Pick Your Poison
Of the thousand and one reasons not to write--and trust me, I know 'em all--the one that lies at the base of most of them is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success )I've heard of this one, but I'm still not sure I believe it), fear of confronting whatever personal demons and issues your writing may elect to address. Do you tell it like it is, of do you sugarcoat the truth? Do you keep you aspirations small--letters to the editor, fillers for the local paper, jokes for Playboy--or do you kick out the jams and take on an epic novel? Do you stop complaining about trying to work at the kitchen table, surrounded by family commotion, and take the bold step of renting a small office somewhere?
For all its rewards, spiritual and otherwise, writing is a scary business. I wouldn't lie to you. You're facing more than the blank page every time you sit down to work: You're facing a silent challenge, even a reproach. Go ahead, that damn page says, give me your best shot--throw some words at me and let me show you just what I think of them! I've faced down bigger opponents than you, and I ain't scared.
Whether you like it or not, you have now entered what is commonly called a no-win situation.
If you give in to your fears and let the blank page remain unsullied, you will have simply traded one negative feeling--fear--for another--regret. You'll not only feel bad about yourself, for cowardice in the face of composition, but you'll always wonder what you might have been able to accomplish if you'd just forced yourself to blunder on ahead. Every time you go into a bookstore, you'll be looking at the new titles with a hint of envy in your eye, wondering how your own book might have stacked up to all these others and what it might have looked like--would it, too, have had a glossy cover, or something more discreet and tasteful? Even worse, one day you'll find on the shelf some book that reminds you of the one you were planning to write and it just won't be as good as yours would have been. That's a real killer. You'll want to yell at the top of your lungs, "Hold on! I had this idea! I can show you how this sort of book is really supposed to have been written!"
But of course you won't (not least of all because the security guard would throw you out of Barnes & Noble) but because it's too late--you had your chance and you didn't take it. That taste of ashes in your mouth is regret, and it's something even Listerine can't get rid of. But fear, on the other hand, why that evaporates with every word you write. Just do your work, and--mirabile dictu!--the fear will dissipate altogether and the regret, of course, never materializes. With any luck, the only thing you'll have left to contend with at the end of the day is your fear of success. (Write and tell me what that's all about).
Excerpt from: Robert's Rules of Writing
Writer's Digest Books, Copyright 2005