Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fear Is The Mind Killer

Strange how writers seem in a constant state of fear and obsessive terror over nearly every aspect of writing.

Twitch. Shudder. Shake.
Moan. Wring. Writhe.

A general list:
1. Fear of not being able to finish a novel. Will get stuck at chapter five with nowhere to go.

2. Fear that when finished it will be crap. Big Crap. Slit-your-throat crap. 110,000 wordsworth ( that's intentional - I don't like Wordsworth) of Crap.

3. Fear that your plot and characters and conflict will resemble some work you never heard of - and they will have done it better. Much better.

4. Fear that your query will end up on an agent's/editor's website as a horrible example to all aspirants or on their bulletin boards reserved for Worst Ever as a daily guffah.

5. Fear that the above will toss your writing solely because you have used an ugly stamp, wrong envelope, the wrong font, the wrong title, s/he hates the hero/ine's name, you have one typo in the first 50 pages, put the page # in the header/footer and the agent/editor wants it the other way....

6. No agent/editor will touch it with a ten-foot pole because dragons/vampires/ chick lit/westerns/regencies/virgins/Ethopians/ hula hoopers/space ships/wizards/talking llamas are out/in and yours is/isn't.

7. That the Post Office, the UPS, and the office boy/intern are united together in a dastardly plot to lose your manuscript. And even if they aren't, your partial/full will be lost anyway.

8. That if you manage to interest an agent, said agent will inevitably turn out to be a scam artiste. If you interest an editor, the publishing house will immediately go into receivership.

9. If you manage to sell it - no one will buy it; and your Amazon rankings will be calculated in light years.

10.If you sell it and it does reasonably well, some idiot you never heard of will sue you...

It goes on and on.
Crossing bridges and borrowing trouble.
Feel free to add.

Arse : posterior or buttocks, Standard English until ca 1660, then a vulgarity.
Arse-crawler or creeper: A sychophant; low colloquial; late 19th c >.
Assassin: an ornamental bow worn on a woman's breast. 19th >. Very killing.
Auld Hornie: (1.)the devil. Mainly Scots. 18th-20thc. (2) the penis; a pun on horn { diya think?}, a priapism.


Mark Pettus said...

Serial Fears? I'd add more, but I'm only on #8, and until now I thought that was the end of the list.

Curses, foiled again.

Bernita said...

I'm AFRAID there are lots more, Mark.

Kirsten said...

Fear that you'll sell it, become rich and famous, and wake up one morning to find out that you're the subject of an NYT expose featuring intimate accounts of your teenage years by people who knew you "when."

Bernita said...

That's a really good one, Kirsten.
The Thing from the Lagoon of our murky(?) past.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Borrowing trouble! Hahahahahahaha!

I say that all the time, and my husband says "quit speaking Eastern."

Yep, Bernita's right - there are plenty of fears and they go on and on. How about the fear that when you get a deal people will treat you differently? How about the fear that you'll be seen as an avenue to success instead of a friend?

I think Bernita did a very good job of pointing out the fears aren't only in the writing but also in the business and that even once you're published there are new fears. Even if you're successful.

James had a good comment on my blog today about the importance of support groups. We need a team! Fearbusters!

Savannah Jordan said...

Oy! Since I have one ms sold, and others on reserve by a different pub, #9 is the one that haunts me now. *clings to blankie*

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sandra.
"Borrowing trouble" is Eastern?
~mouth drops~
Makes one curious about his regional equivalent.
"Fear busters"...I like that. The Fearqueteers.
Umm, I think FearBusters is better somehow.
Hmmm, fear that success will provide new perceptions and reveal unpleasant characteristics in people you thought appreciated you for yourself - fear and the Scarlet "W."

Get that blankie out of your mouth, Savannah, they'll want them.

Rick said...

#8-B - fear that your agent, though honest and capable, had a computer glitch, and the one project that evaporated from all her records is your novel. Or else she has died, run off with George Clooney, or otherwise left the industry.

So you work on the sequel like a good boy, which exposes you to #2 as well.

One thing they don't tell you about giving yourself permission to write a bad first draft - when you read it, yep, it's pretty bad.

Ric said...

Meanwhile, we keep plugging away.

Fear of success. Will it change me? Will it make all the little problems in my life go away? Will my friends be jealous or happy for me?

Will I become a world class a**hole?
Much better to keep telling everyone I'm a writer, I'm trying to sell a novel, ...
If it sells, then that's a whole list of new problems. Do I really want that in my life?

Bernita said...

Yes, Rick.
The E-terror.
You can back it up to the query process too.
Did they get the query?
Is it their policy not to respond to projects that don't interest them - or did it get lost in a spam-filter, accidentially deleted?
Will you get put on The Black List if you query again?
Bad first draft: One fear I don't have. I know it's going to be a bad first draft. I just try to get the ducks in a row before I put feathers on them.

Bernita said...

A very good one, Ric.
Will it change the comfortable things in my life?
Will there be obligations and expectations I won't be able to handle with any form of grace?
Will I end up doing something irretrevibly stupid?
Will I no longer be allowed - because of marketplace pressures - to be forthright and direct?
The list goes on.

jason evans said...

I dealt with the fear by becoming a Bene Gesserit.

Seriously, though, the fear that's it's crap has to be the ultimate fear. And it's one I'm not sure we ever, ever get over.

Bernita said...

I AM a Bene Gesserit - and so's my daughter.
It doesn't help sometimes.

But I agree, Jason - the fear that it's crap, people are only being kind, someday everyone will realize it's just crap and turn on you with scorn and contempt.
I do think that is the greatest and most long lasting fear.
That you're just fooling yourself.

Erik Ivan James said...

Another exellent post Bernita. Thank you.

Bernita said...

People's comments are always the best part, Erik.

ivan said...

Sandra seems to have a pretty good take on it. All I can do is try to extend.
The Eastern thing is a gas. It is somehow foisted on us Westerners who choose to fish in forbidden
streams and go hunting after exotic beasties.
It is the I-Ching.

"Before completion, success.
If, before completion,
the little fox
dips his tail into the water
Noting will further."

And we so want to dip our tails into the water...and when we do, Flip, the little fox(vixen?) is almost off the log that serves as her bridge.
I am no occultist,but it seems to me that someone, some Chinese person (Confucious?) had the same problem, but it is a problem twenty-thre hundred years old, and though it shifts position constantly, you can never really be rid of it. Leonard Cohen swears by the I-Ching, but I kind of trust science, the science we invented, the postitive attitude.
Yet we do tend to dip our tails into the water.
Turn the problem over. Say you want to be a rock star. On your sparse seven chords and a little detuning you produce something like Nirvana might and you are on
your way. You go on the road. You have to be consistently brilliant and innovative. This is hard to do since you were an ordinary bloke in the first place. So you do the alcohol, you do the drugs. And then whoops, you dip your tail into the water.
My doctor came to me at the height of my success. "You can't keep it up, the smoking, the drinking. You are about to dip your tail into the water."
I did.
Probably because this scribbler is a compulsive bastard. The novel is like sex; everything goes in but your very ass. You can't be
a marathon snogger forever. There is a price. Something will go wrong with your shift lever mechanism.
It did.
Rehabing from the rehab.
Writing about the rehab.
Whoops. Back up on that log.
"Before completion..."

M. G. Tarquini said...


This is funny. I've already had my synopsis put up there as a shining example of 'What not to do'. No. 51 on the crapometer, enshrined forever, or until Miss Snark cancels her blog.

I figure, I've nowhere to go but up.

Dennie McDonald said...

Fear that your editor was high when she bought it and you will never sell again - oh please don't tell her I said that! - shh wasn't me....

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yea, I'm with synopsis made Miss Snark want to set her hair on fire....I can only get better!

"I don't have time to fear the unknown," she says as she ducks Bernita's swat upside the head."I'm too busy getting into trouble!"

Bernita said...

Are you confusing cause and effect again, Ivan?

Mindy, hardly anyone knows it was your tail.

Don't hide under the blankie, Dennie.

ivan said...

Jaysus Bernita,
I am too obscure to think that everyting is my fault, that it centres around me. The world is a dangersous place, full of horse's asses, sometimes they happen to be doctors. They told me I had bad
foo-foo valve. I got this stunning mistress and found out I had a good foo-foo valve.
But then maybe you're right.
My Gaugin number pissed a lot of people off.
Ah, but the play's the thing.
But how did the great bard explain all this to Anne Hathaway?
Ay, there's the rub.
I am a rub?
Leave my Aqua Velva alone.

Bernita said...

Oh, Bonnbie, you are such a dear!
My page made her want to stand on her chair and scream.

Ivan, do I dare say and quote the same William, "But screw your courage to the sticking place...?"
Shaking your spear at the world is all we have.

M. G. Tarquini said...

yeah, Bernita. I can only hope the agent doesn't google Brothers and Tristin together.

Sela Carsen said...

#1. It is my all-consuming fear. That I will leave behind me hundreds and hundreds of First Four Chapters. I already have almost two dozen sets of them. And for all that, I've completed one novella and one short story. It's a legitimate fear.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey, seriously, my husband thinks I'm nuts with some of my expressions. He's discounted them to being "easternisms" because I was born and raised in Ontario.

I just tell him he needs to get out more and expand his mind. LOL!

But I have lived in the west for 14 years now, so that makes me officially a middler, I think.

Bernita said...

Mindy, they wouldn't think anything of it.Because I'm certain it doesn't sound the same now. They really don't expect writers to emerge full-blown from the forehead of Zeus, you know.

Most people have one or more of those, Sela.You may go back to them as things progress.Some motors need priming for a while.

Let's see,Sandra, "borrow trouble" - colloquial, from 1890. Not your fault the West was slow to be settled.

archer said...

Pink elephants! Pink elephants!

Pink elephants on parade!

I'm afraid!


MissWrite said...

I love it. How do you keep coming up with such wonderful observations? I can't think of a thing to add to your writer's worrys. Loved the Amazon rankings in light years thing. That was hilarious.

Oh, and Kristen: That's a fear I'd love to have... happen.

MissWrite said...

Ahem, make that worries.

Okay there's my writer's fear: to have something published and see 'worrys'... LMAO. (has happened. Cringe.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Bernita! You say that from your safe distance! I bite my tongue!

(Wouldn't they just say we're stuck in the past and can't get with the times?!)

Gabriele C. said...

That people who read my sex scenes think they represent my sex life, and that I'm a bisexual man hiding behind a female pen name. *grin*

Bernita said...

Lay off the booze, Archer, your writing's so good you don't need it.

Thank you, Tami, and that's a good one.
Have it published with a glaring misprint on the VERY FIRST PAGE and have all the reviewers blame you.

That's when it came into common parlance,Sandra, it's still current - but you can't argue with men.They get petty jollies that way.

That's not a fear, Gabriele, that's a compliment to your writing skill.
One the other hand, I suppose a fear that people will think one has a torrid, illicit sex life might be a concern. What would be even more uncomfortable would be people thinking one didn't have a torrid sex life and one's sex scenes were compensation.
We can't win that one, I afraid.

ivan said...

Beware the gay limbo dancer

Ric said...

I had that happen. Wrote a sick, dark story with sadomasochistic elements with drugs thrown in for good measure.
My roomate locked me out of the house.
She was really UPSET.

ivan said...

Whitney Streiber is pretty good
when he gets the wind up.
"I'm afraid you'll have to take a
little heat," she said, turning up the heat.

Shesawriter said...

So we should all be on Prozac. Is that it? LOL!


ivan said...

Writing is play.
We are playing.
And how we are plalying.

Ballpoint Wren said...

Fear that I will be revealed for the total incompetent I am, an incompetent with delusions of... competence?

Heh! When I make a mistake, my heart starts to pound... Oh no! Did anyone see? Quick! Fix it!

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