Dear Indie Annie,
I have a fear of succeeding, of finishing. Since January I have written two novels … well, almost two. For the last two and a half weeks, I have been frozen on the last chapter of book two.
It’s actually a very simple chapter; however, it sets up everything that’s going to take place in book three, so a lot is riding on getting it right. And now every time I sit down to write it, I’m frozen in front of the screen, unable to get words out. It’s like when I first decided to start writing.
Do you have any advice/strategies that could help me push through and get this done?
Pressured in Peterborough
My, my, my! You have gotten yourself into a bit of a brain pickle, haven’t you? My dear, you are suffering from that legendary malady—writer’s block. Symptoms include a complete paralysis of thought brought on by fear and self-loathing.
There are many likely causes. One of my personal favorites is fear of success. Not failure, pah, who is really afraid of failure? Unless you are going for the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl and screw it up, losing the love of your team, your family, friends, and tens of thousands of football fans! For most of us, failure simply means we either decide to go again or decide not to. But then, we aren’t star quarterbacks.
So much more rides on the back of success.
I mean, what if you actually did it? What if thousands, nay millions, of people read your books and love them? What if those millions read book one, book two, and then… you can’t deliver on book three? That trilogy you slaved away over for the past few years lands like a pinata strung up under a waterfall. Man, that kind of failure is unfathomable, so best to drop out now. Right?
If you push through and succeed, you know there is the probability that your life will change. Change is scary. Like I said, for most of us, failure is a meh moment. It is unlikely to change where we are right now, but success changes everything. You can pay those nasty bills. Finally buy a house, or a new car. You can give up that job you hate so much and write full time. And boy, wouldn’t that be terrifying? Being self-employed. Having to be responsible every day for the decisions you make in your business. Being free to do what you love to do…
Success and failure are inseparable and relative.
The fear of either is folly. Fear is irrational. So, how do you square up to it and slay it like the dragon it is? You outsmart it. Go around it. Distract it and then attack from the rear. Sometimes you have to let it swallow you whole so that you can slice its head off from the inside.
Or you can tame it. Accept that it is there to guard what is valuable. Your writing goals, your dreams, your stories, your words are extremely precious. How would you tame a dragon? Be gentle, say kind things. Take it step by step. Show it the respect it deserves.
This final chapter of your second book is your dragon.
It wants to protect you from whatever fears you imagine lie beyond. But remember, what actually awaits you on the other side is priceless. Step out slowly but confidently.
Set yourself mini-challenges, or consider friendly competition to get you through the block. Join other authors to hold each other accountable or join sprints, where you write in twenty-minute spurts. This takes a lot of fear away. Remember, small steps.
Finding your tribe has other advantages. Sharing the journey keeps you focused and on track. Frodo Baggins needed the other hobbits, especially Samwise Gamgee, to complete his quest.
You could put the last chapter aside and start writing book three, tactically going around the dragon whilst it’s sleeping. You can then go back later with renewed faith that there is indeed treasure on the other side.
Remember, the dragon is in your head. Talk to yourself with love. Dragons are often lonely, neglected souls who will respond well to a little TLC. Be nice to yourself, take a break.
Overall, learn to accept your dragon.
They will be with you throughout your writing career. No matter how successful, no matter how many books they have written and published, everyone has times when they are staring at a blank page with a dragon breathing over their shoulder.
Tickle it under the chin and carry on. Word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter. Step by step.