I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to write this post, for two reasons: I’m concerned it could come across as an exercise in tooting on my trumpet, which isn’t the intention, and I’m admitting to something I’m not sure I want to type out loud. However, as a committed Romaniac, and a person who has gained valuable insight from other writers’ honesty, I’m going to put it out there.
I’m listening to Lily Allen’s The Fear, a song from a few years ago, and I’m interested in the thoughts behind the lyrics. Like most cleverly-written songs, it will mean something different to each person, depending on their individual experiences. To me, Lily Allen’s song is about the fear of being sucked into the world of celebrity and materialism.
I’d heard writers talk about the fear, but never understood what it was? Was it a worry the words would dry up? A deep concern the book wouldn’t sell? That your mojo’s having way too much fun sunning itself on the deck to consider returning from its winter cruise?
There’s another option: All of the above. And more.
At the beginning of September, my second Choc Lit novel was sent out into the big, wide world, as a paperback – my first. Follow Me Follow You, an issue-driven romance, went on tour courtesy of my publisher and through Brook Cottage Books.
It was a fantastic, positive experience, with the book receiving incredible reviews which blew my socks off. Follow Me Follow You was selected as an editor’s choice on Lovereading.co.uk and was one of their featured books for September, Tome Tender Book Blog left me speechless with their wonderful words, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the Amazon reviews.
Now, before this starts to look like the exercise I mentioned earlier, (although in reality, it would be a recorder, not a trumpet) let me explain.
As I sat at my desk, in the corner of my kitchen, fingers poised above the well-used keyboard, determined to continue writing book 3, I was hit by the fear. Only, I didn’t know it was the fear. It wasn’t like Lily Allen’s song – I wasn’t concerned by materialism or celebrity – I was hit by a truckload of ‘what ifs?’
What if I’d used all my best ideas in Follow Me? What if I’d already used every last drop of emotion I could muster? What if I couldn’t capture the reader’s imagination? What if I couldn’t find original ways for my characters to express themselves? What if I repeat myself? What if book 3 is rubbish?
And the biggie: What if I let the reader down?
I removed myself from the corner of the kitchen, plonked myself down in the living room and allowed the ‘what ifs?’ to zip round my head like they were driving the wall of death. After a while of getting nowhere, other than dizzy and anxious, I called upon my lovely, supportive Romaniac friends.
‘I think I’ve been gripped by the fear,’ I said. But I didn’t really know, because it wasn’t something I’d grappled with before.
Their individual and collective advice was, as ever, sound, sensible and solid. And, as ever, they made me laugh. I was instructed to get something to eat and take a little time out. My nose had been to the grindstone, and I needed a break. They were right. I had to ‘refill the well’, as the fab members of the RNA say.
Later that day, I spoke with Gajitman, who offered a considered and practical approach, and kind reassurance that none of all of the above was going to happen.
The next morning, I met with a friend for coffee, who hit the nail on the head, putting the fear into a succinct five-word statement. ‘You are afraid of failing.’
And there it was. I was afraid of failing. Failing the reader, failing my publisher, failing my family and friends, and failing myself.
I’d never experienced this. I’d been brought up to always do my very best and that was the reward, regardless of the outcome.
I will do my very best – it’s who I am, it’s in my DNA, but what if my very best isn’t good enough? What then?
And that’s my fear.
It was scary out there for a while, but I have settled back into writing book 3, and I’m pleased and relieved to say the fear has passed, and now I know the signs, I’m better equipped to tackle it should it dare to show its ugly face again.
In the same way we all take something different from song lyrics, I suspect the fear is different for each and every one of us.
What are your experiences of the fear?