Fear, it is a powerful emotion. It can disable you, literally. It can incapacitate you physically and mentally. As a storyteller, it can allow that most insipid of feelings to play prominently in your mind, that feeling being doubt. You doubt yourself, you doubt your work, you doubt your ability to create.
However, fear can also be a catalyst for great change. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, that instant reaction to stimuli in which you decide to flee or to turn and face that which frightened you. As with anything, even fear can be turned into a positive, if you choose to adopt that mindset.
I bring this up because I recently had some doubts creep into my mind regarding the process of writing. It happens to me from time to time, so I thought I would share this with you. In looking at my doubts, I decided to delve deeper to fight the cause of them. Ultimately, the root of the problem is fear. Fear of being accepted as a writer, fear of doing the continuing story of the Necromancers’ Pride Saga justice, fear of letting you, our amazing readers, down in your expectations. It is just fear, plain and simple. Now, what I admire most about my writing partner D.W. is that he does not let fear, or the doubt that it breeds, slow him down in the slightest. He always assesses his emotions and concerns logically and acts on moving past them, on blowing them out of his way, in point of fact.
As we write book 3, Storm of Shadows, I felt those doubts creeping in. When I did, I knew I had to act on blowing them out of my way. I used four methods that truly worked wonders for me and cleared my mind and creative space. Now, I feel my ideas flowing and my inspiration and desire to write reinvigorated. It is OK to have doubts. It is OK to be uncertain. Acknowledge them, assess them, then work to remove them and the underlying fear that gave them birth. Here are the four things I did to clear my creative path. I hope they assist you on your road, should it ever become blocked by doubt.
- Read your favorite author. I was feeling stuck last week, uncertain as to how to proceed. Now, of course D.W. and I had created a rough outline, as is our practice, to lead us as we work. We are not really planners, per se, outlining meticulously every detail of our work. Rather, we give ourselves a basic roadmap and allow our creativity and the characters we have created to guide us in our storytelling. Well, as I said, I was feeling a bit stuck. I reached for a work of my favorite fantasy author, R.A. Salvatore. I allowed myself a few minutes to get lost in his world, reveling in the story of Drizzt, Wulfgar, Cattie-brie, Bruenor and Regis. In a few minutes, the love of writing that had set me down this path had been recharged and I turned my attention with excited eyes back on my own work. When you are feeling down, find one of the stories of the brilliant authors that inspired and entertained you, and allow them to work their magic again. It wasn’t about getting ideas, it was about getting connected to the magic that enraptured me in my youth. A few minutes in their world will do amazing good for you in yours.
- Listen to your favorite music. Soundtracks are key. We live in a multi-media world. Instead of pushing outside stimuli away, why not embrace it? For me, it is alternatively the Lord of the Rings soundtrack or the soundtrack from Braveheart. All those movies inspired me when I saw them and their music filled my soul. Add to that some occasional Vivaldi or J.S. Bach and I have a soundtrack for creation that literally makes me excited. If you always write or create in silence, I suggest you give filling your mind with music a try. It does not have to be nightclub loud, but the soft strains in the background can let your mind play and allow your subconscious mind more liberty to interact with your conscious mind. Give it a try.
- Watch a movie that inspires you. It is not a waste of time to throw in Excalibur (genius work by John Boorman, if I do say so myself) or the original Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Arc, or Chinatown, or The Godfather, depending upon your genre, if you need that creative kick. If there were a set formula for creativity, the person who bottled that elixir would be a billionaire several time over. The truth is, there is no set formula. You have to dig to find what inspires you. Some days, doubt makes that harder than others. It happened with me, so I turned to The Desolation of Smaug. I rented it and let it play in the background as I wrote, just to feel attached to some fantasy. Within minutes, I was so fully invested in my work that I did not even know it was on, but the images were the jumpstart I needed to get my fires burning. That story is nothing like ours so it was not about getting ideas, it was about getting inspired. Again, we have the media at our disposal, let us take advantage of it.
- Turn to a friend. This is the most important tip and the easiest to explain. I am fortunate in that I have D.W. with whom to share my frustrations, as well as my wife and close friends. If I need a moral boost, or just an empathetic ear, I have cultivated the relationships I need to pick me up when I stumble and fall. The misconception is that writing is a lonely process. Well, it may at times be lonely, but you are not alone. Another voice (outside of the ones that live in your head) is often the exact thing you need to hear to put you on the path of creative discovery. Do not give in to fear to such a degree that you turn from those closest to you. Friends and family are the greatest inspiration of all.
Well, there you have it. This is what I have done to continue to keep myself moving forward. We all stumble, but it is how we rise in the face of adversity that defines us. I hope these tips can help you.
What tips of your own can you add to this list?
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