Tricks of the Trade: Beating Fear

One of the books I took on vacation recently was by an author whose work I’ve read and enjoyed before. (Two different books from two different story lines:  one fantasy romance, one paranormal romance.)  So I had good expectations of this futuristic romance.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Not only was this book not as spicy as her other works (a problem of my expectations) but I felt the author fell down not only in her pacing, but in her understanding of how the military operates.  Since this “Interplanetary Militia” is central to the story, this is a serious flaw, in my opinion. Though I did finish the book, I thought about putting it down on several occasions.  I wondered if a tight deadline had pushed this book out the door before it was ready, and whether the author knew as she hit the send button that this book wasn’t as good as her other work.

I also have been reading the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith (highly recommended), one of which is, “Dare to be Bad.” Smith was writing primarily about the need for authors to give themselves permission to not be perfect, to get that first draft down without revision, and how doing that can short-circuit writer’s block and improve productivity. Daring to be bad is something even much published authors have to do. Writing fiction is inherently risky. A certain amount of fear sits on a writer’s shoulder even when the work is going well.  We all know we can’t please all the people all the time, but that doesn’t keep us from wanting to. Usually, the “bad” is revised out, but not always.  Even great writers trip at times, or create a work that disappoints their readers.  Knowing that takes some of the pressure off.

I find the idea of daring to be bad very comforting and liberating.  Perfection isn’t possible, so don’t aim for it.  Regardless of whether you’ve written the equivalent of a home-run or dog poop, the best thing to do is to write the next story.  A “bad” book will eventually only be one work among a larger body of (hopefully) better books — just not on the first draft.  (Nora Roberts has been quoted as saying, “Just get it down.  You can’t revise a blank page.”)

I’m thinking of cross-stitching a set of pillows (or at least putting a couple of sticky notes on my monitor).  One will say, “Dare to be bad” and the other, “Just get it down.”

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tricks of the Trade: Beating Fear

  1. Benita

    I think daring to be bad is important in many aspects of life. From a perspective art the phrase is “process, not product”…that is, if you are enjoying the doing of it, does it really matter if you (or anyone else) enjoys the end product. Dare to paint bad watercolors! Or even better, acrylic…as then you can just paint over it without buying new canvas.
    Dare to try new recipes! If they are bad, so what? It’s only one meal and (at least in our fortunate country) no one is going to starve from that.
    Dare to sing hilarious, if off-tune and not memorable songs to your dog!

    I was also thinking how “dare to be bad” and “just get it down” could be used in a sexual context…

    • Maria Shriver wrote in one of her books about her husband, when Arnold was still courting her (lovely old-fashioned term). The Shrivers and Kennedys were big into outdoor sports, including tennis. Arnold had never learned tennis, but he didn’t let that stop him. He played, badly, until he improved, without embarrassment. As a body builder, he knew that you don’t start out at the top. He was willing to be bad so he could learn to be good.

      That impressed me.

      As for enjoying the process, that is so very true, especially in writing. The payoff of publishing can be so long in coming and not very remunerative when it does arrive, that if you don’t enjoy writing for its own sake, you’re going to be pretty unhappy.

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