Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Writer's Anxiety: Part 2 of The Truth About Writing and Publishing

Every writer hears someone whisper "How dare you?"

Writer mythologies say you should have some burning inner need to write...do you agree?
 
The working writers write because of the same reasons everybody else who works, works.
You should write for the same reason you pay bills: to keep the wolves from the door - most writers write to pay the bills. Also this is probably the place to say that most writers have some other kind of job. They might write catalogue copy for LL Bean. They might write press releases for a not-for-profit group or they might work at a bookstore.

Unless you have a private income, or a very rich spouse, it's virtually impossible to live on what you can make selling only the words you choose to write. Anybody who tells you anything different is pulling your chain.
 
How did you get started with the book?
 
The proposal I made up - like you might make up a work a fiction. She said she'd need a couple pages on what she'd need for each chapter. The book ended up being wildly different from what I said I was going to do. It might have been a problem if I'd changed topics altogether - say if I ended up writing a book on Now Voyager-but as long as I stayed to the general topic, I could stray to other individual ideas and no one would mind.

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By no means did I feel confident - I wish I could say I did. I was very nervous about whether the book would meet with my editor's approval. And I learned from her that getting her approval wouldn't be enough - not only did I need to make her happy but I needed to make her bosses happy as well as making happy people in marketing, promotion, publicity.


In retrospect I realize how important it was to me as a new writer that my editor expected me to send the book in incrementally.

Later on when editors would want to see the entire finished product, not wanting to spend their time line editing an incomplete manuscript, I realized I found it difficult to work without praise. It was harder to write in a vacuum than it was to write on a wobbly card table. I don't know if I would have been able to finish that first book without that editor looking over my shoulder. She'd worked hard to get me a contract and I didn't want to let her down. Only gradually over the last fifteen years did I come to realize how remarkable that was.
 
How are the fears and insecurities you feel/felt before/during writing these two books  similar or different?
 
The insecurity I feel at starting a work of fiction feels more like hubris than that first book. I feel like - the voice in my head says, "How dare you?" and therefore seems antagonistic, whereas even the insecure voice in my head still seemed to be on my side saying, "Do you really think we can do this?" There was a sense of us doing it together, instead of me doing it alone. And this is with the medication.
 
I feel like fiction is the thing I like best in the world - so you'd think I'd be able to create what I like best in the world, but I still hear, "How dare you?"
 
I don't really fear failure - I'm not afraid I'll do it and people won't like it--but I'm afraid. What I'm afraid of is that I won't be able to do it at all.

 

to be continued...

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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