Does a trio of four-letter words keep you from writing?
Most people have ideas for poems and books. It’s the flash of brilliance that comes at three in the morning, the snippet of conversation overheard in a café that compels someone to write a story around, or the inspiration drawn from the awe of standing on a cliff overlooking a lush valley.
If it’s not a lack of ideas, then what holds authors back? In a simple word: themselves.
Writing is as much a talent as it is a habit. Professional athletes get into the habit of training and keep to it. Top-performing professionals adopt routines for their work—they stay abreast of trade magazines, expand their networks, take professional development courses, and work at it.
Work is a four-letter.
Work is daunting because it tests your self-esteem and endurance. It takes someone with heart and pits them against people who are further along in their journey. Work represents an investment, and investments are always risky. What happens if the investment doesn’t pay off? What happens when you spend so much effort writing something, and it doesn’t turn out to be the next New York Times bestseller?
You’ll still have earned those words on the page. You’ll have written more than if you hadn’t tried. There is a reward in effort if you acknowledge how much effort you put in. If you didn’t put your best into it (multi-million-dollar book deal or no), you won’t feel good about it.
Work is needed. Without work, words don’t come out and don’t get edited. Nothing is free. No record-setting athlete achieved that status without work. No multi-millionaire that started a business reached that status without work. You gain knowledge through application and work.
Fear is another four-letter word.
Fear is staring at a blank notebook, not wanting to scribble down thoughts and sentences because they might not be good enough. Here’s a reality check: there is always someone better. It doesn’t matter who you are, in what line of work you’re in, or where you live. There is always someone who does what you do better. That’s life. The best author today will be a good author tomorrow because the species advances. Techniques, cumulative knowledge, and ways to learn continue to expand. We have more access to educational resources than we did twenty years ago and will gain more access over the next twenty years.
Potent and powerful, fear controls and dominates. Fear is what sets the boundaries of what is comfortable and what isn’t. Yet, growth doesn’t occur without pushing boundaries. How do you overcome fear?
Write one sentence. Then write another.
Are you afraid of the words on the page? Did they bite you? No. Good.
Write a full chapter and submit it to review.
Oh. More fear. Heart-pounding fear that sucks the moisture off your tongue. What’s there to fear? Facing yourself. Looking down the long tunnel of how much more work you’ll need to achieve your goal or facing that you aren’t perfect.
No one’s perfect. Professional editors don’t find every error. Pick up a book published by a large publishing company, and you’ll find some type-os, issues with formatting, and inconsistencies such as the character had brown eyes in chapter one but now has blue eyes in chapter seven without explanation.
Give yourself permission to learn. Learning a skill, trade, craft, or profession is a constant evolution. You’ll never know everything about a subject. If you approach it with a learning mentality, you’ll enjoy the process much more.
Why? Because you can laugh at your own mistakes. You can take a breath and look back to see how far you’ve come. You can own your accomplishments, even if you don’t land that multi-million deal on your first novel.
Here’s a third four-letter word: time.
Spend time learning a craft. Spend money attending seminars, workshops, conferences, and professional associations. Spend more time reading and learning and getting curious about how other authors structured that perfect sentence, formulated words that struck a chord, and made you weep.
Time is an investment. It carries another four-letter word: risk.
Here’s a question: is there anything of value in which you didn’t invest time? Did you find the love of your life within the first sentence and then no put any more effort into the relationship? Did you expect to buy $10 of one stock and be instantly rewarded with a million-dollar pension package? Did you expect an education in your profession to last one week?
We are not yet to the point where we can download data and experiences directly into our brains. We all need time to build trust in ourselves and skills, build relationships with others, and apply and hone skills.
If you aren’t willing to invest the time, how does that relate to your fear? What can you do to rebalance the relationships between time-fear to get more work done?
I encourage you to reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to share your experiences with these four-letter words.
I’d like to thank @d_missan for the inspiration for the name of this blob (B-Plot)