I started doing some research lately on classic authors, and found that many of their fears were different from my own. In the past, writers seemed to be more concerned with internal fears--failing to represent themselves, or opening psychological wounds. These days, I worry more about having the time to write. Or finding an agent.
The times have changed so much, that I wondered if we are all dominated by external fears rather than internal ones. I made a quick poll on my blog to gauge this over the next few days. I'd love it if you popped over and one-clicked your greatest fear. Maybe if we talk about them more, they'll fade away :)
I hear what you're saying, Melanie. But you also need to take into the consideration the society and time period. Many classic authors lived in more relaxed times in the sense of social connections. Intellectualism was highly prized, insightful conversation and deep thought encouraged, thus considering one's internal faults, short-comings or ways to improve oneself was almost essential.
Today writers face mounting external pressure to produce and produce quickly. In fact, with many publishers, authors need to have a built-in audience and connected on social media before being signed. Quality of writing seems to have slipped down the laundry list of what publishers are looking for from a writer. Taking time to learn and study - well, that's been replaced by researching short-hand on Wikipedia, and conversation reduced to 140 characters on Twitter or updates on Facebook.
Exactly. I've read up a bit on Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I think I am particularly interested in contrasting turn of the century Paris with the modern day writing climate. It's very interesting to read the diaries of such writers, and find how much you both do and do not have in common.
Interesting question, Melanie, for I think that many writers must face down both internal and external obstacles simply to write. Your comments suggest that classical writers had different fears from people writing today and you'd like to know what other writers fear today. Just as in the past, what a writer might fear could be influenced by so many factors, not the least being class and gender.
Can you imagine not having to work at a 'regular job' and having all the time you wish to write? For me, time is defined differently.
Because I'm an older-than-average writer, my two biggest fears currently are that I won't have the time to write the stories that drive me (and that I AM writing), and that I'll never find readers, or an agent, or a publisher for what I do write.
The publishing industry seems to be changing so fast that self-pubbing seems the most likely for me. (I write historical fiction and typically spend 3 years on researching, writing, and revision before moving to the next story.) I no longer worry about opening "psychological wounds" but think there's some truth that we must confront the deepest part of ourselves when we write. Interesting to see what others will say in response to your post. Write on!
Yay for Historicals!
I hear you on that one. I'm about 6 months into a YA historical, and even that with its "lighter" flavor will still take over a year to write. As opposed to the MG boys adventure novel I wrote in a few months. I can't wait to hear more about your work--do you have a blog or anything?
I fear negative judgment (my own and others.) I fear not having the commitment and focus to write and then after finally carving out time to write, realizing that what I've written is bad. I used to teach freshmen writing (the required course for college freshmen) at UMass Amherst when I was a grad student there and I told the students, "just write...move your hands across the page." I came up with tricks to get them to write about subjects that mattered to them and one student thanked me for giving him back his creativity. I told him, "Thank yourself. I issued that invitation to everyone in this class and you were one of the few who took me up on it." (Sad but true.) Ironically, I found myself completely frozen when I sat down to read the critical essays that my program required and completely blank when I tried to write in the theory jargon that the Ma/PhD program required of me and thus I ended up dropping out after two semesters, returning to Los Angeles and deciding to start working in the film and TV business. In that business working hard and networking will get you somewhere and no theory jargon is required. We do have a specialized vocabulary, of course, but our jargon refers to real things...lights, gels, hard drives and monitors. Objects you could see and touch. I much preferred that.
I also think that writers are frequently doing battle with the voices of previous writers or with their idea of GREAT writers who have come before and for me thinking of those writers and believing that I must BATTLE them is not helpful. I once listened to Edward Hirsch and Phil Levine (two great contemporary American poets) chuckle as they asserted that becoming a poet means being willing to "duke it out with Keats." (John Keats, the greatest English lyric poet.) I recoiled a little at their assertion since "duking it out" is such a masculine metaphor and Ed and Phil (God love them) were so completely unaware of how sexist their metaphor was. Later, reading Galway Kinnell's wonderful poem, "Oatmeal" (in which he imagines eating oatmeal with Keats) I realized that engaging with works of past poets does not need to be imagined as a duel. It can be imagined as a dialogue or a meal. Thought I'd share.
You have such fascinating anecdotes! Thank you for sharing. Ever thought of writing a memoir? :)
My husband's in advertising, and so I understand a bit of what you reference with the film and TV business. It is much more nuts and bolts, even on the creative end--but especially on the production end.
I spent a decade in product development, and have only pursued writing as a creative outlet since staying home with my school-age kids. I imagine the pressure to write at a younger age what I am writing now would have been tough to endure--and I may not have had much interest in it. I sought task-oriented projects in my twenties. Now I'm looking for something more enduring--at least to me :)
YES, I WANT TO WRITE A MEMOIR ABOUT RECOVERING FROM HELLP/STROKE/COMA. I ALSO WANT TO WRITE ABOUT MY TEN YEAR LONG PATH AS AN ASSISTANT EDITOR IN FILM AND TV WHO FINALLY BECAME AN EDITOR (at the same time as I was trying to become a mom and finally did) ONLY TO HAVE TO PUT IT ON HOLD AFTER NEARLY DYING FROM HELLP when my daughter was born.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE MEMOIR IS THAT I WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE ALL THE NAMES. THERE ARE SOME GREAT (kind, talented and successful) PEOPLE IN "MY" BUSINESS BUT SOME CRAZY ONES AS WELL AND OF COURSE, I HAVE ENCOUNTERED BOTH.
I'll say the names of the most talented and kindest folks for whom I've worked: J.J. ABRAMS ("Lost," "Fringe," and the Star Trek Movie franchise) AND ALAN BALL ("Six Feet Under" and "True Blood" creator. And that's all I'll name for now. :)
The poll is going great! Thanks to all of you who have followed this over to my website. I've really enjoyed reading what everyone has shared--so many great stories! SheWrites is a wonderful community. I'll be sure to post back when the poll closes next week and I've written up a summary.
Melanie, great post. My fear is wondering I am really a writer (new to this), who in the world is going to read my work? Then I share some of my work with another author and she said, "Flower - this is good". Keep writing. I thought...hmmm was she being nice of what. But then she also gave me some strong points in writing. That's what I needed. No not validation, but some am experience reassurance. I have not stopped writing since. I recently hired an editor. The best! for me. It's great reading here on SW.
When I used to write poetry my fear was "Are the topics of my poems poem worthy?" I had a hard time believing that I had anything valuable to say and often when I sat down to write would sabotage myself by getting drowsy and having a hard time staying focused. It didn't help that my writing buddy (another aspiring poet) would not pay attention when my turn came to read my work. We got together to write and then we would take turns reading so we could give each other feedback. I would listen to her work, give feedback, and then when I would read I'd notice that she was gazing down, re-reading her own work. It was demoralizing and I stopped sharing work with her but since then have had a hard time finding a writing community. I am definitely someone who needs a community to help me stay on track.