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A Writer’s Fears by Michael J. Malone

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Michael Malone (c) Bob McDevitt

Michael J. Malone

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers has been a number one bestseller three decades and has sold in over 30 countries. The success of this book highlights the fact that we all have a fear of something – and writers are no exception.

Fear, of course has a purpose – to promote survival. In the course of human evolution, the people who feared the right things survived to pass on their genes. In passing on their genes, the trait of fear and the response to it were selected as beneficial to the race.

Where fear becomes a problem is when, rather than using it to protect ourselves from pain – it takes charge and it stops us from achieving the things we want to in life.

As writers we are forced to face our fears on a daily basis. Here are some examples …

Fear of the Blank Page (Vacansopapurosophobia)

We ALL battle with it at one time or another and it can happen to a writer at any point in time, irrespective of their career success. Coping strategies include: distracting yourself from the piece for a while, reading a book, and forcing oneself to write something even if it makes no sense. I have several writer friends who stop the night before at a point where they have more to say. Then when they begin their day’s work the next morning, they read over the last passage they wrote and then they quickly get back into the flow.

 Fear of Rejection (aporripsiphobia)

Harbouring the fear that no one will like your finished product is enough to stop many of us dead in our tracks. But it’s a truism to say that for writers it’s an occupational hazard. Bookshops are full of the books of famous authors who suffered rejection.

“Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” Richard Bach‘s Jonathan Livingston Seagull goes on to sell 44 million copies.

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Eventually, Doubleday, bring the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million copies.

“”Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.” And as I said at the start of this article, Susan Jeffers went on to sell millions of copies of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

Rejection is a part of the job. You work in a creative field? Buckle up, cos someone is going to say no. Instead of allowing that rejection to pull you down, can you learn something from it? Have you had more than one? Are they all saying the same thing? Treat this as an opportunity to learn and improve. I heard one writer say that each rejection is a one no closer to a yes. Is that an attitude that would be helpful to adopt?

Fear of Inadequacy (Atelophobia)

The fear that nothing you write is good enough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dragged my feet because I thought to myself, “Who wants to read what I have to say?”

I’m currently writing my twelth book. After I’ve finished each and every book I’ve been CONVINCED I’ll never be able to do it again.

How many of us allow our fear of being inadequate lead us to that utterly futile game of comparison?

“Comparison brings inferiority, superiority. When you don’t compare, all inferiority, all superiority, disappear. All is needed, and everything fits together- nobody is higher and nobody is lower, nobody superior, nobody inferior. Everybody is incomparably unique.” – Unknown

Read that quote back, over and over again until it sinks in.

Fear of Success (Epitychiaphobia)

This one sounds like an oxymoron, but many people are afraid of success. For some, the thought of everything becoming too big to handle is enough to paralyze them into doing nothing. People worry about the changes it might bring. They worry that it will create distance between them and their family and friends.

We bring our best asset – our vivid imaginations to bear, in the most unhelpful way possible. We talk ourselves out of doing the things we need to do in order to succeed, just so we can avoid unexpected change.

Remember these things to fight back against the fear of success:

–      Change comes in life whether you succeed or fail. Why not aim for success?

  • You control your labour – your activity, not the fruits of your activity. Do what you love and don’t worry about the consequences. The trick is to deal with the situation one step at a time.

Fear You’re Too Old (Gerontophobia)

You’re never too old. With age comes experience. Experience adds depth to your writing. Age adds an element of maturity to any work.

Bram Stoker didn’t write Dracula until he was 50. Richard Adams, author of Watership Down was 54. Laura Ingles Wilder was in her mid 60’s when she wrote Little House on the Prairie.

Eunice Buchanan is from Arbroath in the North East of Scotland. She was in her late seventies when she did an M.Phil in creative writing at Glasgow University. Her debut poetry collection was published in 2013 – when she was in her early eighties – and won the Saltire Prize for a first book.

Too late for Eunice? She certainly didn’t think so.

Conquering fear and pursuing a life goal can be overwhelming and intimidating. And it can be incredibly rewarding, possibly even the defining moment of your life existence.  So, start small. Just take one small step at a time: something you know you can do. Something you’re sure to succeed at. Then feel good about that, give yourself a pat on the back – and then take another baby step. Keep doing this, and soon you’ll be well on your way to achieving what you’ve always dreamed of.

(c) Michael J. Malone

Author photograph (c) Bob McDevitt

About In the Absence of Miracles:

A young man discovers a family secret that turns his world upside down in this dark, emotive, shocking psychological thriller.

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

‘Beautiful, lyrical prose takes the reader through a perfectly constructed, often harrowing tale’ Denzil Meyrick

‘Engrossing, hard-hitting – even shocking – with a light poetic frosting. Another superb read!’ Douglas Skelton

Order your copy online here.


About the author

Michael J. Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.
He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don’t ask.
BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge:Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a “J” to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.
He is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com and his blog, May Contain Nuts can be found at http://mickmal1.blogspot.com/
He can be found on twitter – @michaelJmalone1

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