Friday, September 25, 2009

Fear and the First Line

Latayne and Katy, thanks for the wonderful discussions. I've been following with great interest as I travel through the deep, rainy, flooded, humid south. Send water wings!

I'm a good distance into my sixth novel, my first historical fiction, and I hate my first line. In fact, I'm not at all sure where the story begins, although now that I'm over a thousand miles from my manuscript, I'm beginning to see things differently. A little cut-and-paste. A new first scene. That's all it needs.


I'm scared.

And fear kills creativity.

And so, I'm done with fear. Fear of disappointing my publisher and readers and myself. I'm headed for the pirate life, at least when it comes to my writing. (My dog will still expect morning walks on schedule.) I'm reckless. A carouser with words and ideas. I swing my sword and jab. Dialogue. Description. Narrative. Take that!


I never expected to be dealing with fear at this stage of the game, but with three of my books already out of print and the publishing world obsessed with the bottom line--as I know they must be--well, I'm c-o-n-c-e-r-n-e-d (Christian-ese for terrified.) I just can't get this story right.

Am I so different? I'm most bold when I feel safe. And this world is not safe.

But Jesus is. He is the one I write for, the one I long to please. I'm sorry to say that I've let things go topsy-turvy now that I'm a "player" in the publishing world. It's time for a course correction. As one of my favorite Sarah Groves songs says, "I live and breathe for an audience of One." That's my goal, anyway.

Is fear keeping you from moving ahead with a writing project? How do you deal with fear of failure? Do you have a writing ritual to remind you for Whom you write? Share!


Lisa Karon Richardson said...

I'm always a touch terrified when I start a new project, and I'm not even published yet.

Still, I always have this feeling that I'm going to run out of words, or that there is no fresh way of saying something, or that I just won't be able to pull it off.

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. I think we'd be crazy not to wonder whether we can do it justice. I keep going by just thinking, that's what rewrites are for. No one will see my first draft but me. I prefer rewriting to first writing for this very reason. I don't have to fear the blank page... until the next project of course.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Patti!

I definitely know where you're coming from! For me, it's the fear of failing to ever get a book published. I don't write for validation and success, and I will keep writing until I die. But my heart clenches at the thought of never having a dream realized, the fear of not being good enough. I get most story ideas one at a time, so there's always the fear that each one will be my last. And then there's the wait to see what's coming. That can be excruciating.

There's another Sara Groves song that really encourages me--"When the Saints". Whenever I get discouraged or afraid, I listen to it and remind myself of those who have gone before and lived by faith. I want to live by faith. I want to write by faith too.

I'll be absent from the internet for the next week or so, but will definitely come back! And I'll be praying for you in the meantime! Have a great day!

Sarah Forgrave said...

As an unpublished writer, I'm not sure if I'm encouraged or discouraged to learn that the fears continue after you've crossed that hurdle.

As for redirecting my focus, I like to listen to songs like "Be the Centre" or "Be Thou My Vision" to get my mind and heart in tune for what I'm about to write.

Nicole said...

You might or might not appreciate this post, Patti.

Just write it. Doggone it. Just write it. Trust in the Lord and you know: don't lean on your own understanding. It isn't all about the rules, the way to make a better story, the techniques, etcetera. It's about the heart sown story. Go for it. You know how.

Lynn said...

I'm not a writer so maybe I don't know all the ins and outs. But I'd say that first of all you're never going to make everyone happy no matter how hard you try so just scratch that one off your list. You need to enjoy the ride! You're a writer because you love to write! You need to get back to that. Remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place! Push all thoughts of deadlines and pleasing people as far down in your mind as you can and focus on the characters. Who are they to you? What do you want to say through them? Is it a good message? Do you like the characters? What would they want you to have them say?
Probably not much help at all, but I hate it when I see people having to get caught up in the business of what they do and lose track of the joy they used to feel doing it!
(And much as I love the Chrome browser it won't let me post comments on blogs! Almost lost this...had to copy and paste into Firefox...of course most writers seem to use Macs and never have these problems, right?)

Carla Gade said...

It is a subtle thing sometimes, but when I am stressing over writing and find myself fearful of not meeting the standard I am striving for I usually realize I'm focusing a little too much on my own ability rather than the gift God gave me. When I stop believing in "myself" and start believing in "Him" it makes all the difference!

Kathleen Popa said...

You're not asking me are you? I couldn't begin to tell you how not to be afraid.

Okay, I'll begin just a little: I pray the hours with The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. I've got all the books for all the seasons of the year, plus the Night Offices for my inner insomniac. I'll admit that I miss a lot of those hours, but when I sit down to pray, it helps to have some words ready-made to say that are different from the worry-track in my head. Once I start, I almost always find my own words, but this is a way in.

When I pray, for just those few moments at least, I am unafraid. And I believe that those few moments help all the rest.