I was cleaning out a drawer yesterday. If I had to name my favorite household task, I'd say, "Rearranging closets and drawers." You get to throw out or donate stuff (I'm not the pack rat type), you see what you've got, and you can make new arrangements. Oh, and if you can't fit everything into your fridge, give me a call. I'll make it fit! Even my mother has surrendered her skepticism.
Well, a year or so ago, I was asked to lead an online discussion on the topic of writing fears. For one reason or another the workshop didn't happen, and in the aforementioned drawer I found my notes. They contain this quote from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:
"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars."
Wow. Impactful way to break the news that your first novel, and very likely your second, third, or even more, won't sell. And shouldn't. This is always a hard point to raise with students, and I do so with relatively few. It would be unnecessarily discouraging to those who are still having struggles with basic craft and are not ready to think about marketing.
Yet, this quote helps put several writing fears into perspective. "It's not working!" Maybe it isn't, but producing quantity will teach you. "The story is better in my head than on the page!" Vision is always ahead of execution. This is normal. You're producing quantity. You'll begin to close this gap somewhat, but it can't be completely closed. "It's too revealing!" But now you're getting somewhere. You're getting close to taking flight. Maybe you'll even soar.
There are lots of other fears. One of the more fascinating to me is the fear of putting your potential at risk. It's easier to have potential than it is to risk acting on that potential and finding out you can't live up to it. Of course, if you're defining "can't live up to it" as "I produce a lot of work that stinks," see the Art and Fear quote. Another fascinating fear is the fear of making the final push to make a book all it can be. You're so "almost there," but you drag your feet on a final revision. I've seen this in action. Perhaps it's related to the fear of risking potential. Or the fear that this, too, will not be a piece that soars.
Your thoughts? Your fear? If you dare, share it here! :)