I am no fan of Halloween. Maybe that’s because, as a young child, I started having waking nightmares about a cloaked figure with a pumpkin head that would regularly appear and sit in a rocking chair beside my bed. He never said anything. Just rocked and rocked, until I screamed for my mother.
This guy followed us to every house we lived in—a lot of houses, since my dad was in the Navy and we moved every couple of years. Who knows why that strange figure was my chosen metaphor for fear? I had never read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and there weren’t a lot of scary movies on TV back then. Yet, there he was, my own bedtime monster, the product of an overactive imagination.
For years, I was an insomniac. As soon as the lights were turned off, I’d lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, afraid of turning over because I was so certain I would see, if not Mr. Pumpkinhead, a face peering at me through the window or at the side of the bed.
I’m still afraid of the dark. If my husband’s out of town, you can bet I keep a light burning. And, if I’m dumb enough to visit a haunted house attraction with my kids, like that Ripley’s Haunted Adventure in Myrtle Beach where they have an actual clown chasing visitors with a chain saw, it might be weeks before I get a good night’s rest.
Still, none of this compares to a writer’s fears. Whether you’re aspiring to finish your first book, a debut author, or an old workhorse like me (my sixth novel, Folly Cove, was just published), I bet you suffer from the same night terrors I do—fears that may drive you to quit, as Orly suggested in her recent post.
Here are my top five fears. What are yours?
1. You’ll never finish this book.
Many of us get about two-thirds of the way through a manuscript and despair about it ever coming together. And guess what? Sometimes it doesn’t.
2. Who’d ever want to read anything you write?
There is always a black place in your mind where a little gremlin is whispering, “You’re not good enough for anyone to want to read your writing. Give up!”
3. Nobody reads anymore!
Let’s say you get lucky. You get an agent, an editor, and a publisher. Or you self-publish. Congratulations—but you’re still not free of those night terrors. As you listen to friends discussing the many TV shows they watch, you can’t help but ask, Hello? Is anyone even reading anymore, in these glory days of Netflix and Amazon TV binges?
4. My book won’t get reviewed.
How many print magazines and newspapers do you actually subscribe to at your house? How many of those carry book reviews? And what happens to books that are never reviewed? Enough said.
5. The reviewers will hate it.
Oh, the trolls, the trolls. You know they’re out there, waiting to descend in hordes to punch in their single-star reviews. Why should you escape their blood lust?
So, Happy Halloween, my fellow writers! It’s time to stock up candy—you’re going to need it to get you through the night—and your manuscript! If it’s any consolation, keeping the lights on at night is a great way to get more words on the page and keep the monsters at bay…for a little while.
Your turn. What are your top 5 writing night terrors?
* * * * * *
Novelist, journalist and celebrity ghost writer Holly Robinson is the author of several books, including The Gerbil farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir and the novels The Wishing Hill, Beach Plum Island, Haven Lake, and Chance Harbor. Her newest novel is Folly Cove, available in October 2016. Holly’s articles and essays appear frequently in publications such as Cognoscenti, The Huffington Post, Parents, Redbook and dozens of other newspapers and magazines.
She and her husband have five children and a stubborn Pekingese. They divide their time between Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island, and are crazy enough to be fixing up old houses one shingle at a time in both places. Visit her at www.authorhollyrobinson.com and on Twitter @hollyrob1.