My husband and I were talking about fear the other day and he mentioned the saying that’s painted over the player’s entrance to centre court at Wimbledon: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…” It’s a small section of poet Rudyard Kipling‘s poem If, and it reminded me of the ups and downs writers face every day.
If you don’t know If, you can find it at EveryPoet.com, and it’s worth reading. A lot of lines fit what we go through:
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you / But make allowance for their doubting too
We get lots of opinions about our writing, from critique groups, family members, friends (you know, when they inwardly roll their eyes when you say you’re working on another novel), agents, editors, etc., and it can be hard to digest. Even from those people we trust, we sometimes get conflicting ideas. But as writers, our loyalty has to be to our writing. Our job is to take in all the approvals and criticisms, process them and use only what we feel will help our work get to a new level. We have to take all the doubts and push them aside, fully believing in ourselves and our work, while also recognizing that we can always learn more.
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master
If we didn’t have the dream of being published, we probably would never show our writing to anyone. Dreaming is a big part of writing, not only for our creativity but also to power our drive, but the challenge is to not get so caught up in our dream that we don’t enjoy our lives. Writing requires a lot of waiting, and in that time, we must live — and write even more.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone / And so hold on when there is nothing in you / Except the Will which says to them “Hold on”
I’ve read about and talked to a lot of writers who’ve had moments when they’ve thought about quitting, not wanting to face any more disappointment, but if they didn’t, they would miss out on the best part of writing: the creation — not to mention the book signings when their book is finally in print.
If we can do all that and more, as Kipling says:
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!
So writers, fear will always be with us, we just have to keep our heads.