One day, I will publish a novel. I’ve written a novel (that’s progress), but it isn’t the one I want to publish – not yet. In 2001, an agent named Rose asked me to write an essay on why I was afraid to write a novel.
Afraid? “I’m not afraid to write a novel,” I said. “I just haven’t gotten around to it.” Well, there goes that excuse…
“Write the essay,” she urged, promising me that if I wrote a novel in the next twelve months, she would edit it at no charge and help me get it published. I wrote the essay. I dawdled on the novel. I discovered NaNoWriMo and wrote the novel, but promptly stuffed it into a drawer and avoided all contact with Rose until after the twelve months were up. What’s wrong with this picture??
Here’s the essay – maybe you can relate?
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
I Can Do This, If I Can Just… Pick… Up… This… Pen…
As I sit here picking fuzz balls from the carpet, it hits me. I want to write a novel. And I know I can do it with a little discipline and perseverence; as my mother would say, “Just put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving.” Or writing, in this case. So what is it that’s holding me back, driving me to pick the fuzz balls out of the carpet?
Fear that I’ll write it, and it will be awful. Embarassingly awful. So awful that I will have wasted my time, my energy, and my hopes on something that’s not even fit to burn. I’ll have killed hundreds of poor defenseless trees and suffered public humiliation in the process, and for what? To bore my readers to tears?
Fear that I’ll write it, and it will be an overnight bestseller. It’ll be such a raging success that I’ll have to spend half my time on the road, promoting and signing the damned thing. The “business” of writing will take over, leaving me no time or energy to write. My ever-supportive family will hate it, but they’ll put up with it (the better to write their own multimillion-dollar tell-all Mommy Dearest-type expose in years to come). No doubt success will go to my head, and I’ll forget that no matter how smart, skilled, or talented you are, you’re only better at some things than some people.
Fear that I’ll write it, and it will be the kind of novel I want it to be–one that will make my family and friends proud of me. A novel that will earn critical acclaim and entertain millions. A novel that will spark conversations at the water cooler, all beginning with “Hey, have you read that great new book…” And then they’ll figure if I did it once, I can easily do it again. At that point, I’ll be struck with the most horrendous case of writer’s block imaginable, and that’ll be the end of a brilliant start. The one-trick pony, unable to repeat the trick. And then my family and friends won’t be proud of me anymore, they’ll just be disappointed and try to encourage me by telling me what a good writer I am, but we’ll all know better, won’t we?
Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?
Who said phobias were rational?