Why Writing Is Fucking Terrifying

Writing is hard.

There’s a whole slew of things I could talk about under this enormous topic: writer’s block, grammar, creativity, learning to write for yourself and not for an audience... the list goes on. But I watched a video today and I think it exemplifies one of my greatest fears with writing, so I wanted to share it.

You see, some people fear the vulnerability of writing.  There is YOU in your writing, and the thought of being laid open so intimately can be scary.  I don’t have this problem (which is weird, because so many of my issues are based on my lack of self-esteem).  It’s actually easier for me to write about intimate subjects. I can write about my own heartbreak with hardly an issue, but when I try to create it for a character, it doesn’t work as well. When it’s my own feelings, the words pour like running water out of a faucet, but when I try to even put those feelings under the disguise of a fictional character, a different name, the tap shuts off.  I’m not sure why that is.

What is more frightening to me is my lack of ingenuity.  

Writing starts from reading.  You read books that become your escape pods from reality, and you think, “I want to do that”. Or, perhaps, it comes from frustration: a book or movie or TV show makes a wrong turn, and you want to undo the mistake.  Maybe it comes from not seeing something represented in your entertainment options. Whatever the reason, there’s a voice that tells you, “I can do this”. Otherwise, you wouldn’t, right? And so you find the people who are, to your estimation, doing it right.  And then your lessons begin.

Somewhere down the line, you learn the whole “you can only be YOU, you cannot be the people that you’ve been studying”.  In my case, I learned that I will never be Neil Gaiman or Madeleine L’Engle or Roald Dahl, and trying to be is just sloppy, bad writing.  That’s okay, you know? Reading their stuff still gives you a certain standard to try and live up to, or at the very least, a genre.

But here’s where my problem lies: I have grown up reading these wonderfully imaginative writers, who are able to blend real-life lessons with fantasy in a way that I cannot.  They use imagery and language in a blend of practically-poetic art that feels like an honor to consume. I know that I cannot be them, but how can I see beauty, originality, imagination, or even vague cleverness in my… ugh, UTTER DRIVEL?  Am I not to hold myself to the same standards I have as a READER? That seems silly.

Beyond that, there is the fear that I may have some good ideas but lack the talent to pull them off.  Perhaps I’m not smart enough to tackle a sci-fi story, or to sprinkle a fictional work with morals.

And that’s where the video I mentioned comes in.  Take a look.

How horrific is this, as a writer? I’m not suggesting that the writer of Passengers is not smart or untalented, but imagine writing something that ultimately gets panned, and then this video shows up explaining EXACTLY how to fix it in such a SIMPLE manner.  

I don’t think I’d ever write again.  I’d be HORRIFIED watching this, knowing what I COULD’VE written, what I was SO CLOSE to and didn’t even realize.  Even now, I’ve had people mention imagery in my writing and hidden meanings that I literally didn’t even THINK of while writing it, and I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m an idiot.  I am genuinely not smart enough to even be attempting this.” Because sure, not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece, but to be so CLOSE to greatness and just miss it?

And okay, maybe that’s what editors are for.  But clearly, Passengers made it through many edits and none of them thought to simply change the point-of-view or the timeline.  And especially in movies, like… would that have affected Chris Pratt’s career more, with him playing, essentially, a sci-fi Jack Torrance?  Could there have been a greater emphasis on how genuinely AWFUL Jim’s actions were, on sexism in general? Sure, there’s a part of me that’s like, “THIS WAS DEFINITELY WRITTEN BY A MAN AND IT SHOWS” but I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve written that outright yells “white girl”, too. (There’s a lesson about diversity in entertainment there, but by now we should all know this, so I’ll refrain.)

This video is everything I fear about myself as a writer, displayed in a real-life example.  And I think that is what holds me back from writing original fiction, is this fear that I’m just not a person who SHOULD attempt it.  It’s not enough to be able to strings words together in a pretty way, particularly when it comes to fiction. Writing is, and should be, art.  It can be simple art, it doesn’t have to be powerful all the time, but it should be approached that way and respected.

I’m just not sure that I’m an artist.