Writers should take a page from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We should come with our own bright red letters that say, DON’T PANIC.
Panic is work avoidance. If you are panicking, you’re most likely not writing, but staring into space, wondering what you’re doing, how did you let it get this far, and what are you going to do.
You might consider quitting, hanging up your pen and letting it gather dust. Let it hang there as a reminder of what you can’t do (or won’t let yourself do).
Acknowledge panic as what it is: a carefully orchestrated punt by your inner editor. Writing is the best way to overcome panic.
Here are 3 common reasons I’ve found writers panic.
1) Money (or the lack there of). We all want to make money with our creative endeavors. We should write because we love it. That is hard to hear when your credit card trembles as you bring it out or you hear about another writer selling their work for 6 digits.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t depend on your book to get you out of debt. Teach. Freelance. Keep your day job if you can stomach it. Remove some of the pressure by doing other things for income. Potential perks: increases your marketability and creates an audience which might lead to more book sales.
2)Believing Your Story Isn’t Any Good. It won’t be if you stop writing on page 5. It’s incomplete. It’s a rough draft. You’re not allowed to start judging your story until you’re “done” with the first draft and ready to rewrite (I’m guilty of this and try to catch myself). Then it is not “bad”;something isn’t working, which is why you rewrite until you like it. If you like it, if you enjoy reading it, if you’ve written the book you’ve always wanted to read, it’s a good story.
You’re probably afraid no one else will like it or they will be mean in their criticism. Someone else will like it (even someone you’re not related to). Look at who is giving the criticism. If it’s a book critic, it’s their job. You can either do better next time or shake your head at them. I don’t remember which album it was, but Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin said he stopped reading the music criticism pages because they missed the entire point of one of their albums. Are we the next Jimmy Pages of the literary world? Maybe.
If the person giving the criticism is that person who has never finished their book or a friend of a friend’s significant other, they are in pain and need help.
3)Am I Wasting My Time?
No. If you’re happy, you’re not wasting time. If you’re that much closer to achieving your goals, you’re not wasting your time.
You waste your time if you quit. You waste your time if you read all those books, attend all those conferences and seminars, then the only thing you write is your name. You waste your time when you beat yourself up instead of meet your daily writing quota. You waste your time if you let fear and panic prevent you from enacting your plan to become a published writer.
Like the improbability drive, the unknown is scary. You don’t know where you’ll end up or what will happen. It also creates adventures. Do everything you can that is in your control then go. You control your reactions. When you start to panic, tell your inner editor, “Not now,” and write.
And remember your towel!
Hope you’re well and love writing!