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Lisa / November 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo Week 2: Fear of Flying


So we’ve made it to week 2. If you’re on schedule, you should hit 16,670 words sometime today.

I am not on schedule. I am SO AMAZINGLY behind schedule. It’s not a time factor, or laziness. It’s fear. I am terrified of the story that I am trying to tell.

So instead of telling it, I’ve been researching. And reading writing books. In prepping for this book I’ve read GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker. I’ve also watched the entire ten-episode run of a coal mining reality show. In a day. All valuable work, for sure, but all also performed as a way to avoid writing the actual story.

All of this is tremendously ironic given that the writing advice I am most likely to give to anyone at any time is “write anyway.” I’ve joked that my tombstone should probably read WRITE THE THING.

But maybe not so ironic. A lot of the time, I tend to give the advice I need most to hear myself. And right now, I need someone standing over me going WRITE THE THING, LISA. The only one who can do that, of course, is me.

What do you do when you’re paralyzed by fear? Well, the first thing is to realize what’s happening. This usually takes me a little bit, since I’m so good at disguising it with other ‘productive’ activity. I just realized what was going on with this story yesterday.

What are you afraid of? Most of the time it’s failure. But even a fear of failure can take on any number of aspects. For me, fear of failure is often connected to a past success. I’m working on a follow up to a project that’s been successful beyond my expectations, so the underlying thought is “I can’t do that a second time. It won’t be as good/successful.” So I stop trusting my own skills and start scrambling for a way to boost them (hence the writing books).

I do this every time something goes well. I am absolutely worthless for weeks post-book release because I’m too caught up in a) how the book is doing and b) psyching myself out that I can’t do it again. It’s gotten to be a joke with my writer friends who know me best. Success of any sort throws me off kilter. It’s one of my personal quirks that goes beyond writing.

And often, that’s a key in figuring out the blocks and weaknesses in your own process: know yourself, know your quirks and your neuroses. Chances are good, whatever they are in your outside life, they’ll spill over into your writing life too. Knowing them, and knowing how to work around them, will help you get past any sort of fear or block.

Figure out what sort of reward you’re getting by NOT writing. Because there is one, even if it’s just “avoiding failure”. Mine is usually that as long as I haven’t written a book, it gets to stay perfect and ideal inside my head. Once I write it, it’s never as good. I have to wrestle past that every time I work on a new project. You may have a different “reward”. Find it, and figure out why it’s not the reward your mind is telling you, and decide if the rewards of having written are greater (if you’re like me, they usually are).

With the new reward of having written fixed in your mind, and with a clearer understanding of why you resist writing, it’s finally time to sit down and WRITE THE THING.

Which I’m about to go do. By my calculations, I have to write 2200 words a day to catch up on NaNoWriMo (told you I was way behind), so I better get started.

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