Fear, Part 3
By Deri Pryor, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio
So, after my two previous installments, you are all jazzed up with confidence, right? Determined to finish all the things? Feeling like you’re all set, like it’s all smooth sailing from here?
Nothing in this world is a straight line from concept to completion. You will hit snags, bumps, entire walls, which will threaten to put you back to square one with the whole fear/confidence thing. How you deal with obstacles is as much a part of your success with writing as talent or technique. This is where your support network comes into play.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. No one can see us when we decide to not write and instead stay up way into the night watching kung fu movies in our underwear, crying into a pint of Rocky Road ice cream. No one is going to kick our butts into action. No one else can take away the fear. No one can practice for us. No one else can finish what we start. No one else can make us believe in ourselves.
Yet, we still need a community of support, which is something we quite frankly suck at sometimes. Most writers are inherently introverted to some extent. We like our space and we hold a lot close to the chest. It’s difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to ask for help.
When I say support network, I’m talking more than your spouse, your kids, your nana, or whoever is in your life pumping their fists and shouting “you got this!” Don’t get me wrong. Those people are awesome, and essential, but in terms of practicality you also need a writing community, a group of people who intimately understand the nuances of writing.
If you are in an MFA program, such as the Bluegrass Writers Studio, you already have a built in community. Yes, we are thrust together into workshops and forced to read each other’s work and write critiques for a grade, etc and so on, but take it one step beyond that. Reach out beyond the classes. Make time to get together, even if it’s online, to talk about what you are working on, hash out ideas, rant about what’s not working.
There’s a small group of us that started a Facebook group chat, a little impromptu thing that just happened, and we use it to do just that. Most convos look a little something like this:
Writer having a bad day: “This writing thing sucks.”
The rest of us: “We know.”
That’s it. That’s all. We know. That’s all they need, to know that we know and that they are not alone. We then offer suggestions, encouragement, or just listen. We send silly stickers or pictures. Sometimes we don’t talk about writing at all, and that’s ok too, because some days you got to just let it go and remember there is a life outside of writing.
There are other practical things you can do to foster community. Find a writing group, one that isn’t tied to your program to get some fresh perspectives. Go to reading events. Go to open mics. If you can’t get to the one here in Richmond that EKU puts on, find one close to you. Go, listen, participate. Holy crumpets, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to participate in writing events.
Too scared to read in front of a crowd? Go back and read parts 1 and 2. That fear won’t magically melt away unless you practice. What happens when you finally do finish that best seller, and it gets published, and you are required to go on a whirlwind tour of signings and readings? Huh? What then? You can’t exactly tell the publisher “Sorry, I can’t read in front of a crowd. I throw up.”
Reading your work aloud builds confidence and fosters community. At that point, the writing isn’t even about you. It won’t belong to you. It will belong to your audience, who will be very much a part of your community, and you will owe them. Their enthusiasm for your writing in turn helps build that confidence. It’s a symbiotic relationship that will never get started unless you start participating in a writing community which will carry you over the humps.
Writing is a whole circle of life thing and that shadowy place is your fear. No one can conquer it but YOU, but you can’t do it without practice, confidence, and community.
Published on September 14, 2015