This fall I’ve started work on a fiction project I haven’t worked on since the spring. This past summer I focused my writing time on nonfiction, especially in July when I did CampNaNo. My nonfiction writing feels like it’s getting stronger and I’m enjoying it more and more as time goes by.
That hasn’t been my experience of writing fiction, at least not lately. Recently I wrote an outline to a short story I’ve been working on and I sent it to my critique group for their feedback. Because it was between meetings, one of the members of our group offered to meet with me to discuss the outline. She thought there were some issues with it that needed to be addressed in person because they were difficult to articulate in an email.
I replied to her email saying:
“Honestly, I’m not sure if I want to keep working on this story. I think I need to start doing something completely different. The last short story I wrote had a similar setting and characters and I want to try something different. Or I guess I could just be sick of it. I don’t think we need to meet just to go over my outline.”
Since then I’ve felt like giving up on fiction: Maybe I’ve lost my fiction writing skills. Maybe I never had any to begin with. Maybe I should go back to writing prompts and free writing and stop trying to write something as ambitious as a short story.
At this point in my thinking process, I realized I was in the grip of fear. I then asked myself if I wanted to allow my fear to lead me. I don’t.
I now see that the only way I’m going to get better at writing short stories is to keep writing—and rewriting–short stories.
I’ve been fearful of showing my fiction to my critique group—not because they are harsh critics, but because I am, at least with my own work.
I now choose to think differently about my critique group: I have the luxury of being part of a group of people who are willing to critique my work and to allow me to critique their work. I’m going to take advantage of this luxury by writing another draft of my short story and showing it to my critique group—as imperfect as it is.
I’ll become a better writer if I do. And that is my goal.
I know the fear I’ve been feeling is partly because I stepped away from fiction for too long, and partly because my fellow critique group members have been accomplishing so much while I’ve been doing other things.
I can manage my fear (not banish it, I don’t think that’s possible) by writing fiction more often and choosing to think how lucky I am to have an accomplished group of writers reviewing my work.
I feel much better now. Time to get back to my short story.
What are your fears about your writing life and how do you manage them?
Diane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, and family physician. I’m dividing my writing time between a coaching book for physicians and a short story these days, and it’s only two days before NaNo starts and I haven’t made the commitment–there’s still time to decide!