Friday, June 27, 2008

Managing Fear

I still don’t know what the fear of facing my novel was. Maybe I was afraid that it’d be terrible, or that I wouldn’t be able to read it objectively; or maybe it was just that my heart now lies with my non-fiction book. Piecing a new story together, discovering new terrain is so exciting compared with the dull slog of revision.

I work a lot with fear and anxiety it seems to me. Fear that I won’t do justice to my material, or that I won’t be able to enter it fully. Fear of facing work I have done when I haven’t seen it for a while. I have developed techniques for dealing with some of my fears, such as the empty page – or screen – but I’ve still got a long way to go.

How I handled the problem this time was to give myself plenty of opportunity to make excuses, and then I stood firm: NO MORE DELAYS ALLOWED. I made myself a cup of peppermint tea, broke off a couple of squares of chocolate and then I forced myself to sit down and start reading.

It was hard for half a page and then I was in and away.

I knew before I started one problem in particular I needed to solve. I had to show why two of my characters had married. The reader had to understand what was at stake. This was my friend Christine’s excellent advice and I had no idea how I was going to do it. But by the time I’d reached the end of the first page the material had inserted itself in the simplest and most natural way.

All that fuss over nothing.

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