Tomorrow I begin my very first ROW80 writing challenge.
I am terrified.
I’m not “horror film, hysterical screaming” terrified. I’m “trying to find a logical reason not to do the challenge” terrified.
I’m not afraid to write. I write a lot. I write long blog posts, I write long e-mails, I write long journal entries. I’m even a last-remaining member of that rare breed who writes actual sent-through-the-postal-service letters to friends and family. What I am afraid of is what’s on the page and its reception in the wider world.
Part of the fear is that people won’t connect with my writing. They’ll finish reading—or, worse, just start reading—and say “meh,” and continue on with their lives unchanged. I can accept this possibility. I’ve not written a story or an extended personal essay in ten years. It’s quite possible that I’ll need a good deal of practice to get my internal writing apparatus into good working order. “Meh” writing is frustrating, but I can cure it through deliberate practice, writing more, seeking feedback, and reading effective writing by others with an eye for effective techniques I might incorporate into my own writing.
If it were just a matter of setting my mind to it and carpet-bombing the publishing industry with my written words, I think I could handle that. What worries me more is the fear that rejection of my writing equates to a rejection of me. If someone says, “This story is pedestrian, cliched, idiotic pap,” I fear that translates to, “CJ is an ignorant loser who is an idiot for even trying to write.” If someone says, “This story is mundane and utterly inconsequential,” I fear that’s not just true of the words I’ve written but of me as a person.
And I fully realize that even this fear is cliched. Mundane. Even inconsequential. (I’m not even original in my anxieties, says that nasty voice in my head.)
My ROW80 challenge this round doesn’t sound terrifically ambitious. I plan to use the book The Pen and the Bell by Holly Hughes and Brenda Miller. I’ll write and meditate each day (aiming for five days a week, but seven would be fine, too), focusing on the exercises and reflections in one chapter a week. My goal is to neutralize some of the scariness of writing by establishing a writing routine and recapturing some of the playfulness I used to feel around writing.
The key, I think, will be finding a way to face the reality that not all of my writing is going to be any good as well as the reality that not everyone is going to like me. It’s true whether I write or not, so I might as well write.
Still. I’m scared.
Tomorrow it begins.
- Page Fright – by Jane Ayres (creatabot.co.uk)
- Page Fright: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Words (writingnerdy.com)