Are You Afraid?

Let me be more specific– are you afraid of writing? Are you afraid of succeeding or failing or being mocked or something like that? So you’ve got this A-MAZING screenplay/sonnet sequence/comic book/journal entry just sitting inside your head, and you know, YOU KNOW, that if you could just get it out there, people would be electrified by it– but something holds you back. What is it?

Here’s the deal: unlike other creative endeavors, it is very, very easy to be a secret writer. Rumor has it that Jane Austen slid her manuscripts beneath her embroidery whenever anyone entered the drawing room where she spent most of her days. It’s not hard to get a rough draft down without anyone being the wiser. If anyone sees you intently involved with your laptop, you can always shut it until they leave. If they ask you for details, you can tell them you were looking at porn (DON’T LOOK AT PORN. IT IS POISON. But it makes for a handy lie. Yeah, I’m a little ok with lying occasionally.  Don’t give me that look! You’re the one who wants to be a secret writer! You’re the one whose WHOLE LIFE is a lie!). They’ll look at you funny, but not as oddly as if you admitted you were neck-deep in fantasyland. So just start writing.

At the site affiliated with NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program (which I love), Sarah Rees Brennan addresses this tension between wanting to get your words out, and being afraid that someone might see them. She says:

Writers have to be both hugely self-doubting (or else how could they make themselves better writers?) and tremendous egotists (or else how could you make something up, and hope that people will pay attention?). Writers can’t earn, say, veterinary degrees, and then quietly point to a diploma if people tell them they aren’t “real” writers. Writers are so often told they aren’t doing it right.

And let’s be real– in your first draft, you won’t be doing it right. But that’s ok! It’s part of the process! You get it all out and then you see what you’ve got and then you pretty it up. Think of your first draft as yourself first thing in the morning after a hard night, and be a little easier on yourself. Anyway, Brennan goes on to talk about a lot of criticisms writers face, and how to write through it. It’s a quick read, but really encouraging. Maybe check it out– and then get writing! NO ONE HAS TO KNOW IF YOU FAIL. (“Fail” as defined by yourself, of course.)

Excerpt from recent stuff, a section about Aleesha:

She reached up to straighten her hair a little and caught a whiff of her hands. Ugh, really? They smelled of latex and powder and just a memory of sweat, no matter how much she washed them or how much cocoa butter she rubbed into them. She’d spent all day in the lab, so she smelled her hands with regret, not surprise, but even on non-lab days (lately, only Sundays) she carried a whiff of plastic and antiseptic. Her pomade smelled like vanilla, though, and that was able to mask it some. But she didn’t have any pomade in her hair today. She leaned her head a little towards her armpit for a status update. Yeah, that was gross.

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