Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Write Fright

One thing I've always had to deal with is stage fright. In college, I was a voice minor, and at the end of each semester we had to get up in front of all of the heads of the music college to perform... Something they call a jury performance. Let me tell you, it was excruciating for me. The thing about me, is that the more I love something, the more nervous I seem to get in the actual execution of said thing. And to do it in front of stern department heads? Egads. I was always terrified.

Miraculously, I made it through my music program. And I actually did pretty well. Since then, I've had numerous opportunities to perform--especially when I lived in Nashville. The crazy thing is that I LOVE singing -- love getting up there and performing, hearing comments by the audience that they loved this or that song... it's exciting, and the more I do it, the more I want to get out there and do it some more. I guess you could say I'm a bit addicted to the performance high and hearing the compliments I receive.

Funny thing... my stage fright has only gotten worse over time. It's actually gotten to the point where my knees go weak, my heart races, my stomach shoots off in all directions... I stand off stage and all I want to do is get the heck out of Dodge. Run, hide, do ANYTHING except get out on that stage and sing. It's not because of a lack of ability because I KNOW I can do it.. I even KNOW that if I get out there and start to sing I will get drawn into the moment and the fear will go away... Knowing these things doesn't help, though. I'm scared each and every time I so much as sing karaoke or happy birthday to someone. It's just how I'm built.

Well, I guess it's only natural that eventually this fear would bleed over into writing. I'll be honest, when I first started writing, I didn't know what the heck I was doing. And perhaps in my ignorance, it was easy to get swept away in the process. I didn't really think anything would become of it... I hoped, yes, but I knew I had a lot to learn and that it would take a long time to get there. In some ways, that was a really great place to be. I could JUST WRITE and not worry one bit about people judging it...whether I was doing it at the absolutely highest level possible, etc.

Eventually I did start sharing my work, and yeah, some compliments started rolling in. It was a bit intoxicating to hear people say they loved my characters, my storytelling... all of it. I wanted to hear MORE of that, and yeah, I got swept away in sharing my writing with anyone who would be willing to sit down and read it. Eventually I began to notice that I was putting a lot more pressure on myself to try to get everything perfect each and every time I sat down to write. After all, if it wasn't perfect, I wouldn't get the compliments I so wanted to hear.

Do you see where this is leading?

I haven't had a lot of time to work on writing for quite some time now. I've, at best, been a dabbler for the past year or two. It doesn't make me happy, but unfortunately real life does get in the way sometimes. And whether or not I've wanted to admit this to anyone or myself, the fear has really taken over. I've got one hell of a case of Write Fright and I really don't know what the hell to do about it. I took this entire week off to finish one of my manuscripts and as of yet I've put in about an hour of actual writing. And trust me, that hour was painful. I would write a sentence, stare at said sentence...erase said sentence. Try again. Eventually I would put something on the page and when I couldn't get it perfect, I would leave it anyway... then go back to it and change it a few minutes later. WHY -- WHY couldn't I get it right? And why was it that every time I would write a sentence, I would freeze up before getting another one onto the page?

Mind, this is the same girl who used to bust out several K of words a day... someone who knocked out her first book in two months.. her second book in three WEEKS. Today I'll be lucky if I complete 500 words that I don't feel the urge to throw directly into the trash.

I started to realize that my hands were almost shaking during each of these pauses. I had this sense of wanting to run away... do anything. Watch TV, read a book, hell, I was even willing to do the dishes. !!! The best way I can describe it is a deep down sense of unease that what I was doing was Not Good Enough. That I was failing and people would hate what I was writing.

Write Fright.

Do I think that I really suck? No. Do I think I can't do it? No. Do I think I've lost 'it'? No.

Regardless, I'm scared as all get out to sit down and write.

I'm writing this post because I think it's important to share these moments with other writers. I really don't have a solution to this problem and it's going to be something I will need to try to push through this week. I don't know what's going to happen. I KNOW what I need to do: sit down and write. It's not a matter of figuring out that part. It's really a matter of dealing with my nerves and saying to myself, "F*ck what other people will think. You LOVE this so DO it." And make no mistake, I do love to write and I'm desperate to get back to it.

So, I guess if you're out there and have experienced anything like this... you're not alone. Push through, peeps. Push through.


  1. I hope you push through, too, Jen! I've got terrible stage fright - and I can't even sing. (Say, didn't know you'd lived in Nashville? I love that city!) I hope I can write a little. I know you can! Push through... I guess there's no cure but butt in chair. Sigh

  2. Ah, Jen, I think we're singing different versions of the same song this week - "Pushin' on Through" (sounds like a country foot tapper, don't it? LOL)

    Give yourself permission to write shite for as long as it takes to get back in the saddle. And remember, no one else ever has to see it unless you want them to.

    You will do it. And you'll be right, mate. :-)

  3. Oh Jen- Hugs.
    Can't say I've ever suffered from this affliction myself, but I haven't got to the getting serious part of my writing yet either. Still SFD where anything is okay.
    Push through.

  4. Deniz-- Yep, I lived outside Nashville for about a year. Great place. Loved the people and atmosphere... Everyone is just so dang nice down there. :) And yeah, unfortunately there is no other cure than butt in chair. I just wish I wasn't getting so dang antsy every time I sit down. Gah. I need lead boots so I can't run away. :)

  5. Thanks, Rachel! I've never quite reached that point where I've been able to allow myself to go ahead and produce crap (not that I haven't, mind. LOL.). I really need to let go of that mentality because I think that's probably the exact reason I've ended up in this predicament. But that's the perfect advice...just write... and hell, NO ONE has to see it. No one has to see it. No one has to see it. I'm working on this. :)


  6. Thanks, Jill...hugs back! :) I'm trying to get myself back into that SFD mentality because honestly, it's the best place to be. I loved when I didn't put all of this pressure on myself to Get It Right straight out of the gate. Definitely something I need to work on...and yes, push through...push through. :) Thanks, again!

  7. I experience this at least once a year, usually following a string of unsuccessful queries (though these aren't necessarily linked). It can be difficult, but the solution is to just write anyway, like you said. It doesn't last forever, especially not as long as you're writing what you enjoy. Plenty of us are pushing along right beside you. In a figurative sense.

  8. Thanks, M.! It is good to know that I'm not the only one who experiences this, but for all of us, I hope these bouts are very brief. :) This week has been a battle of wills, to be sure, but I'm happy to say I'm pushing through, even if my steps are mere baby ones.

    Thanks for dropping in!

  9. Jen, you already know the cure for write fright. It's the one we all have to take if we're ever going to finish our novels. Seems, though, that the longer we're away from the butt-in-chair cure, the harder it is to get back in it. I know. I'm sorta at that place too.