Why I’m (Sometimes) Afraid To Write

With November only a few days away, I’m hearing a lot of buzz about NaNoWriMo. My only attempt at NaNo was in 2008. It was a stressful experience, and by mid-month I was too far behind to finish in time, so I never did. Still, every year I think about trying again. I have an idea that’s been hounding me since the summer of 2012. It’s a growing collection of bits and pieces, but an anchor could emerge if I took a leap of faith and actually worked on the thing. You know?

The truth is, I’m terrified of diving whole hog into a novel. Blog posts and short pieces are no problem. I can finish and publish them in a few hours, at most. Quick turnaround, quick appearance of productivity. But a novel would be a marathon. In the dark. 

I have a love-hate relationship with Jon Acuff’s motivational tome Quitter. The most important question he poses in it is, What do you do that makes time behave differently? Whatever the answer is, that’s your life’s work, or at least a clue to it. Writing is absolutely that thing for me. When I write, I go down a rabbit hole. I wrote a lot of (terrible) fiction as a teenager, and I can’t count the times I looked up in shock to realize that it was 1 or 2 am (and I’d only written a few pages). But that’s a luxury I don’t really have as an adult with a full-time job. I’m afraid of what could happen to my relationships and responsibilities if I free-fell down the rabbit hole. More than that, I’m afraid of sacrificing for something that, in the end, I might not even be able to show to anyone. Let alone get published. Wouldn’t that be a silly waste of time? Is the work enough if it only matters to me?

I’m working through (my guru) Emily Freeman‘s latest, A Million Little Ways, and this passage that I read last night spoke directly to the issue:

The only reason we would ever call something a waste of time is because we have a certain idea of success and anything short of that idea we label “waste.” Or maybe we are adhering to someone else’s idea of success and we adopt it as our own. If you are worried that your art is a waste of time, perhaps you need to redefine success in art. Are you becoming more fully yourself? Is there someone else who believes in you or has been inspired because you are living life more fully alive? Are you learning what it means to depend on God in ways you’ve never had to depend on him before? There is courage in connection – connection with your true self, with the true self of others, and with the one true God. If waking up to your desire is bringing you closer to someone else, if it allows you to be vulnerable in ways you weren’t able to before, if it reminds you of your desperate need for God, then your art has not been wasted.

I can’t end this post with a commitment to crack down and do NaNo like a woman possessed. But what I can commit to, what I’m increasingly sure of, is that real art takes a long time. Much longer than I wish it did. There are no shortcuts to becoming the writer, or person, you’re meant to be. There’s no way out except through. The reward is in what you learn and become in the process. My goal is to believe that enough to start acting on it in bigger and bigger ways, to be brave enough to invest myself with no guarantee of glory.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister’s iced tea.

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8 Responses to Why I’m (Sometimes) Afraid To Write

  1. Brenda, go for it! Who cares how long it takes you! Don’t put time restraints on yourself… you are such a good writer! And, I think everyone is passionate about something that, at times, can make you sacrifice in other areas of your life. When I trained for the Chicago marathon last year, it was like I dropped off the face of the earth for 4 months! But it was just for a season of life! And as far as not having the promise of glory- isn’t that almost everything we do?! I think you should go for it! Maybe not the NaNo thing, but I think you should start a novel. Maybe on your own terms?

  2. Goodness, don’t do NaNo! It’s not how you actually *write* – it’s just a dare, like mo-vember or something. But do write, for sure. I’d give anything to have the *desire* to write! As Lauren always said throughout my MFA work, the point is fruitfulness, not productivity, and you can’t even think about readers (and whether they’ll ever surface) until you actually write something down. I wrote hundreds of pages of things during the last few years that I realized, in retrospect, won’t be read by anyone and shouldn’t be, either. But it was still work worth doing.

  3. Erin Perry says:

    I totally get this so very much. In fact, I have nothing to add because my feelings are so similar to your own :)

  4. Sarah Reck says:

    Oh I get this. My biggest problem is that my best writing time is 9-11 in the morning, and that’s when I’m working. And, on the weekend, when I’m sleeping …

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