Writer's Block and Fear

Sunday, August 09, 2015
Recently, someone I worked with before asked me to co-author a book. I loved working with her and it’s an amazing idea. I would never have known about this topic without her, and her academic credentials will be central in marketing the finished product.

In spite of this, I find myself working on everything but this manuscript. Granted, I had other things to get done first, but seriously? I’ve even managed to annoy myself. As my writing buddy Darcy Pattison would point out, it’s time to confront my fears and get busy. Here are three things writers tend to fear.

  1. Failure. This is particularly common after a first book, be it your first book ever or your first book with a particular publisher. A first book creates pressure to repeat this success with book #2. We all know many manuscripts never sell, so this is worry about book #2 is especially acute. What will people think if I fail?
  2. The angry mob. I see this one from people who write memoir. It goes something like this - “What if I remember something differently than everyone else?” Our writing is so central to our lives that we assume it is this important to everyone. Depending on your story, you may need to worry about making someone mad. Should you let that stop you? It depends how important the story is to you.
  3. Inability to write THIS story. Do I have what it takes to pull this one off? This is especially common for authors who are writing about a group to which they don’t belong, especially an ethnic group. Do you have to belong to tell the story? Some people will say that you do. I don’t agree, but you do need to be willing to listen to someone who is part of the group. When you get a detail wrong, you need to be ready to bow to someone else’s expertise.

Which one is my problem? Fortunately, it isn’t #1. I was lucky. I wrote 5 books in just over a year – my first book came out when I was in the middle of book #3. My problem is number 3. This particular project is a nonfiction story that will be perfect for Black History Month. Am I black? Nope. But my co-author is. Is this my story? Nope. But it is my co-author’s story – her grandmother was a part of it. I don’t have the expertise but my co-author does. I’m the head writer. She’s in charge of the details. We can make this work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish this research and get writing.

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins on September 7, 2015.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Butt in chair is always a good thing, Sue. I look forward to hearing about your nonfiction piece. Hopefully, you'll give us a few more tidbits to tease us even further?

Margo Dill said...

Best of luck with this project. I have no doubt that you can do it. :)


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

This is a topic that touches on women's history as well as African American history and NASA. So fun! You will definitely hear more about it as I work on it.

Some days I'm fairly certain, some days I'm glad to have my fellow writers cheering me on.
Thank you!


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