The Fear: Birthing a New Manuscript

Posted: November 4, 2013 in 90-Day Novel
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I hate to admit it, but I am: I’m scared. Scared to death of what awaits my writing journey. Scared of what I know will happen and what I don’t know will happen. Scared that I’m not good enough, that what I imagined will never make it onto the page as perfectly as it resides inside my brain.

Many authors will admit to feeling this very same fear. The fear of success. The fear of failure. Whatever source we give this fear the result is the same. It is what leaves authors staring at a blank page unable to write a single word, overwhelmed by what lay before them.

After working my way through the 90-Day Novel for the past…several months… I have only gotten through day 30 in the listing of daily exercises and encouragement. Yes, I’m so overdue to finish this 90 day program that I should have to start paying a late fee. To be fair, I didn’t stretch out the daily activities over several days, I just didn’t consistently work on them. This might be feeding into my fear of beginning. I’ve had three months to plot, to plan, to explore. I’ve never spent this long on a story before just in a planning stage. Typically I have an idea and I start writing snippets immediately and just go with it. For once, I feel completely in control. And it terrifies me.

I finally hit the part of the 90-Day Novel that it says, ” You are about to start your novel. We will spend this first week writing until you reach the initiating incident.”

“Holy Shit!,” I respond. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this. This is an awful lot of responsibility.” It’s almost like I’ve been carrying this story safely in my womb and I’m now experiencing labor pains. Is it too late to turn back the hands of time? Maybe it can just marinate a little bit longer in there, you know, for good flavor and we can deal with this some other time.

The book has all sorts of reassuring things to say. Something like. “We give you full permission to suck. You should give yourself full permission to suck. The point of the first draft is to get it on paper and if it sucks that’s okay. That’s why we have revision.”

“I don’t know if I can handle this,” I say, starting to hyperventilate. The book reminds me of the Lamaze classes we’ve been taking so I can visualize my story gently gliding from the tip of my pen onto the paper knowing that it is perfect the way it is when it first comes out. That’s what parenting is all about. Through time and training we can mold it into the book we want.

I stare at the paper. It’s so…white, and lined. It’s beautiful in it’s perfection and I don’t want to mar it with my hopeless scrawling. And yet I must. This story that has been living within my brain for three months has to come out. It is the point of no return. And so I tentatively write what I have pictured as my first line for at least two of the three months. This is okay. I can do this. What am I supposed to say next? I remember scribbling down something during the planning process but that doesn’t seem right now. Too much exposition and not enough action. Well, let’s write down this.

No! No that beginning doesn’t work but my training states not only do I allow myself to suck but I shouldn’t rewrite anything, nor should I cross out. I skip a line and begin again. Three times I do this before I give up for the evening. “The time isn’t right.” I decide, ” It’s false labor. The real time is tomorrow.” And yet as I lay in bed words come to mind, a story is forming. I resist the urge to turn my light back on lest the idea stop before it is begun, lest I find out it, too, is false.”

This morning I woke up early (my biological clock is still ticking to the time before daylight savings). For once my alarm woke up at 5:30am and I felt ready to start the day. I dress, eat, pack my lunch and sit down with my notebook. And I write. I write as my brain instructed to me moments before falling asleep, and after a half an hour of furious work I feel satisfied. The story is not fully birthed, but the first contraction has passed. And now I prepare myself for the task ahead, still scared, but with an inkling of hope that this, too, will pass into pages of satisfaction.


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