Tag Archives: emotional elements of writing

Fear Series: #3 Fear of Revealing the Human Within

naked woman hiding in dark - fearing exposureFear of self-exposure and fear of rejection go hand in hand. In exposing our innermost thoughts and feelings through our writing, we are risking criticism, ridicule, and rejection.

Is fear of exposing your true self holding you back from writing your message or your story? It’s not an uncommon problem. When we write, we pour ourselves into the work. We leave some, or a lot, of ourselves on the page for all the world to see. This can be intimidating and overwhelming. When we think about who might read our work–our parents, our children, our colleagues etc., and what they might think of the work, or us, after reading it can sometimes prevent us from writing what we are called to write. Here are some things to keep in mind when you fear self-exposure.

1. You have control over what you reveal.

If you are writing a memoir or any other piece of non-fiction that is personal, it is important to know you have complete control over what you reveal. That said, be aware that what you are afraid to write about may resonate with someone else. If it is your aim to help others through your work, in exposing your experiences, good and bad, you may reach someone who is going through or may have experienced the same thing. You can be of service to that person. You can connect with that person in a profound way. Isn’t that what sharing your work is all about?

In fiction, we can “hide behind the curtain” so to speak. We can put ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences into the development of a character. We can also recreate experiences we’ve had, and unless we divulge it, the reader will never know if it was our experience or not. Still, if the emotions or experiences are particularly painful, it can often feel as if we are exposing a part of ourselves we don’t want people to see.

In writing my historical mysteries I often use people from my life to portray a character. Many of my antagonists have been crafted from people whom I didn’t like, who have done me or my loved ones harm, or who are just negative, not very nice people. I used to fear that if my work got published that person would recognize themselves and get their feelings hurt. I expressed this fear to a critique group once, and someone said, “they don’t see themselves the way you see them. They would never recognize themselves in the character.” That statement made complete sense to me. It also made me realize the people I used to create my antagonists were not “bad” people, they just exhibit bad behavior because of past wounds or their own negative experiences.

2. You are human and others will relate to what you expose.

We are often not alone in our embarrassments, our bad behavior, our negative thoughts and feelings. When we expose ourselves, either outright or through our characters, we are sharing our human nature. That is how our readers will connect with us. Also, it is important to remember, it’s not about you. When a reader picks up a book, they are looking for an experience for themselves, one they can relate to—the good, the bad and the ugly. You are simply providing the mirror of their own human experiences.

3. You won’t please everyone.

Will someone hate your work? Probably. Will someone love your work? Probably. This is the area where you have NO control. Just like you cannot control what people think of you, you cannot control what they think of your work. Writers and many other creative people often share the trait of wanting to be liked by everyone. Writers and artists are driven to do what they do, and they want people to like and accept what they do. This is something we cannot control, so we shouldn’t try. Do your best, put your words on the page, be proud of what you do. Don’t let the one or two naysayers crush your dream. Sometimes people love to find fault. Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about them.

4. Look at the negative things people say about your work with objectivity.

Try to view the criticism, and your work, as an observer. Take yourself out of the equation for a few minutes. Ask yourself, is this constructive or destructive criticism? If it is constructive, and you feel your work will improve by listening to the criticism, brush yourself off and learn from the experience. You have control of what you do with this information. If the criticism is destructive and makes you feel ashamed, put down, or threatens to make you quit writing, put it out of your mind. Forget about it and move on. If you can’t do this, distance yourself from the work and the criticism for two weeks. Go back to it and see if you feel any different.

Discerning between harsh, constructive criticism and destructive criticism can be difficult, because neither one feels very good. We all get destructive criticism from time to time. This goes back to tip number 3. Some people live to find fault. Consider the source and then move on.

woman smelling flower - no fear of exposure5. Celebrate the positive things people say about your work.

Take in the positive. Pick the positive flowers of what people say about your work, bundle it all up in a bouquet and water it often! Write those positive affirmations down in a journal, or better yet, write them on a sticky note and place it on your computer, or your bathroom mirror. Keep your rejection letters and highlight the positive remarks. Sometimes when we hear three wonderful comments about our work, and one terrible comment, we focus on the terrible one. Don’t let this play into your fear of self-exposure.

One of the best pieces of advice I have received about fear of self-exposure is to write your book, your essay, your blog post, etc. as if no one will read it. That is called writing your first draft. Then go back and decide what you feel most comfortable revealing, and what you feel the least comfortable revealing, and go from there. Good writing is re-writing. You have the power and control to share what you want.

5 Elements to Unlock the Mystery of Writing A Book

 

woman staring at computer screenWriting a book. Sounds easy? If you have ever tried to write a book, or actually succeeded at writing a book, you know what kind of commitment it requires. Taking about it is one thing. Doing it is another. So, how do we unlock the mystery of writing a book?

Many people want to write a book. They either have a message or information they want to share, or they love to tell a good story. Perhaps they have experiences they feel people can learn from. Perhaps they want to make a statement about the human condition, or provide social commentary. The variety of reasons for writing a book is as immense as the variety of ideas people have for those books.

But, what does it take?

Here are the 5 elements I feel are necessary to unlock the mystery of writing a book, and more importantly finishing a book.

Element #5 Understand your gifts, knowledge, and talent.

 This goes along with the old adage “write what you know.” If you have access to certain information, or are gifted with unique skills, or have a particular talent – write about it. Would a bee-keeper write a medical thriller? Possibly, if she had a passion for medicine, or had access to a medical professional. Or, if the plight of bees threatened the medical well-being of mankind in her book. But generally, no. If medicine is not an interest of the bee-keeper, she might be better served to write a book involving bees, beekeeping, or perhaps a book about a honey-salesman. That could have some interesting connotations!

Stick with what you know, or what you are passionate about. It will come through in your story or in your message.

Element #4 Create time and space – figuratively.

When I am working on a book, I find it is top of mind, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But there are times when I can’t sit down to write. As much as I would like to say that I am an author who writes every single day, it is just not a reality for me. I have other things I am equally passionate about. It’s always a struggle to get everything in. Instead of neglecting my other passions and responsibilities, I make time and space in my head for my book. When doing physical chores that don’t require a lot of concentration, I work out the next scene or chapter I want to write. I might fantasize about a new character, or a new setting for my book.

Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse to capture your thoughts. I used to spend a lot of time in the car. Instead of listening to music, I listened to the story unfolding in my head. It’s a great way to make the commute shorter. Don’t take notes unless you are at a stop light!

Element #3 Create time and space – literally.

It is important to take your writing seriously. Do not put it on the back-burner, or think to yourself, “I’ll get to it later.” Schedule it into your day or week. If you can only fit in 20 minutes a day, great! Put it in your calendar. If you can write one page a day, then you will have 365 pages at the end of the year. Viola! A book.

Finding a space where you cannot be disturbed is instrumental. I try to create a cozy, comfortable atmosphere in my office. I have my essential oils diffuser, tea pot, comfy sofa or chair, and a clean desk (somewhat) ready for me when I sit down to write. When I spent a lot of time in the car, I carried my lap-top with me everywhere. I wrote in airports, coffee shops, restaurants, even the nail salon! Some people claim they can’t write anywhere but their office. I get it. But, being flexible gives you more writing time. And, the more you do it, the better you get at it!

Element #2 Read, read, read.

 Reading books of all genres and types is the best way to learn to be a better writer. It’s important to take stock of other authors’ strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn’t. Take note of things like their writing style, their voice, their message, and themes that run throughout their book. Focus on your genre or area of interest. Write down the passages that strike you. Analyze what the author did to make their words so colorful, exciting, terrifying, or real. Do you get lost in the setting or world the author has built? Why? Do you love or hate a character? Why?

Element #1 – The single most important element to writing a book: Belief in Self

 Writing a book can be a hefty undertaking. You’ll spend a lot of time in your own head. This can be a dangerous place! Naturally, your thoughts will want to take you where you aren’t good enough, you don’t know enough. You go to a place where people won’t want to read what you have written, or take you seriously. Am I right?

Belief in yourself is so important as a writer. You cannot please everyone. People will give you advice and commentary whether you want it or not. Whether you are published or not. Whether you are a best-seller or not. Unfortunately, being a writer or artist requires the development of a tough skin, a love of your craft, and a love of self. If you don’t love what you do and what you write, how will anyone else? Believe in your craft. Believe in your work. Believe in yourself.