In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Fear
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Fear of life closes off more opportunities for us than fear of death ever does.” Agnes Moorehead

“I don’t believe any of you have ever read Paradise Lost, and you don’t want to. That’s something that you just want to take on trust. It’s a classic … something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” Mark Twain


Unreasoning fear.

I get questions and excuses via email all the time. I don’t mind. Many topics for this Journal come from those questions and excuses.

I’ve sent one or more writers a few bits out of today’s post earlier. It is my considered opinion that you only go around once: Just in case I’m correct, for goodness’ sake Be Bold.

The conscious mind’s primary function in life is to protect you.

In writing fiction, it protects you by not letting you write fiction. If you don’t write it, you won’t publish it.

If you don’t publish it, you won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of someone not liking it or (gasp) telling you it’s no good.

One writer recently revealed to me a brand new tactic of the conscious mind. S/he wrote,

“Honestly it’s not the historical part that slows me down, although I do love researching so much I often spend hours doing that and not writing.”

Okay, that’s not the new tactic. That’s an old one. I’ve heard that one a thousand times. It’s important to research so you’ll “get it right.”

Um, it’s fiction. A few seconds of quick spot research (hop online, learn what you need to learn, hop back into the story) will more than adequately suffice. And you’ll be writing.

Or the variation: “I love research so I often spend hours doing that instead of writing.”

Yep. Reading what somebody else wrote about a topic is far less frightening than writing a story.

But the new one s/he handed me on a platter is this one: “It’s more just that I have so many ideas and so few sound exciting.”

A new tactic from the conscious mind:

“Here: Look at all these story ideas!

“Ooh, but how will you ever decide which one to write? Quite a conundrum. (heh heh)

“What if you pick the wrong one? What if you waste all that time writing the wrong story?

“Then nobody will like it, you’ll be a laughing stock, and your career will be over.

“So just be careful. Be sure you pick the right one. Be sure you pick one that’s exciting. One that’ll really blow the readers out of their chairs.”

Okay, Wait.

In the first place, what career? Are you writing at least five days a week (or at least on a regular schedule, showing up, writing)? Are you publishing what you write?

If the answer is no, then what career?

But the real biggie, what you should say to your conscious, critical mind: “Who’re you to say whether they’re exciting?”

If you’re here to learn, and if you really want to write, listen.

If your characters are giving you ideas at all, those ideas are exciting at some level. But you will never find that level or how exciting they are if you don’t write them.

The only way to see what your neighbor’s doing in his front yard is to open the blinds or pull the curtain and watch him.

The only way to see what your characters are doing is to open the blinds or pull the curtain and watch them.

The difference is, you can actually go do what your characters are doing, and write it down without anyone getting annoyed.

You just have to sit down and do it.

And for the record, only putting new words on the page is writing. Everything else is, well, whatever else.

Ideas don’t come as fully formed stories. Thank God.

If a fully formed story plays through my head, especially if it includes the ending, why in the world would I want to write it? I can’t think of anything more boring. Well, except maybe trying to force my way through reading a novel someone’s obviously outlined and controlled so tightly that I can practically hear the characters screaming.

Maybe, now and then, “a really great (or exciting)” short story will occur to you sometimes. And you’ll write it and publish it. Woohoo!

And some readers will love it. And most will abide it and some will think it sucks. Hey, that’s life.

A lot of you will never write a novel simply because you can’t hold the whole thing in your head and you’re too frightened to take a chance. That fear is what leads to outlining and other unnecessary safety nets. What happens if nobody likes your novel?

NOTHING. No consequences. If nobody likes your novel, you write the next novel.

I promise, it’s SO much more fun to just write what comes. Let the story unfold around you as you run through it with your characters. You cannot have more fun writing than that.

“But maybe the story won’t be any good.”

I GUARANTEE it won’t be any good for some. But what about all those readers who will love it or like it?

Don’t readers deserve a chance to decide for themselves what they like or don’t like?

What they “will” like or not is not for you to decide.

Your job is to write the thing. Period. Your job is to go have fun with the characters and be the very first person EVER to see a story that thousands of other people will eventually see. That’s a pretty big-deal role.

And there’s only One Way to do that: You just have to realize the story (any story) is not important. That It will matter to some readers, and it won’t matter at all to others.

What’s important is that you be the first to enjoy it, and that you bring it to light by writing it.

Well, that’s what I think is important for you. But how do I know?

Maybe researching is more important to you than writing. That’s fine. Be a researcher.

Or maybe something else is more important. Maybe you don’t really even want to write. Maybe you only want to “have written.”

There’s a vast difference.

An author is always looking back at what s/he has written.”

A writer is always looking forward, anticipating (and thrilling in) what happens next in the current story or novel.

My “prolific” acquaintance who turns out two medium novels per year is an author.

I am a writer. I look forward. A writer writes.

Only you can know what’s truly important to you.

But if you wanna be a writer, y’gotta write.

And I’m not talking crap off the cuff here.

About 9 years ago I finally overcame the EXACT SAME FEARS that are stopping you right now.

And because I finally realized what really mattered (THAT I write, not WHAT I write), today I’ve written well over three or four million words of fiction. Maybe more.

But it’s all up to you. Only you can prevent your conscious mind from stopping you.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

The 2023 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year…

Social media overload, exhaustion, and use discontinuance

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1230

Writing of Blackwell Ops 15: Solana Garcia

Day 1…… 3034 words. To date…… 3034
Day 2…… 4389 words. To date…… 7423
Day 3…… 4327 words. To date…… 11750
Day 4…… 4058 words. To date…… 15808

Fiction for December…………………… 22297
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 423131
Fiction since August 1………………… 308586
Nonfiction for December……………… 6340
Nonfiction for the year……………… 261920
Annual consumable words………… 681544

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 9
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 80
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

Note: If you find this Journal of value and want to make a one time or recurring donation, please do not pledge through Substack. I don’t use Stripe. Instead click this link. If you can’t donate, please consider sharing this post with friends.

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Fear”

  1. Re: “But maybe the story won’t be any good.”

    True, but maybe it will be . . . unless it never gets written. Not writing it absolutely guarantees it won’t be good, but writing it absolutely guarantees that it might be good. Remember that you’re not writing for those who aren’t going to like it, you’re writing for those who are, and you can’t possibly know how many of the former and how many of the latter there are unless you write and publish the story.

  2. Thanks for this, Harvey. As usual you’re correct and very encouraging. Even after all these years of writing I still get caught up in all the different fears–and not just in this area of my life. It’s a hard habit to break. Thank you for your patience with all us fear-driven folks. 🙂

    I’m especially encouraged by the thought that I might be the only person to ever have this specific idea and to write it down. So I should write it!

    • You’re welcome. Happens to all of us. One thing is for sure: You are absolutely THE only person to whom your characters will whisper their stories. But you have to write them to get the whole thing and see what happens. Trust me: Writing the story is a minuscule investment to make for all the pleasure it will bring you and others.

Comments are closed.