It is The Fear that means so many people start writing a novel and then give up, never to finish it.
Watch the short video below to learn about ‘The Fear’ that Ian Rankin experiences when writing a novel.
Having watched the video, now consider these questions:
- What are the two fears Ian has as he writes the book?
- What’s the Iris Murdoch quote?
- What does his wife have to remind him? WHY do you think she needs to remind him?
- Do you think everyone experiences The Fear when writing?
- Does it help to know that everyone suffers it and that it’s a natural part of the process of writing a novel?
Having taught Creative Writing for many years, I can tell you that it’s relatively easy to teach people the mechanics of writing and to provide them with exercises that improve their writing. It’s far harder helping them through the emotional process/aspects of writing a novel.
Ian Rankin is an extremely experienced writer, having published over twenty novels, and yet he still experiences The Fear when writing. There seem to be several reasons for him experiencing this crisis of confidence:
- in our heads, the original idea we come up with is always a wondrous insight-based revelation and therefore amazing to us, only for the written attempt at describing or capturing it to seem a mundane rendering
- extending or sustaining one main idea over the length of an entire novel is really hard, and will make the idea sometimes feel stretched thin, contrived and just plain rubbish
- The Fear is natural, and simply that intelligent, necessary moment of self-questioning that helps us interrogate our work in order to re-organise it and help drive it further forward.
It’s worth reading that third point again. Once a writer understands The Fear is a natural, necessary and important aspect of writing a novel, they can begin to appreciate and embrace it. They begin to realise that their writing is NOT simply rubbish. They begin to realise that they’re NOT just a rubbish writer who should give up. They are simply going through the process. Being able to see the experience from this (detached, objective) perspective is essential to surviving the experience.
Yet some writers cannot be so entirely detached when in the creative throes of writing a novel. In such situations, it is necessary for a writer to have someone who can serve as emotional support to them while they are writing. EVERY writer tends to need such support, no matter how psychologically robust they are.
Find someone you think might be an emotional support to you in your writing. Tell them about a piece of writing you started but never finished. Embrace The Fear.
I’ll be posting a new lesson every day (Monday-Friday), to help people who are stuck at home because of the coronavirus situation. These mini-lessons will give you a useful daily routine, and might just keep you sane! Stay safe.
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