Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: My Greatest Fear

Today's key-phrase of choice is: "What is my greatest fear in writing."

Well... I obviously can't tell the person who'd done the search their biggest fear, but since I'm assuming their search is about the reasonable fears of being a writer, I thought I'd talk about that.

I think that all writers have two fears, although to varying degrees.

The first fear: That we're not as good as we thought we were.
The second fear: That we'll get our books out there and readers won't get what we've written or the book doesn't sell.

So... pretty much your run-of the mill fear of failure. Of course, when you're stuck in the grips of fear, it doesn't really feel all that normal.

But it's necessary to remember the following: Firstly: We're never as good as we think we are. We're always too critical or not critical enough. So accept it. Then there's nothing to be afraid of. But there will be things that we can do. We can write more to hone our craft to the best it can be. We can give our work to crit partners who will (if they're worth their salt) point out the errors and give you suggestions for improvement. That way you can see where you need to improve and work to improve it. Also, having someone else read your work will give you a slightly more accurate measure of your ability to get across what you want readers to see. But crit partners are a topic for another day.

The Red Vinyard at Arles
As for the book not selling, there's always a chance that it won't. It doesn't mean that you're a bad writer. Reading, like art, is subjective. So the amount of books sold does not reflect on your success and failure as a writer. Remember: Vincent Van Gogh sold ONE painting in his lifetime. The rest all went to his brother Theo. Including:

This one (it inspired a song):

Starry Night over St Remy

And my favorite:

The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night
Units sold isn't always a measure of talent. It's a measure (to a large extent) of conformity. It's a measure (to a huge extent) of luck.

If you think about things from this perspective, these fears aren't all that scary, are they? Just never let go of your perspective. It's vital to your sanity as a writer.

What's your greatest writing fear?


  1. This is a truly excellent post. My biggest fear is being trashed by reviewers, even though I have done everything I can to make sure my book is the best it can be. I can't wait for my book to be released, but I am terrified of going to Amazon and seeing a bunch of 1 star reviews!

  2. A novel not selling can end a business relationship with a publisher. For full-time writers, this fear or concern can have major financial consequences. As writing isn't my primary form of income and support, it's nowhere near the same level of concern.

    I hear you, Kyra Lennon. Once your work is out there...some crappy reviews have the potential of derailing the attraction of potential readers.

    1. Now that you mention it, full-time writers have a whole new set of worries and fears.

      In fact, your comment was one more aspect that had me thinking again about whether I'll be taking my WiP the traditional route or not, when the time comes.

  3. Just losing my creativity. I hope that never happens.

  4. Having to go back and re-read my work once it's published and hating it!

  5. You're so right that art is subjective. There are many authors, painters, and other kinds of artists who weren't appreciated until after their time. I think I fear that despite putting all this hard work into my writing, I might never be published. I will still write no matter what, but it would be very devastating if I never achieve that publication dream.

  6. Great post!
    I agree 110% that just if something doesnt sell, doesnt mean its not great, AND just if something does sell, doesnt mean its awesome!
    So much of it is luck, and what people want right at that moment- TIMING is key!

  7. Great post love the artwork.

    I left an AWARD for you over at my blog.It's an effort to get to know my fifteen newest followers better. Stop by and check it out.

  8. Art (in all types) definitely is subjective. And I would've bought Van Gogh's Starry Night in a second given the chance when he was alive and trying to sell it.

    I fear bad reviews will cause people never to buy anything I ever write again. That one title could ruin a career. Not that I hope to ever let that happen because I do try to do the best I can with my ideas and writing, but I still worry about those things.

  9. I love these paintings! You're quite right about those fears. Thankfully writers are naturally stubborn-er-determined folks. We barrel through our fears and continue to write and aim for publication :)

  10. Yep, same fears. Writing, most art I guess, is about baring your heart and soul, and that makes us vulnerable. It's the nature of the beast. We must be brave!

  11. Hey, if it's something you can't control, why fear it?
    Just want my third book to be better than the first two and really satisfy my fans. I want the series to end with a bang. That's my only worry right now.

  12. I fear I won't be good enough too. Yet I think just writing and more writing and learning about the craft can help.

  13. I had no idea that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, there maybe is hope for me. My fears are same as yours...

    Evalina, This and that...

  14. Wow... just learnt something new. Being an artist is painful when you look at Van Cogh as an example. And now everyone knows him.

  15. Wonderful post! One of my fave quotes is: "We are always more afraid than we'd like, but we can always be braver than we expect."

    Thanks for signing up for my Olympic Blog Relay. :)

  16. Love Van's work and it amazes me he died unaware of the fame his work would eventually achieve. You describe my fear very well. As I edge ever closer to the day of handing my MS over to betas, the to my editor, and then the world, my stomach tightens and bottom clenches - excuse my own phrase use there. :)

  17. We writers all have the same fears, but like 'nutshell' said we can be 'determined' enough to 'barrel through our fears'. I still fear the reviews, or lack of them, on Amazon. Publicity the hardest thing we writers have to contend with - the fact that authors, whether we went the traditional or self-published route often struggle to represent ourselves to a wider audience. Book signings aren't enough to promote our work and physical book tours are expensive. We need to pull ourselves up to our greatest height and shout out from the highest mountain, "My name is ... and I am a writer!" :)


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