humor / writers / writing

What Worries Me When I Write

I published this about a year ago on Alex Cavanaugh’s website. If you missed it, here’s a reprise:

Six years ago, when I prepared to publish my first book, I shared my worst fears with blogging buddies. Now as I publish my seventh book, The Quest for Home, I still don’t feel like I have my shine on. Here’s the list of my fears now:

  • That I’ll get a bad review on Amazon. You can’t unring that bell. It ruins your averages.
  • That I’ll over-think what I’m writing, take myself too seriously. I have to shake it out and start over.
  • That my characters come across as shallow–people even I wouldn’t want to know.
  • Anton Chekov once warned: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” What if I miss that? What if I miss it twice?
  • That I’ll spell ‘siesta’ with an ‘f’–or ‘Freud’ with an ‘a’. How about ‘luck’ with an ‘f’? So much to worry about.
  • That I’ll use ‘was’ twelve times on one page and drain the energy out of my story like a leaky boat.
  • That I’ll ‘tell’ not ‘show’.
  • That my novel will have so many problems, when new ones come along, it’ll take me two weeks before I have time to worry about them.
  • That agents will say, ‘There’s a story that didn’t live up to its query letter’.
  • That I’ve written a Goldilocks story–not too fast, not too slow, just boring.
  • That my writing has more enthusiasm than expertise.
  • That my novel will reach a climax and I won’t notice. The corollary to that: I won’t know where the beginning is.
  • That I’ll think ‘seriousism’ is a perfectly good noun to use.

As if this list isn’t bad enough, I found a bunch more on Twitter that sounded like me:

  • That I’ll start to believe statistics like 83% of new writers don’t get published, or the average American has one testicle and one ovary.
  • That I will bury my voice in the effort to ‘follow the right rules’
  • That I will turn a world class ending into a mediocre one.
  • That my muse will abandon me.
  • That even now, the fat lady is singing.
  • That my lips will get tired before I finish all the writer’s how-to books I need to read.
  • That my woke story will come out stupid.

And here’s my #1 fear and it’s a bit of a conundrum: If I write from my heart and no one reads it, have I really written anything?

How about you? What’s your worst fear?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


83 thoughts on “What Worries Me When I Write

  1. Hi – this was a most enjoyable post.
    The list of fears – both lists –
    Had my thoughts all over the place –
    Like the show and don’t tell – well I know that is common to follow – but there are times we need to be told directly because of human distortions or how folks miss things right in their face. So I think there are times we need to do both – show and tell and then maybe again.
    Things like that were on my mind – and the note about Americans with one testicle and one ovary flooded me with figurative ways to take that – as folks wrestle with gender identity – break from gender roles – then the literal way to take it – and how Dr. Zach Bush worries the human health is endangered because of chemicals and diet – and the many woman who get hysterectomies without a second opinion – sigh – and then the humorous part of that made me wonder too.

    I think it also comes down to the good for the author – who their audience is – and why they write

    If it is to make money – and sell, sell, sell (meet publisher deadlines and rsa h a Quota) that is one thing
    If it is to pour out one’s art – and develop as a writer – that is another thing
    And is it to provide a resource to change lives – though story – experience – or ideas – that also matters
    Of course you likely know more about this than me – with your years of publishing and all that- and so am I right? The aim and end game should be considered when fears creep in?

    My biggest fear when writing is that I will start another project before I finish the hundred plus I am working on! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Your list, Jacqui, pretty well sums up what it’s like being an author. My worst fear (for now) is that I waste my time writing something that is meaningless. And, if you write from your heart and no one reads it, have you really written anything? It’s like if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound? Apparently yes…mechanical waves and the laws of physics are at play. Of course, if we didn’t care about being read (ie. giving legitimacy to our writing) we’d simply write a diary. But writing a novel requires enormous energy and work, perseverance, belief in oneself, discipline, research, overcoming blocks and fears, creativity, a bit of passion, technical skills, fundamentals of plot development, settings and character sketches, knowledge of your audience…And most importantly writing from the heart.
    Even if nobody read our novel we would have gained tremendous growth through the process.
    Yet, I know. I know. We want our voice to be heard.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true. I have grown with my writing but that niggling thought–does it matter? I have no answer. Thanks for your thoughts, Carol. You hit a few hot buttons.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Jacqui, I had no idea you had so many worries. I don’t worry that much. I do my best and write and re-write, get developmental editing help, grammar and spelling editing and then I publish and hope for the best. If I get a bad review, that is life. You can never please everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I probably don’t worry about them every day but over time, absolutely. Mostly, I shrug and move on! I love your sanguine approach to bad reviews. They really ruin my day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The odd review has mystified me, Jacqui. Because it either didn’t relate to the book at all but rather to an Amazon issue about delivery or something like that or because the reader didn’t appreciate the story at all. For me, it is all about the story and characters, the odd spelling or other mistake doesn’t bother me and I would not mention such things in a review unless they were endemic in the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree–especially odd are the ones that aren’t about your book. I got a one-star that said ‘didn’t read the book’, challenged it with Amazon, but they refused to delete it. What???

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yikes! Jacqui, I had some of these fears, now I’ve added a lot more to the lineup! 😀 Writing from one’s heart is key, and then to keep going, learning along the way, never giving up! Your post touches all writers … and gives some sense in comfort that we are not alone with our fears. Best of luck with your latest work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do confess to brainstorming with fellow authors. Every time they said what bothered them and I nodded along, I added it to the list!


  8. My worst fear is that my next book won’t live up to those I’ve already published. You know how each book in a series is supposed to have bigger stakes and a bigger climax than the last one? Some days I think I CAN do it. Others, I’m sure I can’t.
    Guess I’ll find out eventually, when I write the next book…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. All of the above, it keeps me awake at night. I think the difference between an author and a wannabe author is that we have these fears but keep writing anyway. I am always afraid I won’t have any fresh new ideas and the books will all sound the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a really good point, Darlene. I have come to terms with the idea I won’t sell a ton of books but enough that it’s worth it. And I will make mistakes!

      Your fear–of fresh new ideas–you seem set up to avoid that. I love your idea of different locations, talking about the culture while solving mysteries. Very clever, girlfriend.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You’ve given voice to fears we all share, Jacqui- even the greats. As long as you write from the heart, readers will forgive the little things. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the how-to basics of writing (though they are important) and we forget why we’re doing this- because we want/need to share the voices in our heads- the tales we have to tell! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As I finish my second self help NF book, Jacqui, many of those same thoughts haunt me. I have shared a few excerpts on my blog or wrote posts that inspired each book and they were well received. But there is no accounting for taste. There are some of my Sunday Stills post where I feel my photos are just OK, or the content is just meh, yet those may get a huge numbers of views, likes and comments. Hard to predict. As many have already commented, you have an incredible work ethic, you are magical and we can’t wait for the next books in the series! I’m still in the stage where I’m happy to identify myself as an author!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I share so many of those same fears when I write. Doubt is a nasty and persistent creature.
    I’ve read your work and it’s wonderful. The only thing you can do to overcome those fears? Keep writing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. There is a reader for every story written. I recommend you write every dark feeling down. Then burn it. Forgive yourself for holding false expectations. The bless your next page. Writing a book is a goal. You are feeling the resistance to achieving your goal. Face the darkness, flush it out and rise above. You are magical.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s not so much overcoming fears as not knowing what else to do besides move forward. I have a bias for action and curling into a fetal ball doesn’t seem to satisfy that!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes–I unloaded my fears on you! Didn’t mean to do that but of course, that’s what I did. My apologies, Neil. I hate when people do that to me. My daughter does at times but from a daughter–well, I just go with that.

      Liked by 1 person

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