Writing Through Fear: a letter from a middle school author

I am working on a new project right now — one that is shiny and full of the kind of promise that makes me both excited…and scared. Fear and I  are old friends when it comes to writing; we meet every book, right about now…as I hit Chapter 3 and wonder if this new idea is really is good as I hope it is, and if I’m really a good enough writer to pull it off.

So I was already thinking about that when I got an email this week from a middle school writer whose school I visited a while ago. I wrote back, of course, and also asked for his permission to share it here, with you, because I know many of you reading this are writers, too, and I thought you might have some interesting thoughts to share as well.

I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. I just have a few question I really need answered. You see, I am going to be a writer. I’ve known it since I was nine. I’m writing a book right now, but I keep running into the same problem: I’m scared. I know that I’m talented- everyone has told me. My mom says I have nothing to worry about. I worry anyway. Sometimes all I want is a glimpse of the future- just a reassurance that this isn’t all for nothing. I just want to know that I am going to succeed. I want so badly to get published. I want people to read my books- to love them. But I lose hope all the time. I’m so scared of failure and rejection, that sometimes I can’t bring myself to write. And it makes me miserable. When I am writing, I go into a sort of state. Even after I leave the computer, I’m living in this world I’ve created. I just can’t help smiling and thinking: this is real, this is within grasp.

So, I just want to know… Did you ever feel this way? Were you ever discouraged, or unsure? Afraid of failure? I just don’t know what to do. I want this so badly.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to respond… you’re probably very busy. But if you do, I will appreciate it so much. I have been dying to speak to a real author, who might understand and be able to offer advice where others cannot.

Thank you,
MS Writer (whose name I promised not to use here)

So there it is. I read this email three times before I sat down to answer, first because it is an amazing letter and second, because this young writer faces so many of the same struggles that I do.  I think perhaps there’s a myth this all goes away once you’re published.  It doesn’t, at least for me.  What gets better is knowing that if I do my job, if I sit down and write, Fear will eventually get bored just sitting at my heels and sulk away after a while. It’s the sitting down that’s important. The commitment to write anyway.  I’ll share my full response to MS Writer in another blog post later on, but right now, we’d both love to hear your thoughts. 

Do you ever feel this way?
Are you ever discouraged or unsure? Afraid of failure?
What do you do about it?
And whether you are published, or unpublished so far, how do you remind yourself…

"This is real. This is within reach."

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