"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Anxious Writer

For my first blog I wanted to write something clever yet pithy. I toyed with several writing problems from POV to Show, Don’t Tell, certain I could enlighten someone with my wisdom. Then a medical problem struck our family and all joy, clever or otherwise, flew out the window. I found myself watching helplessly, day by day, for three grueling months as my youngest son fought for his life. Happy to report our family got the miracle we’d been praying so fervently for, my son is back to work and getting stronger everyday. But during one long night as I sat alone beside his bed anxiously watching the various monitors tell their tale and listening to ventilator pump oxygen into his rigid lungs, I had a small epiphany. The writing process (Don’t you just love that term---writing process? It sounds so cool, like I’m a capable writer who knows what she’s doing,) is a lonely one and can produce somewhat similar feelings of anxiety for a writer battling the dreaded Blank Page. It doesn’t matter if one is a multi-published author or struggling to get beyond the slush pile, the fear of what to put on that blank page strikes one and all.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of eating lunch with Sue Grafton at a writer’s conference. What joy filled my heart when one of my favorite authors, who I thought was totally together and supremely confident, admitted that she’s just as insecure and insane as moi. This revelation was intoxicating and terrifying. It moved me from being alone and nuts to belonging to a group that embraces fear and gut-quaking anxiety. Basically, I’ve always identified with the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Why would I choose to subject myself to such torture? Because I want to be published. To do that I must sit alone at my keyboard and ignore that doomsday feeling which whispers in my ear, “This is the stupidest idea in the history of the world. You suck as a writer. What made you think you could do this?” Just as the situation with my son forced me beyond what I thought I could endure, successful writers manage to push beyond fear. With heads down, they slog through and conquer the Blank Page. No matter what.

--Sue Anne Hodge

Sue Anne lives in Pocatello and is currently working on a mystery novel.