People talk about writer’s block which I get occasionally. I struggle more withwriter’s fear. It’s a weird, crippling anxiety that means one day I can be really happy with writing and the next feel unable to string a sentence together. Once, my writer’s fear stopped me from working on a draft of a novel for six months. I’d look at the stack of printed paper on my table and break out into sweat at the thought of facing what appeared to be a massive hurdle. Then I’d create excuses for not doing it and focus on anything else to distract myself; go for a walk, rifle through a mind numbing magazine I regretted wasting a pound on, watch bad tv, cook…Meanwhile, the fact that I wasn’t working on it gnawed away at me.
Sometimes, I manage my writer’s anxiety well and by that I mean I write through it, still creating work. When it’s like this, it seems like slaying a dragon. It feels as if this odd neurosis is under control, I’m controlling it and not the other way round. Other times, it stops me dead in my tracks. I’ve talked to a couple of successful writers who I never would have guessed battle with the same problem and apparently it never goes away. I did actually finish editing that draft in three months when I got round to it.
In some ways writer’s fear is comparable to stage fright, it means I care about the work. I also think any kind of creative artist needs a certain level of misery and anxiety in order to peer into the depths of themselves and produce good work. Otherwise, you’d stay in a comfortzone, one gear. There’s no growth or multi dimension to that. No plummeting to lows and clawing your way back up again. This fear is like an absent shadow that keeps coming back but behind it are jagged lights with legs. The beauty is… I never see them coming.