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  • Writer's pictureLisa Nicholas

The fear: why writing is a dangerous pursuit

Picture this: A leather topped antique desk, positioned in front of the window that looks out to the pretty garden, the sort Beatrix Potter probably had. You’re sat there, chewing on the end of a pencil, having lots of wonderful ideas for your eighth highly-anticipated novel, which will, like all the others before it, go on to win lots of important awards. Not that you care about such things, as you’re in it for the legacy.

This calm, happy image, is, of course a lie. And the apparently sedentary, quiet life of a writer is anything but.

Every single step along the way to becoming a published author is terrifying. It’s fun too, and a privilege, but that doesn’t dilute the sharp, constant anxiety bubbling within, threatening to spill over and give the game away, revealing your confident façade’s innate weaknesses.

Firstly, you have to write all the words down, and so you’ll worry they’re all rubbish and write them eighteen more times. Then you have to send it out to respected agents, who will reject you, further demonstrating that you are not good enough.

Repeat with publishers. Lots of times.

Now you’re sure the book will never see the light of day. Do you keep trying, or bin it and write another, better book? You have to decide, but you’re woefully underqualified to assess your own work, and besides what do you know?

You continue with the quest to get it published, after all, it took ages to write those 87 thousand words, and you’ll be damned if you’re giving up now.

Ok, so someone decides it’s worth a punt, and you’re now being published. Cause for celebration and jubilation and a pat on the back for a job well done. You thought you were scared before, but here’s where the real menace creeps in.

More edits, a disagreement over the use of the Oxford comma. I insist, they say it isn’t house style, I insist some more, they capitulate. I then lie awake worrying that actually no-one uses the Oxford comma and the book shall make me a laughing stock.

It goes to print, and you keep checking you signed off the latest version. Is there a typo? You daren’t look, too late now.

The books arrive. Finally. It’s available on Amazon. You’re a proper bona fide author. Shit. Someone other than your mum and dad are going to read it. Real reviewers are expecting their copy. Maybe the book was rubbish after all, and it’s going to get such an awful panning you’ll have to go into hiding. Or, worse, tumbleweed. No-one even notices you wrote a book, and that’s three years of work, just gone. Bye.

That’s the stage of fear I am currently in, as I get ready to send out copies, plan my launch, and wait to see if anyone orders it.

Order it please. No, on second thoughts, don’t. No do. Don’t. Help.

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