Turning Fear Upside Down

In today’s Journal

* If You Missed It
* A New Story
* Turning Fear Upside Down
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

If You Missed It

Yesterday I published a Journal post titled “Finding Time to Write”. It contains an exercise that will help you carve out time for writing fiction.

If you have difficulty with making time for your writing, I strongly recommend you read it.

A New Story

“Normal Louisiana Ladies Club” published yesterday on my Stanbrough Writes Substack. I must have scheduled it to come out a day early. Usually they come out on Friday each week at 10 a.m.

To subscribe, click the link above and then the Subscribe button at the end of the story. You’ll receive a new short story every Friday, and it’s free.

Below the Subscribe button, there are other short stories you can read in most genres. Enjoy!

Turning Fear Upside Down

Awhile back I advised a writer to turn fear upside down. I don’t remember who that was, and it doesn’t matter. It’s good blanket advice for all writers.

The basic premise is this:

The conscious, critical mind — The whole purpose of your conscious mind is to protect you. It does its job well.

In cases of day to day danger, it will warn you away from actions that might hurt you. It will try to stop you by introducing reasonable fear.

For example, If you lean toward a hot stove, it will cause you to jerk your hand away. It will also keep you from walking into traffic.

The subconscious mind, on the other hand, would not stop you in either of those cases. It’s like a happy two year old. It just wants to have fun: “Go ahead! Might be a trip!”

Yeah. A trip to the hospital in a cool van with flashing lights.

But we’re aren’t talking about death-defying stunts here. We’re talking about writing fiction, aren’t we? Nothing important at all. Just a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment for whomever reads what you’ve written. Zero danger involved.

But if you listen, the conscious mind will also try to do its job and save you from “harm” in your writing.

It will try to protect you from the embarrassment of rejection. It will do so by stopping you from writing or publishing your fiction. By introducing an UNreasonable fear.

That same unreasonable fear is the foundation for all the stupid writing myths I so often denigrate in this Journal.

Like unreasonable or unreasoning fears, the myths are products of the conscious, critical mind. And the fears and the myths support and feed-off each other:

You must outline, write character sketches, world-build — These are just ways to delay actually writing.

The longer you “plan” and “plot,” the longer it will take you to get to actually writing the story. Besides, you cannot successfully plan anything that hasn’t happened yet.

I was not immune to this myth. As I’ve mentioned before, decades ago I spent three YEARS outlining a single novel.

I still have never written that novel, nor do I want to. I know the whole story, so writing it would be bo-ho-ho-horing. Look at my numbers below. What I could have accomplished during those three years if I’d been writing instead of thinking about writing?

You must revise — This is a way to avoid finishing (if you revise as you go) or to avoid publishing (if you’ve already finished the story). And no, cycling is NOT the same thing.

You must rewrite — Need I repeat myself? Especially if you rewrite for a particular person (an agent or an acquisitions or “developmental” editor) or a critique group, you’re writing for an audience of one, and you’re writing only to satisfy the opinion of that person or group.

But what about the opinions of the thousands or millions of readers out there who are waiting to read your story and will actually PAY to read it?

If you do push through the fear and publish your story or novel, will you rewrite every time one of them leaves a bad review or says this or that “should have happened”?

Of course not. Yet again, unlike members of your critique group, those readers actually BUY your work before they offer their opinion.

You must seek critical input — Um, no. Even Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Lawrence Block or Nora Roberts or Dean Koontz or [fill in your favorite author’s name here] doesn’t know your story more intimately than you do.

Those are the four biggest myths about writing fiction, and folks, they’re all bovine excrement.

Power through them. You can do it.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling even unreasoning fear. We all experience it. What’s wrong is letting it stop you.

The only true failure you can experience as a fiction writer is to not write fiction.

So how to turn the fear upside down? By remembering these three words:

Do it anyway.

Instead of being afraid and stopping because you don’t know where the story’s going, be afraid of how you’ll feel if you don’t reach your daily word count goal or if you don’t finish the chapter or story. Then take a deep breath and Just Write the Next Sentence. I promise, it works.

Instead of fearing what readers might think of your story, be afraid of how you’ll feel if you don’t publish it and add one more bit of inventory to your catalogue. After all, that story or novel might be the one that finally gets you noticed.

So instead of not publishing something because you think it sucks canal water from all 50 states, publish it anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised, as I was with a short story titled “Old Suits,” to find that at least one reader believes your work is excellent.

Like King and Koontz and Hemingway and millions of other READERS around the world, even YOUR opinion of your own writing is still only one opinion.

And remember, whether you love it or hate it, you really are the worst judge of your own work. Specifically BECAUSE your opinion is only one opinion.

Finally, maybe you’re just afraid you aren’t really a writer, or that you aren’t a “real” writer because you can only pound on the keys for a half-hour or an hour per day.

Oh shut up. (grin) You’re writing, aren’t you? Yes? Then you’re a real writer.

All fiction writers experience unreasoning fear. The only difference is in how they handle it. Some bow to the fear immediately and succumb to the myths. They plot, plan, revise, rewrite, and seek critical-mind input from others.

Others simply trust themselves and write into the dark. Of course, writing into the dark is a frightening proposition in itself. But it’s also a way of turning the fear of the unknown from doubt to exhiliration.

As I told another writer not long ago, it’s all up to you:

You can bow to the fear, succumb to the myths, and trudge through step by weary step. Or stop writing. Or never start. Or

You can face the fear, push through it, and embrace the exhiliration of watching a story unfold in real time before your very eyes.

It really is completely up to you.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Reader – Writer – Friday, The Sacrifice Fly And see my comment.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1230

Writing of Blackwell Ops 14: Charlie Task

Day 1…… 1359 words. To date…… 1359
Day 2…… 3002 words. To date…… 4361
Day 3…… 3349 words. To date…… 7710

Fiction for November…………………… 60078
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 378722
Fiction since August 1………………… 43418
Nonfiction for November……………… 23180
Nonfiction for the year……………… 25050
Annual consumable words………… 625265

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 79
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

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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.