The Elephant in the Corner: The Writer’s Fear
by Susanne Marie Poulette
Have you ever faced an audience for a speech, recital, oral report, or other presentation? Did your hands shake, did your saliva disappear, or did your heart pound so fast that your voice croaked like an adolescent canary? Performance anxiety. Stage fright. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, or just plain old fear of looking like the village twit. Maybe we’ve all been there on some level–on the spot, with all eyes trained on us. Like the time I attended my young nephew’s violin recital at his home. He played his music in the kitchen, all alone, while the family/audience listened from the living room.
After completing my first novel and revising it for at least a lifetime, I share it sparingly and with great trepidation. Friends ask how my book is coming, and when can they read it. I’m looking for a kitchen recital technique to ease the apprehension in sharing my manuscript. Obviously, there’s no parallel for a writer. Lucky violinists.
So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Maybe a good place to start is to face these fears. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown. All those dark shadows… Will the reader like my novel? Is my writing good enough? How does my writing compare to other works? Yikes, scary.
It’s been said that writing is risk-taking. Okay, it’s not like Evel Knievel jumping one of his canyons on a motorcycle, but it does take courage. For many of us, writing is opening up, exposing ourselves, laying bare a part of our own essence. How do we balance this vulnerability and continue the writing life?
First, we don’t give in to the fears. That would be failure. We can’t hit the finish line if we never run the race.
Second, so what if the reader doesn’t like it? We can’t always please everybody, and not everyone will agree with us. Somebody out there may like it, even if it’s just your mother.
Third, good enough: we’ve opened up and we’ve written from the heart, telling the story that only we can tell. Whose voice could do better in telling our story?
Fourth, how does it compare: to be fair, let’s value the worth of our writing against our own work as it matures and deepens in quality.
I spent my career helping children to find and use their voices. Opening your voice, whether in speaking or writing is opening your heart. As I see it, sharing that voice is Yin and Yang.
We want our work to be read, and we want feedback, preferably, flattering feedback. A Pulitzer nomination would be nice, but not rejection. When the critiques fall short of gratifying, I work to balance the dark with light, and keep my voice vibrant. I’ll share my simple plan:
Remember: no matter what your critics say, you’re the boss of your story.
Stay grounded and grow some thick skin. Don’t let rejection distract you or keep you from writing.
Whether you agree or disagree with a negative critique, use the experience to improve your work and become a better writer.
If it’s a positive critique, celebrate it! Your Pulitzer is waiting.
Posted by: Susanne Marie Poulette