Being Fear’s Bitch: A Guide to Not Writing

Stop being a filthy, damned liar.  The only thing keeping you from writing is you.

You don’t have the time? Make time. You’ve got a busy life? Then schedule it in. Either start being honest about the reason you’re not writing, or start being honest about the fact that you don’t want it enough to make it happen. Because if you did want to see this thing through, you’d start sacrificing to get there.

The true reason you aren’t writing is because you’re afraid. You think you’re not good enough or smart enough or clever enough. You don’t value your own perspective. You think anything you had worth saying has probably already been written by someone else, and you bet they were a lot more talented than some coffee-shop hack with a laptop.

You know why you write in restaurants? Because strangers feel less judgmental than family. Those people ordering lunch have no idea what you’re working on. They probably don’t give a good god damn about you anyway, and they sure as hell don’t have a clue about what you secretly hope to achieve. Anonymous is neutral and numbing and safe.

But family . . . well, that’s something different altogether. That emotionally invested band of suckers you cling to knows all about your hopes and dreams. You made the mistake of telling them because, let’s face it, you had to tell someone. And now they’re rooting for you. Bastards!

The belief that other people have in you is a tangible thing. It has weight  If you find this idea hard to believe, ask yourself why you can feel it when someone doesn’t believe in you. (I can feel you nodding out there, or at least wanting to. Just give into it. Bob the head a little. See… now isn’t that better?) The absence of faith has a gravity all its own, and I don’t think belief exerts any less force.

In my experience, the belief that others have in you feels heavier than the belief you have in yourself. Maybe because there’s more of the former, and not enough of the latter. Whatever the reason, the confidence that others have in you is both a blessing and a curse. Well-wishers are nice, but they also increase the circle of awareness for your imminent failure. (Logical or not, that’s how it feels.) Put another way, while it’s nice to have someone to talk to while you trudge up that hill, you kind of wish they were schlepping some of the gear instead of just riding piggyback.

But guess what? That’s what you signed up for. You’re the writer; you blaze the trails. Your friends, your family, your readers: they’re just along for the ride. And if you’re honest with yourself, that’s how you like it. It’s fun lording over the worlds in your head. You enjoy that time-travel high you get when the words are flowing and the muse is friendly and… oh my God, I forgot to eat lunch.

Writing is sometimes a lonely, solitary business, and we writers can be melancholy little bitches. We spend so much time plotting and planning and fearing about what may and probably and will go wrong that we sometimes forget to just sit down at the keyboard and have some fun. I don’t think any of us got into this game so we could stare at the hateful, blank page until it consumed our soul.

But if you don’t get out of your own way, that’s exactly what will happen. You need to find a way to play again. Make the words about the words, and leave all that other garbage behind in the real world. It’s play time.

One foot in front of the other, one word at a time. Take that god-damned hill.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.


  • “You made the mistake of telling them because, let’s face it, you had to tell someone. And now they’re rooting for you. Bastards!”

    Isn’t that the truth? I’ve never thought praise and confidence would be such a pain in the ass.

  • Judy G says:

    Larry .. I like the stuff I am writing..just keep up at the wall where I don’t know what to write next..forgot this is supposed to be fun..I just have all the friends who liked the first book Dead in Darien..and want to read the next.. No pressure here, yah

  • Milisa says:

    yup – you were telling me to get off my tush and write. Dang you.

  • Jason Arnett says:

    Damn, Larry. You nailed it. Way to go. Tweeting this one out.

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