I bet you are familiar with the writing gremlins. They're the ones that crowd your mental space when you're working on your book. They say things like:
- "Who are you to work on this book?"
- "Do you really think that chapter or paragraph or sentence is any good? I mean, let's be serious."
- "Who do you think will ever read this book—other than your mom?"
- "You'll never be as good as Anne Lamott or Lauren Winner or Henri Nouwen or (fill in the blank of your personal literary hero here), so you might as well give up now."
They're relentless, aren't they?
What can a fledgling writer do in response to all that racket?
I've got a couple suggestions for how you can respond to the writing gremlins. I'll share the first suggestion with you this week and the second suggestion next week.
The first thing you can do is respond by asking questions.
This approach is rooted in the belief that your writing gremlins are not your enemies—that they're actually operating out of a desire to protect you from something they fear (or, really, that you fear).
And so you can ask them questions to get at the root of that fear and then interact with it.
You do this, first, by naming what the fear seems to be, given what the gremlin voices are saying to you. Is it exposure? Rejection? Imperfection? Something else?
The next step, once you've named it, is to examine it. How likely is this fear to come true? And if it did come true, what would happen next? And how might your personal values step in at that point to help you?
Let's try this approach on for size.
We begin by naming the fear. In this hypothetical example, let's say the fear is imperfection. You're afraid that after working long and hard on your book, it will go to print with errors. You won't have executed it perfectly. You'll have missed something. You'll have done something wrong.
This fear of doing something wrong grips you so hard that it paralyzes you from writing at all. The gremlins shout, "You won't do this right! You don't know what you're doing! It's not worth it."
Now, how likely is this fear of imperfection to come true?
One way of answering this question is to remember that before publishing your book, you'll have a team of publishing professionals whose job it is to make the book the best it can be. You won't be doing it all alone. It won't all be up to you.
But what if something does get missed? After all, imperfection is part of the human experience, and books are published by human hands. If an error does slip through, what then?
Well, maybe you'll be embarrassed or disappointed. Anything else? Well, maybe other people will judge you for those errors. What then?
This is the point at which your personal values could step in to help you. They might speak up and say that an error—or even several errors—would not diminish your worth as a human being. Or that the weight of the whole project you executed is greater than any mistake that might be found on a single page. Or that you're proud of the hard, good work you put into the book and that this satisfaction outweighs any imperfections.
Do you see how following your gremlins to their root and then asking them questions can quell their chorus? Do you see how your personal values can help stabilize your fears?
I'll share a second way you might respond to the writing gremlins next week. More soon.