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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday Writer Club: Is fear affecting your writing?

Last Wednesday Writer Club I mentioned Stephen King's great book On Writing. It's only one of many books that I turn to for guidance and inspiration.

So in a sub-feature section, I plan on pulling quotes from some of these books that I find especially meaningful to where I am as a writer (and you'll hopefully find useful as well).

Today's quote comes from a brief section on grammar in King's book (don't worry, we won't be diagramming sentences...even if I do find that a little fun). Instead it takes and interesting view on how fear in our writing can affect even the language and structure that we chose:

"I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one's own pleasure, that fear may be mild--timidity is the word I've used here.  If, however, one is working under deadline--a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample--that fear may be intense.  Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason.  Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn't need the feather; the magic was in him." King, On Writing, pg 127.
 I know I'm guilty of this.  Especially when I'm still feeling my way through a story, or getting to know the characters, or simply afraid to dive in.  When I'm in those spots, I tend to write like this:

Karen angrily stomped across the room, and tossed her hair wildly.  "I can't believe you would do that." she said disbelievingly.

Sometimes sentences like that are enough to make me want to throw in the towel.  My particular fear-writing crutches are lots and lots of adverbs.  I just can't believe that my poor little verbs can make it on their own, so I prop them up with so much filler.

But, once I get over that place of fear (fear of "is this story stupid?", "will anyone besides me like this", or "is it even worth the effort?"), I find myself naturally shedding those extra words.

When we write out of a place of fear, our writing suffers.  This is why things like NaNo, Writing at Gunpoint, and Write or Die are such great places of inspiration.  They help get the fear out of the way and let your writing free.

How does fear manifest in your writing?  How do you get rid of it?


Miranda Hardy said...

I fear not being accepted. I'm afraid of putting my writing out there and having everyone hate it. But...I know it's important to overcome this fear. I also know not everyone will like it, but I'll have a few that will like it. My writing partner stays on top of me. She won't let my writing sit.

KM Nalle said...

I posted about fears this week as well. They can be so debilitating. I love King's book. This is a great quote. I should read it again this year.

Deborah Walker said...

How interesting. You know I've never thought about it. Fear. Fear. Ah, yes, I've got one. I don't like letting other people crit my work. Yikes it's a big one. I'm happy to send it to editors, no problems there. But to people I know, not so much.

Ah, man. Now I've admitted it I feel obliged to do someting about it. Ah, man.

Deborah Walker said...

Hoorah. You post has inspired me. I got something critted last week. It was great.

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