Without realizing it, I think I decided at the beginning of 2019 that I was going to have my own “year of yes.” Which means I’ve done a lot of things in the past four months that have scared me, both creatively and otherwise without really considering not doing them as an option.
Writing-wise, this has meant I’ve dug deep into many stories I’ve avoided writing for a long time. Like many aspiring writers, I do worry about what other people think. It doesn’t usually affect my work, except when it comes to my creative projects outside of the work I get paid to do.
Sometimes, in my head, I’m still that fifteen year old writing books on her computer instead of doing math homework (sorry Mom). My parents might read this story! My teachers! My friends! I can’t make them as dark and twisty as I want to because people would look at me weird! Like, why is a fifteen year old writing about THAT? IS SHE OK? DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO HER?
I am, in fact, a grown adult who can write about whatever she pleases thank you very much. But part of me is still afraid, or has been, even to write these things in spaces no one else would ever see them.
Why? Because fear is so easy to hold onto, and so difficult to let go of. We hold onto it sometimes for years without realizing we’ve forgotten to cast it aside.
It’s difficult to do until you do it. Write the things you fear you can’t, I mean.
When you do this — when you take a chance, step over that line, accept the risk, do the thing that terrifies you most of all — there is a good chance you’re not going to come out on the other side successful. And that, more than anything else, is what keeps people on the comfortable side of creation.
We don’t like the idea of failing.
But even more than that, we don’t like the idea of working very hard on something for an extended period of time only to fail.
We feel we have so many things filling our time — and/or are pressured to fill our time with so many things — that we don’t want to put effort into something that isn’t going to be worth our time.
Even worse, we don’t want to have to spend more time on something than we feel should be necessary, generally. Ideally, we’d love to sit down, crank out something in a few hours, and send it off without ever returning to it. It’s efficient. It’s easy. It takes effort — but not too much. It proves we did the work without us having to break much of a sweat.
Or it would. If that was anything close to how writing in the real world actually works.
Writing isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s why not everyone can do it successfully. It’s those who are willing to fail a thousand times in exchange for one victory that find the most success as writers. The more you’re able to laugh in the face of fear, the more chances you’ll have to kick failure down forty flights of stairs and watch it suffer.
Write what scares you. Because it’s only going to scare you more if you don’t do it.
Failure is always an option. But it’s only an option if you try. Otherwise, it’s just the default.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.