Tuesday, October 27, 2015
5 Fears Writers Have (For Non-Writing Friends)
Do you ever feel like author friends run away from your good advice? Sometimes conversations are hard between writers and non-writers because you're touching on a deep-rooted fear that they have a hard time controlling. Most writers carry around a heavy sense of inadequacy, uncertainty for the future, and wondering if their dream is even possible.
This series is about bridging the gaps. Authors need challenge and accountability. They shouldn't be little artistic gods and goddesses that require constant cuddling and praise. But conversations can be more positive and healthy when both sides understand each other. So today, I want to share with you some fears that we writers grapple with on a daily basis, and how you can be such a blessing in helping us overcome them.
"It will never be good enough."
Most first drafts of a book are pretty appalling. Even Tolkien wrote some off lines, though he has the luck of having each successive draft of his stories published and praised. To some extent a book never will be good enough to an author, just like your kids will never be quite everything you could choose or hope for. But just like parenting, you have to encourage the author to work hard, be faithful to do everything they can, and then turn it over to God's hands and allow Him to use it.
"People will never love this."
Writers rely on the support of interested people. The biggest fear after each new story is wondering if other people will love it like you do. Someone else to love the characters, plot twists, little details, and storyline seems so impossible. Every time it happens it's really shocking, and so wonderful that the level of their excitement when you talk to them about it may surprise you.
"I'll never get published."
We've touched on this before. Publishing is a long journey with many weeks of waiting, and many emails. Until they are published, and even afterwards, it's a perennial issue on every author's mind.
"Maybe God doesn't want me to do this. Maybe I'm wasting my time."
Some people go happily along, content to write because they like it, God has gifted them in it, and there we go. But many writers struggle with the questions "Does God want me to work at writing really hard?" "Is this taking too much time?" "Am I working as hard as another adult my age?" "Is this the right story to be working on?" The feeling of limited time and for the Christian, doing a work that matters can be a heavy weight.
"Please don't make me read my writing out loud." (With thanks to H.M. Wilson.)
Reading writing out loud feels like you're being skinned alive, or you're sitting in front of a panel of judges having them evaluate your merits of beauty. Sometimes you get feedback so crippling you never really forget it. Even worse is the polite silence following the end, in which you can sense that no one connects with it at all. Reading aloud equals the exposure of our soul, personality, fears, hopes, and work to others. And you thought it was just a story. ;)
How You Can Help
Authors have pressures, just like any other job or lifestyle. They have pressure to write based on what will sell quickly rather than what they really believe in. They have pressure to give up writing. And they have pressure to make money. Sometimes the fear that stems from these things can be so crippling, that the creative process starts losing its spark. That in turn leads to more fear. But the community of people around them, (that means you!) both writers who understand and non-writers, can give them that live-saving soothing support or kick-in-the-pants input.
If you'd like to encourage a writer friend who's facing some fear, here are some ideas:
1. Ask them to share snippets and bits about their story with you.
Give them the option of 'if they want to'. But seriously, your constant, multiple affirmations of interest would probably be an encouragement when they need a reminder that someone besides them loves this story. Even the faintest spark of interest can be a life-line. And you will get all kinds of posters, pictures, interviews, and snippets. Sneak-peek exclusives. ;)
2. Ask them to tell you about the times God has answered prayer in their writing process.
Sometimes when a writer questions if God wants them doing this, it helps to go back and remember all the things God has done to get them to this point. You would be surprised about how many miracles go into the making of a book. Finding an old specialized research book at the library. Meeting the right person at the right time. Getting off work early on a day you need to concentrate. Writers forget these things when the going is hard. Help them remember by asking them to tell you.
3. Ask them how you can be in prayer for the publication process.
Whatever the next step is: meeting an agent, being accepted by an agent, being accepted by a publisher, just finishing a manuscript, or for indies, finding a cover designer, building a good number of interested followers--these are all steps to the end goal. Wherever they're at, I'm sure your writer friend would love prayer for it.
4. Ask them to read their writing out loud.
You'll probably get some resistance. But helping a writer overcome fear and distance themselves from their writing is good practice. Keep asking several times until they're willing to read it. Eventually your interest will wear down their reluctance.
5. Remind them that they have lots of time and several drafts to make their story beautiful.
What comes out on paper is rarely as good as what's in their mind. In case you don't know, here's what writing each draft feels like for writers: the first draft feels like throwing up on paper (because everything is so awful). The second draft feels like sweating it out in a really hard exercise routine. The third draft feels like writing with blood to add an extra layer of pathos and beauty, because the sweat wasn't good enough. Remind them that it can be as good, and it will be as good. It just needs some time to grow.
Ultimately, the problem with any writer's fear starts with "I". The solution to any writer's fear is "But God". Writers are sometimes so "I" focused on our inadequacies that we forget it's not about what we can do, but what God chooses to do through us.
God is able. We need friends, both writers and non-writers, to remind us of that. Thank-you to all our non-writing friends for being there to encourage and critique us. Our books stand on your shoulders, and you are a precious, indispensable part of our journey.
Want more? Check out other articles in this series:
How to Talk to a Writer
6 Ways to Pray for Writers
The Book Writing Process