Monday, January 16, 2012

You have nothing to fear but ... yourself

This week's guest post is from Scott Morgan, owner of the Write Hook: Writing for the jugular blog and author of Character Development From the Inside Out and Short StackAs you will see, Scott writes directly.

As with all my guest bloggers, Scott is also publishing my words on his blog. Check it out, too. And remember, while the words below are his, you should still leave the comments on MY blog.

Let us both know what you think!

What's holding you back?

I don't give advice. Smart people don't need it and stupid people don't take it.

But I'll diverge from my normal path to offer one piece of advice to anyone out there wishing he (or she) could be a better writer: Listen to yourself.

Profound, huh?

Well, smartass, it is. You see, whether you want to believe it, you know what's best for you. If there's something holding you back, it's fear of upending one or more aspects of your life–which, often enough, is a life that's not making you as happy as you want it to in the first place.

So when it comes to writing, what is it that's holding you up? Afraid people aren't going to like what you wrote? 'Cause I got news. They won't. Not all of them anyway. But do you really care about that? I mean, if you're a shortstop, do you really care who won the Super Bowl?

Or are you afraid of offending someone? 'Cause I got news for you. You will. Somewhere, some prick will always be offended by something you say, no matter what you say. Your fear, probably, is that you don't want to be confronted with it.

I sympathize. I don't really care what kind of crappola people think, but I never want to listen to it. So I dig.

But here's the thing – without risking the occasional brush with crappola, you never get to the sweet, soft center of where you want to be. Because as much as some people will hate every word you say, more people than you expect will like you. They will support you and believe in you and champion your cause. But it takes a willingness to slough away the rust that's holding you up and a willingness to embrace a certain amount of distaste for the chance at finding out who you really are as a writer.

An online friend of mine (author Carey Parrish) reviewed my short fiction e-book Short Stack on Amazon. Somewhere in an entirely positive review, Carey said this: A talent like his is too much to keep secret and fortunately he isn't inclined to try.

I was floored. And I had to laugh, because until I got the hell over myself, I was completely and religiously disinclined to try. The first 99/100ths of my creative life have been swallowed by my belief that my creativity is mine and mine alone. That you weren't good enough to hear it. And that just because I wrote, it didn't mean you had to read it.

But what that belief really translated to was that I had no balls. I hid because I was afraid someone would tell me I sucked.

When I decided to stop wishing I was dead and start wishing I hadn't spent my life attempting new and exciting methods of self-destruction, I found an interesting thing had happened–I wasn't afraid anymore. I decided that the world did need to hear what I had to say, because somewhere one this pale, blue dot would be someone (even if only one) who would say "that's what I wanted."

When I got the hell over myself, I sat down and wrote Character Development from the Inside Out with one hand while fighting off the dread that I had nothing important to say with the other. And when I asked a publisher to read it, an amazing, unexpected thing happened: she said yes. And when she published it, I got speaking gigs.

And I got readers. Enough to put the book on one of Amazon's bestseller lists.

Do you know how many books I started before I got the hell over myself? Tell me, please, because I've lost count. I finished two of them, but neither saw the light of day because they weren't me. They were me trying to be something I'm not.

So. Do yourself a favor: listen to yourself. You're the only one who knows what you really want, and if you take yourself out of the running to get it, no one is going to put you back in the race. Go out there and get it. Keep failing and keep trying. Keep risking and keep writing. You'll be surprised where the current takes you if you bring your own oars.


  1. Thank you for writing these words, especially now, when I most needed to hear them.

    BYOO. Bring Your Own Oars. Check! I won't fight my own current anymore. Maybe I won't sell as much, or even anything at all, but I bet I'll like my writing again.

  2. Excellent post!! I'm a big fan of yours, Scott, you know that. And not in small part because you talk on the page like I was sitting right in front of you. No sugar coating, no facade. I love REAL people, and you, hands down, are the real deal.

  3. I think this was the best post I could have read to start this new year. I am plagued with my self and inability to believe in my writing. I still do it, but I like your attitude better. Thank you both, Scott,and Scott, for sharing these words.

  4. Excellent post, Scott, and true beyond people's imaginings. Fear is the only enemy we have, and there it is wherever we find something not as we know it could be. Thank you for something both entertaining and informative.

  5. Just got my first rejection letter. I was more disappointed than hurt. I've been on the same wavelength with what you stressed in the post. It's always a nice reminder for all creatives though, especially with all the endless tips pelting us that our own voices get lost sometimes. So cheers!

  6. Fucking A that is awesome. Yes, I said Fuck, even though a reader just sent me a note saying she could do with out the F bomb in my latest chapter and it gave me an oogie feeling. (Catholic guilt, I swear!) You know what? I'm 45 years old. And, yes, sometimes I'm going to swear. And sometimes they are not going to like it or anything else I write - 99.99% of which is not inflammatory. And, yes, my husband wants me to get back out there in this shitty economy and take a job that would be more significant to a family where BOTH partners are unemployed.

    But I keep saying no - and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. So what if I'm not making any money - I'm building a fan base. Sure, they are reading my work more than 70% because it's fanfiction and they are in love with the pre established characters from their favorite television show - but you know what? After 39 years of journaling and dreaming, I needed something that compelled me to the point that I couldn't NOT write. So that's how I got here. Thank you for the encouragement to trust myself . . . and to be okay with others not.

    Catherine (MoxieGirl44 on Twitter)

    1. Keep going! Now, I'm not trying to attract your ire, but can I suggest that you take the next step and write more really original stuff? Create your own characters that readers will love?

    2. I'm 40 (until next month) and I went to Catholic school too, and still I can say: I fucking love the comment, Catherine.I can't advise you on your employment options, but I'm glad you've found your writer self.

  7. 'I don't give advice. Smart people don't need it and stupid people don't take it.'

    This made me guffaw. Thanks, Scott, for making me laugh in such a way :)

    BTW - 41? Never! You look far too good for that age ;)

  8. Excellent Post. I hope you don't mind me re-tweeting it. So glad I read it, although will it draw me far enough away from my own self doubt and fears of rejection? Time will tell. The few people who have read A THOROUGHLY ENGLSH HOODLUM seem to like it. I have yet to see any comments on DORTY WEE SHITE. I am going to try harder ths year to write more than procrastinate.

  9. Good one!!! I'm glad you said it.

    I occaisionally find myself wondering what a reader, or one of those self-important-myopic-600word-vocabulary-reviewers will think. My cure for that kind of self-doubt is another glass of wine and an attitude of, "Fuck it; I'm writing first for myself, second for readers, and not at all for the literary eunuchs. If they don't like it, there's millions of books out there for them to read."
    At the end of the day, we have nothing but our integrity; why give it up for the opinions of others?

  10. Awesome post and the timing is perfect. Thanks for your blog and for sharing your experiences. Have a great weekend.

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  12. Great post, guys! I think every budding author should have a read of this (and add it to your favourites so you can read it again when the inevitable 1-star review comes in).

    Cheers, Scotts :-)

  13. Vilhelm is sculpting a meat monument in your honor, Seriously excellent post! It is so easy to get caught up in the "politically" correct world that people think we should live in. Writing with passion and without fear...YES!