Friday, July 08, 2011

Afraid of Writing Well

I was watching Apocalypse Now and the ending scene where Charlie Sheen is leaving on the chopper, going back home to the US, forever changed. We don't see him arrive home, but we know he's lost any innocence. His future won't be what he'd planned before he volunteered for Vietnam.(**Okay, based on comments below, let me correct this to Platoon. It wasn't Apocalypse Now. Oops)

Sometimes we fear stepping into another world, knowing we'll be forever changed. That's why most of us hate to relocate to a new environment or change jobs. Sometimes we remain married for fear of divorce, or remain single for fear of marriage.

Maybe we're leery of pitching $1/word magazines or querying New York agents because we fear what will happen if they say yes, we want to see your work. We want to watch you perform. We want to see if you've got what it takes.

Stepping up scares the hell out of writers, because it's life altering.

Alone at our computers, we can dream and imagine unencumbered. We blog, Facebook, chat on forums and Tweet about our efforts to rise to some level of professional recognition. We talk about the hours we wrote, the number of words we recorded, the conferences where we networked, and the classes we took as if that's all it takes to succeed. But we know that the true test comes when we are alone, writing pure material, and then have to send it to strangers with gatekeeper authority.Even if we self-publish, we write from the heart, package it up, and throw it to the wolves that are the Amazon readers of the world.

And we hold our breath, feeling at the mercy of Fate and people who have no clue about the level of passion poured into our words.

Even with all the books flooding the market right now, there are many more writers who haven't followed through. They haven't reached THE END, or haven't studied how to format a Kindle manuscript, or haven't mailed the query to a string of agents they researched and recorded on a spreadsheet. They are afraid.

They play safe with an evergreen Christmas story about finding the right gift instead of tackling a rawer one about Christmas greed.  They blog about their daily lives instead of digging deep and seizing an opinion piece that makes them commit to a stand on a volatile issue. They submit to writing mills instead of magazines. And yes, they sometimes self-publish instead of seeking agents or traditional publishers. They are afraid.

Success can be little more than going all the way, regardless of what people think.

Be not afraid of how others will judge. Be afraid of how you'll judge yourself one day for not daring to do.

(Be proud of yourself. And have a great weekend.)

11 comments:

Sioux said...

Being unpublished: the known. Being published: the unknown. The unknown is always a bit scary.

BECKY said...

Amazing! Last night and today, I'm feeling the side of myself that says, "Go for it!"

Thanks, Hope, for always reminding me of what's important. Your blog is one of the first I always turn to.

Dianna said...

This is a great post, but the actor in Apocalypse now is Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen's dad.

Julie Musil said...

Hope, this is great. Sure, this ride is scary and leaves us vulnerable. But I'd rather try and fail than never try at all. Thanks for the inspiration, and have a great weekend.

Carol Riggs said...

Nice post! It does indeed take guts. And perseverance. But worth it in the end to know I've climbed that mountain. Rah!

Followed a tweet here; nice to meet you! :)

Hope Clark said...

Carol
This post is gaining a little momentum on Twitter. That's cool. I adore Twitter. I also like the fact that writers are identifying with the post. Writing is scary. Sometimes we wade in, other times we jump in, and on the rare occasion we dive in. But we have to enter the water or we never get wet.

Have a great weekend.

Kristi Bernard said...

Great post. I am that author. To chicken to really dive in. I was thinking baby steps were okay.

Annette Lyon said...

Well said. I know a lot of people who could go far but don't because they're afraid of success. They wouldn't ever admit it even to themselves, but it's true.

annebingham said...

Um, that would be Charlie Sheen's dad, Martin Sheen. The resemblance is striking, isn't it?

(And having admired Martin's work for a long time, and being a parent, my heart aches for him and Charlie's mother every time I hear one of those jokes. Something is obviously very wrong with Charlie; if he had cancer would there be jokes?)

geniuswaitress said...

Love you, Hope, but Charlie Sheen gave me a giggle. Was he even born?

Pen Name for this blog: TJ said...

This was such a great post! My close friends can't understand why I have waited a year to send anything in. What you write here describes my fears perfectly. Thank you for sharing.