I remember being shocked when a random stranger told me that she’d read my first book. As she began telling me about her experience turning the pages of The Covered Deep, I was stunned. Was it really possible that I had affected someone for the good? Had I really brightened someone’s life? Don’t we dream about this? When it happens it’s very surreal. After sixteen years on this writing journey, I’m here to tell you that it’s a battle getting to that point. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve come to believe that being a writer is a long exercise in confronting and conquering fear. I am convinced that the writers who make an impact are the ones who keep fighting. Sometimes this is as simple as allowing yourself to hope.
I’ve come up against many versions of this nemesis—self doubt, discouragement, rejection, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of bad reviews, the fear of not being able to write, the fear of writing a scene that revealed too much of myself. This list goes on and on. If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’re well acquainted.
I’ve been so paralyzed by fear that I couldn’t open my manuscript. I’ve been so overcome with self doubt that I’ve procrastinated in ridiculous ways. This happens to us all. A friend of mine was recently on deadline and she sent me a Facebook message: “Why is this hard? Every. Single. Time.” My reply: “Because it’s important. You are being transformed by your writing so your readers can be transformed. That is never easy.” Someone remind me of this when I’m in the trenches again.
Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote comes to mind: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” That, my friends, takes some bravery. I don’t think it ever gets easier, but I have learned how to take a deep breath and adjust my thinking.
When something you’re writing scares you, that’s good. You’re on the right track. What you really want is to throw yourself into a right proper panic. That means you’re touching something deep in your soul. You’re writing true. Neil Gaiman says this:
“The moment that you feel, quite possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself . . . That is the moment you might be starting to get it right.”
That kind of writing will always affect your readers. Press in. Go deeper. Explore more.
What questions are you afraid to ask? Ask them. What subjects do you want to explore but avoid? Write about that. Find your deepest truth. You have to be brave enough to go into that valley, cut through the overgrown path, and shine a light for others to follow. This will be powerful writing.
In my second novel, Within the Veil, I purposely went toward subjects that scared me. Consequently, I experienced a lot of fear in the weeks leading up to the book’s release. That’s a good thing. I have learned to use fear as a gauge. It means that I showed up on the page. I’m not speaking autobiographically but emotionally. I plunged deep. If you are in this place, take a deep breath, smile, and enjoy the ride.
In this journey of battling fear, celebrate everything—even the bad reviews. At least that person took the time out of their day to sit at the computer and throw some words up on Amazon. What you don’t want are readers who are indifferent to your work. You want to incite a passionate response—either way. You want to make the reader feel. That is your job. Remember that certain books are for specific seasons. You can’t write a book that will resonate with everyone.
I’ve recently been reading a lot of Brené Brown work. She speaks a lot on vulnerability, courage, and fear. If you haven’t listened to her Ted Talk or YouTube videos, you really need to! Here’s one of her favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Don’t quit. Don’t ever, ever quit. If writing is deep down in your soul it’s there for a reason. Hold onto hope. The world so desperately needs light. The world needs your story. You are important and your words matter. Maybe you’re in the trenches right now. Keep slogging through that mud. Keep learning. Keep smiling. Keep fighting. Remember that everything important is a battle. So get your metaphorical armor on and fight. Word by word. Page by page. Book by book. I think writers are the bravest and most brilliant of souls. I’m so proud to be numbered among your ranks.
Write scared, dear ones. And remember what Robert Frost said: “The best way out is always through.” Let’s go get some ink.
If you're a writer, share your experiences with writing scared. If you're a reader, share which books really touched your fears in a positive way.
Brandy is generously giving away a copy of her brand new release, Within the Veil to one commenter. Winner's choice of print or ebook. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy's love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance. Her critically acclaimed novel, The Covered Deep, has been featured in USA TODAY and Writer's Digest. You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.
Feya Broon, a Scottish half-gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she'd ever want to be—captured by a palace guard. But there's something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she's even had about the haughty English.
Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty—both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.
As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.