For Fear of Writing

I’m scared.

I envy writers who don’t feel this crippling dread when they start thinking about a new project.  I went to grad school with a girl (we’ll call her Princess) who seemed so blissfully unafraid of writing, most likely because she was — no hyperbole here — the worst writer I’d ever read.  But Princess just kept pen to paper, throwing out the opinions of “haters” who told her she needed to pay attention to “sentence structure” and “plot” and “not writing mentally-challenged characters like SNL skits.”  I admire her complete idiocy, in a way, because every minute of every day I am seized with the chest-crushing anxiety of failure.

I just finished devouring Gone Girl in anticipation of cage-fighting my way for a chance to review the film adaptation in Something Awful’s Current Releases, and I was absolutely blown away by Gillian Flynn’s seemingly effortless prose.  But more, I was blown away by how she allowed herself to write.  Alternating first person narratives?  Diary entries?  Time shifts, flashbacks?  All that stuff was driven out of me with a lash in undergrad. No, no, no.  And I listened, because I am nothing if not obedient.  I wanted to write a story people would read.

So I wrote straightforward, first-person narratives and, occasionally, in third person.  I kept things clear and uncomplicated.  But now I want to experiement

There’s just one problem — I don’t know how.

Well duh, you’re saying, that’s why it’s experimenting, dummy, but somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to write for fun, to stretch out and try and fail and try again.  My day job is driven by deadlines and facts — I cannot say that the Town Board was attacked by aliens unless the Town Board was, in fact, attacked by aliens, which would probably liven up their meetings a tad.

But I’ve got this new story idea, something that I’ve never even attempted before, a story that I don’t even know how to write.  I’ve got a general atmosphere and some characters sketched out, but I don’t know what they’re doing or what will happen or even how to write it…but I know when I do, I want it to be something new and strange, something i haven’t written before.

So wish me luck…

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3 Comments

  1. Good luck! The common council was shouted at by angry citizens; that’s almost like aliens, right?

    A literary agent I follow (Janet Reid, who alas, does not rep any of my genres) once recommended on a query critique that one types a novel. That’s right, pick a novel you particularly like, and type it onto your computer. The theory is, in the transcription, you will become aware of the nuances, the underpinnings, arcs etc.

    I’m not sure if I buy it. But it seems like potentially fantastic advice.

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