Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book?

Books are scary things. Sure, they can be exciting, but they are a massive undertaking. Sometimes, they even have teeth (or at least it feels like they do).

I don’t know if you’ve ever been afraid of the book you’re writing, but I know I have. In fact, it’s the most common form of writer’s block I get. Writer’s block comes in many forms – but luckily it’s not like a video game boss where it’s a series of challenges and each one gets progressively harder (I’d hate to see what the final form of writer’s block would look like). We put the blanket term “writer’s block” over all the root causes of not being able to write. It could be procrastination, imposter syndrome, simple distraction, or, in my case more often than not, fear of the book itself. This particular fear includes imposter syndrome, but that’s not the whole story. Let me describe it to you and see if you can relate.

I’m working on a story. It’s going well. I finish the first draft and happily start editing…and editing…and editing… For me, writing is the easy part. Though I’m a practised editor (it’s part of my job), editing my own books is a whole different story. I often get to a point where I’ve spent hours on a book and it feels like I’ve been paddling in circles. I suddenly realise that I don’t know what to do. What if I’ve ruined the story? What if I can’t finish it? Though I’ve done it a hundred times, I wonder if I’m qualified enough to actually do this. Maybe I don’t have what it takes (hello, imposter syndrome!). Maybe I created a story that’s just beyond me. And so the thoughts go on.

I keep trying to edit. Less and less progress is made. I continue to get a sinking feeling in my gut every time I work on the book. In my head, the story looms ever larger over me, a great big beast with fangs, claws, and at least three heads. I start finding excuses to avoid working on the project. Soon enough, the whole book comes to a halt. The monster wins.

Has this ever happened to you? I hope I’m not the only one. This is a dangerous game that can lead to a good project being abandoned forever. But after I noticed this happening to me over and over again, I started to push back against the monster – and here’s how I took back the victory.

1. Recognise you’re in control

When it comes to life, this is a different story. But when it comes to your book, you are the author. You control your book, not the other way around. Your book has no sentience (as much as it seems like it does sometimes), so it can only scare you if you let it.

2. It’s not the book, it’s you

Don’t demonise your book. It hasn’t changed – your perception of it has. Really, you’re causing yourself stress. The book isn’t scaring you at all. You’re scaring yourself. (Although this doesn’t mean you should be too hard on yourself, either.)

3. What are you really afraid of?

Once you realise you’re psyching yourself out, identify why. Maybe it’s imposter syndrome after all and you need to have more faith in your abilities. Maybe you’re getting discouraged because the editing is taking longer than you expected. Maybe you really are stuck in the editing process and unsure of where to go (in which case, I can help!), or maybe you’ve been working too hard and you’re burnt out.

4. There is an answer

No matter what your real fear is, there is a solution to it. It might be boosting your confidence, reorganising your writing schedule, getting a professional to look at your book, or even taking a brief break from your book. (Because sometimes if we spend too much time with someone, even if we love them, we just need some space.) You can do some research on your particular fear to get some advice on how to overcome it.

Don’t think all hope is lost. There is an answer and you can finish your story. You may just need to rethink some things.

5. Implement and keep going

Whatever your solution is, put it into action now and get back to your project as soon as you can, even if it’s just in small increments at first.

You don’t have to be afraid of your story. It’s yours, and you decide how you feel about it! Don’t give in to fear. Push through, and you’ll find yourself with a great story on your hands.

Happy writing!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll consider donating to the blog, reading my stories on Vocal, and/or taking a look at my RedBubble shop so I can continue to produce free content!

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Photo by Huang Yingone on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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