Consider this post both a gentle, supportive hug, and also a loving butt kick. I’ve had too many conversations in the past month with beautiful, talented, creative women that go something like this:
- “Yeah, I’d love to write a book but I don’t want to do it and have it be bad.”
- “I don’t want to write a book and have people criticise it.”
- “I’d love to write a book but I know it’s so hard to get anything published [and therefore why would I bother].”
- “I really want to write a book but I know hardly anyone makes money out of it and I need to be able to support myself… I can’t give up my day job.”
Look, to be blunt, none of this is new. All of this has been said before, by me and every other person with a creative wish. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “your fears are boring”. (Ouch! Hurts just a bit, doesn’t it?)
People get so messed up in their heads thinking about the outcome of their creative project that they fail to even start it.
And in my experience, what happens to your book after it is finished is largely out of your hands. You have very little control over it after it leaves your laptop and flies off into the world.
Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will start a revolution across the world, or maybe it will change a single person’s life and help them through a difficult time. Maybe it will make you really rich, or maybe it will pay a phone bill, or maybe you’ll end up in debt.
Like bringing a child into the world, there is only so much you can do to protect, shepherd and guide her where you want her to go. She has her own journey.
Is this poking at your deepest fears? Can you feel your stomach knotting and your breathing constrict?
Here is something terrifying.
That fear never goes away.
I emailed my lovely fairy godmother, Monica McInerney, not long after getting my contract for The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise and asked her how to deal with the paralysing fear that was stopping me writing. She laughed (lovingly) and told me it wouldn’t ever go away and she was going through it right then too, on her tenth novel.
Julia Cameron, master of living a creative life (and famed author of The Artist’s Way) confesses in her book, The Creative Life, that as time goes on, the mind’s tricks, which it plays to stop us from writing, only get trickier.
Please, beautiful people with creative dreams, don’t be a slave to the ego’s fear.
You are stronger than that. You are wiser.
Name it, if you like. (My creative monster, my ever present fear, is called Maureen. Julia Cameron’s is called Nigel.) It is like an unwanted relative. You can’t get rid of it. It will always be at the table, eating your food.
Give it a job if you like. Many years ago, I listened to my saboteur tell me that everything I wrote was crap, turned to the corner of the room and said, ‘Really? Thanks for that feedback. Now go do something useful and find me a book contract.’
But please, write.
Write for the sake of writing. Write because you want to. Write because in this hour, this day, that is what your soul calls you do to. Write because you love it. Write because you have something to say.
What happens to it after that?
It’s irrelevant. The important thing is that you wrote.