Friday, August 6, 2010

The Most Important Question a Writer Can Ask: Part 5, Facing the Fear

At some point in your writing life, you'll ask yourself that all important question—why am I doing this? We've been exploring the power of "why" in recent posts, and noted that it breeds other queries. Here's another example of that: Sometimes the question "why am I doing this" really means "am I cut out to be a writer?"

This question comes up a lot in the context of what we've been looking at—writer's block, internal Q&A and critique groups. It can arise in writers even without an external prompt. And if it hasn't come up for you yet, it will. So, let's take a closer look.

Writers, like everyone else, fear questions because they fear the answers, the most terrifying of which is: Does the fact that I'm having all these problems mean I'm not cut out to be a writer? Before dumping your calling, consider what this writer once said. "A book comes in fits and jerks … It made very good progress for quite a long time, in fact until last Thursday … The next three days I went into a depression that was devastating. Now it is Monday … I am forced to lift myself out of the despondency by the bootstraps." That was Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, as quoted in John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel, The East of Eden Letters. The journal is worth reading for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the comfort of finding that writers aren't alone in their fears.

To face your writing fear, do what we've been doing. Ask yourself why you're afraid, what is it that's causing so much agida? As before, to unlock the power of "why," answer the question honestly, in detail and, in this instance, maybe in your journal instead of a Tweet.

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