Have you ever watched that episode of Friends when Joey and Chandler talk about ‘the fear’?
Rachel expresses her exasperation of working as a waitress at the coffeehouse for so long, when all she wants to do is work in the fashion industry. Joey tells her how it is: as long as she has this job, there’s nothing pushing her to get another one, and that she needs ‘the fear.’ Chandler goes on to explain that if she quits this job, then she’ll have the motivation to go after a job she really wants.
RACHEL: Well, then how come you’re still at a job that you hate? I mean, why don’t you quit and get ‘the fear’?
CHANDLER: Because, I’m too afraid.
I think we can all related to this situation in one way or another. I, for one, lean a little more towards Chandler’s perspective. Not that I hate my job by any means; it may not be what I envisioned myself doing, but I certainly don’t want to quit. But, I will admit, that I live my life with too much fear.
Fear of missing out. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of doing what I really want to do.
Since I was young, I loved stories. I think all kids love stories, but I was lucky to have a mother who not only read to me, but made up really good, creative stories that she would tell me before tucking me into bed. I loved them so much in fact, that I would often refuse to sleep until she made up a story for me there and then. I’m pretty sure that’s where my love of telling stories came from, but it wasn’t until I was eleven or twelve that I properly got into creative writing, and I spent every spare minute writing on my computer (when I wasn’t playing The Sims, I did that a lot at that age too).
I was also an avid reader. By the time I was sixteen, I think I had read at least three quarters of the young adult section of my local library. This, coupled with my love of telling my own stories, I knew early on that I wanted to write my own books one day. So that’s been my ultimate goal for a while now: to write my first novel.
I don’t know if anyone told you, but that shit is hard. While I have no problem coming up with ideas, plot twists and creating complex characters (probably my favourite part of creative writing), I have always had issues with finishing what I start. I don’t know whether I just have a short attention span, or I come up with too many ideas that I need to get down RIGHT AWAY, or whether I just can’t commit. To be honest, it’s probably all of the above.
I remember one day, when I was fourteen or fifteen, I found a book at a laundrette near my house called Vince & Joy, by Lisa Jewell (yes, I took it home with me. What was I gonna do, leave a book without a home? What am I, a monster?) A very interesting and heart-warming read, and at the end, it even had a little Q&A from the author. I no longer have the book to reference back to, but I remember one of the questions was something along the lines of, “what tips do you have for aspiring writers?” And I found Jewell’s answer very interesting. She said (and again, I’m paraphrasing), “writing a book isn’t fun all the time, in fact most of the time it isn’t very fun at all.”
And while that may initially sound discouraging, I think there’s a lot of truth behind it. Of course, if you’re gonna write a book, first and foremost you need to enjoy writing. But writing a full, 300 page novel requires a lot of time, discipline and motivation to persevere to the end. I think that’s where I need to improve, because looking back to all the times I’ve dropped a story, it was always when it started getting too hard and stopped becoming fun, because I had convinced myself that creative writing was supposed to be all fun all the time. Then, over time, it built up into a fully fledged fear of writing anything, because I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish it and would be stuck with an even bigger collection of unfinished stories.
Last year, I set myself a goal to write a rough draft of a novel by the end of the year. It didn’t have to be good, it was more a way to kick myself into gear and say, “hey, world, I did it!” Suffice to say, I didn’t make it past the first few chapters. After a couple of years of neglecting my writing due to university, new friends and new hobbies (and of course, living in THE FEAR), it was a bit presumptuous of me to run before I could walk.
So this year, I’m going a bit easier on myself. Instead of jumping in at the deep end straight away, I’m going to ensure I write a little bit everyday. Whether it’s 200 words or 2,000 words, on a laptop, a scrap piece of paper or the notes on my phone – I will make sure that I go out of my way to write something, anything creative everyday. Because something is better than nothing, and at least a small paragraph is something to work with, and will give me a shot to kick The Fear where the sun don’t shine…
I’m also going to resolve to read a hell of a lot more. As well as letting my writing slip away, I haven’t been doing as much reading as I would like in the past few years. Still buying books, but more often than not, leaving them neglected and unfinished. I don’t blame fear for this one, in fact, I entirely blame Netflix for making binge-watching TV shows so damn easy. Now I’ve decided that as well as focusing on my writing, 2016 is also the year I dedicate more time to reading – I’m even well over half way my first book of the year (keep your eyes peeled for a review soon). Because what kind of writer doesn’t even read books? A bad one, probably.
Wish me luck!