memes on social media, all the videos on YouTube with their strategies and techniques, there's nothing that can completely eradicate the fear that comes from facing the blank page.

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm currently writing a fantasy novel and I'm doing it by writing in four 30 minute sprints everyday. My daily word count is through the roof. I even outlined the entire thing before I started writing. I assumed I would finally conquer the mind-numbing fear of writing. No such luck.I would say these two strategies definitely make the task of writing fiction easier. However, I think something else contributed more, or rather perhaps, it just compliments them so nicely: intuitive writing exercises. For the screenplay class I recently completed, there was a two week period where we were tasked with writing a daily journal for 20-30 minutes followed by 90 minutes of exercises. The exercises consisted of looking through a picture book and then setting a timer for five minutes (this was increased by 5 min each day until I reached 30 min per exercise). The goal was to write complete stream of consciousness. No judging yourself while you wrote, good or bad. I found these exercises to be quite liberating as I have always skewed toward the pantser or gardener side of writing technique. I'm pretty sure many of my classmates who are more on the concept side struggled with the assignment. My point is, those exercises showed me that I could write some fairly interesting material (and some pretty sick shit as well, if I do say so myself) and do it rather quickly. Sure, a lot of it would be junk, but it's pretty much along the same lines as the popular writing meme to "give yourself permission to suck." For the first draft, getting it written down is what counts.

But even with these strategies and techniques, everyday I face the blank page in front of me I get nervous butterflies in my stomach. Why? What is it that I'm so afraid of? I assume the obvious answer is that its not good enough. But not good enough for whom? Me? The world at large? I'm not sure I know the answer to that question.

Unfortunately, I think the best thing I and anyone else struggling with this writing fear thing, is just to push on through and write bravely. What have you got to lose? No one ever has to see what you've written. Does that help? No, I didn't think so.