Writing through fear and resistance

There’s a quote on my fridge that I look at every single day.

‘Resisting writing is harder than writing.’


I don’t write in the kitchen, so I’m not sure why I stuck this quote on my fridge (procrasta-eating maybe?), but the reminder is a good one – even if my inner-critic begs to differ.

Before I began the revisions of my latest WIP, I felt MASSIVE resistance.

I’d spent a year producing multiple drafts of the story, then another month creating an outline that I would then use for the revisions.

I knew the story, the characters, the theme. I had everything I needed to restructure, revise, and polish my latest book beast.

I made a plan; I made time in my schedule; I was ready.

But every morning I woke up with a feeling of dread. Not a crippling dread. Not like my car had broken down in the middle of the desert, on a seldom used highway, with no phone service, food, water, or good book to read.

This dread was duller, like a dentist appointment.

I felt rusty. I felt resistance. And I felt just a wee bit afraid.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know that resistance, that the fear evoked by creativity, will never go away.

So, I took my own advice.

I lit a candle, put fresh flowers on the desk, re-read the outline, and turned on some ambient music (crackling fire place + murmuring conversation + pen scratching on parchment).

I opened my WIP document, scrolled to the section I wanted to work on, and the fear in my chest doubled.

I don’t know how to do this! How the hell do you write a book? How does anyone do this?

My inner-critic screamed at me in a voice that was oh, so convincing.

Logically, I knew that this fear was unsound. It’s not like I planned to publish whatever I produced/revised in those twenty-five minutes and I was never going to let myself publish something that was obviously bad.

I am always so mindful to edit and revise my work before sending it out to the world.

But I doubted myself. I was so incredibly aware of my own inadequacies.

And here we get to the root of things: perfectionism.

I wanted to write a novel on paper that matched the vision in my head, a trick that experienced and prestigious authors have admitted to ‘failing’ at. 

A few weeks ago, I listened to an episode of The Writer’s Well Podcast. Every week, the host asks their co-host a writing related question.

Here’s a title episode that turned my heart cold: Is writing worth it?

The short, unanimous answer: Financially speaking? No, yet both authors said that they were so much happier and kinder *because* they had followed their dreams and they’d turned writing into a full-time gig.

I know from my own experience that I’m a better person when I’m writing.

So, if writing isn’t worth it financially, and if the old adage is true, ‘the reward for writing is writing’, then why was I striving for perfectionism, and why was that perfectionism manifesting as fear?

What was the big deal? If you’re not going to earn money or have many readers, then where’s all this pressure coming from? From the sounds of it, you got nothing to lose.

Now, I can’t answer this question for you, but when I drilled down into it I realised two things:

  1. I care about writing.
  2. In order to be taken seriously, I had to take writing seriously.

Writing is about creating meaning (for the reader and myself), improving, rising to the challenge, and when things are going well, it’s f**king fun.

On good days, you’re so fully immersed in the story that you ceased to exist. You become so focussed, so absorbed in what you’re doing that the boundaries between you and it disappear.

I wanted to return to that state, that totally ‘immersed in my book state’, but the fear that I wasn’t good enough created an invisible barrier between us that was as hard as brick.

So, what did I do?

The only thing you can do.

I ploughed forward.

You can’t get rid of resistance, you can’t eliminate fear. The best you can do is acknowledge it and move through the discomfort by taking action anyway.

You writing even though you are afraid you’re no good; you continue to write until your timer goes off, you hit your word count goal, the hour is up, or you’re just totally spent and have given all that you have.

There will be days when it totally sucks, and you suck. And there will be day when you are so in love with writing that you can’t believe how god damn lucky you are

That first day of working on the revision was awful, but the next day was marginally better, and the day after that better again, and by the end of the week I’d found my groove.

Note: Fear was there every day before I started writing, but I wrote anyway. And with every word that I typed, that scream was reduced by one decibel until eventually I was left with nothing but silence.

Books that exist in heads are perfected. Books that are printed on paper are imperfect.  

And I’d rather have an imperfect book in my hand than a perfect one in my head. You?

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Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

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