April 26th, 2017

Are You Writing Out of Fear or Love?

Jamie Raintree

As the school year comes screeching toward a close (are there really only five more weeks left?), productivity has been a common topic amongst me and my writer-mom friends. There’s a lot of concern about how productive we’re going to be over the summer with the kids at home, and a lot of my friends have goals to finish their drafts before June. We all know the inevitability that we won’t be able to accomplish as much as we do during the school year.

But productivity is always a topic of concern, isn’t it? I don’t know a single writer who feels like they are regularly accomplishing as much as they’d like to. It’s like we live in a constant state of feeling like no matter what we do, it’s never enough. We’re never moving forward in our careers fast enough. We’re never churning out books fast enough. We’re never hearing back from agents and editors fast enough. No matter how much we write, or how much we accomplish, there’s always this elusive “more” that we can’t seem to grasp.

How the Drive to Do More Hurts Your Writing

I don’t think this struggle is exclusive to writers. This belief is deeply ingrained into our culture as a whole. But as writers, living in this constant state of fear is extra detrimental because it can wreak havoc on our creative process and our self-esteem, two things that are incredibly imperative in building a successful writing career. Maybe at an office job, we could crunch out numbers faster, or stay up later answering emails, but the writing process can’t be forced, and when it is, our work often falls painfully short of what we know we’re capable of.

And if we’re constantly attacking our self-esteem with beliefs that we’re falling short at every turn, how will we have the confidence to share our work?

From experience and front watching other writers progress in their careers, it’s clear that this feeling doesn’t go away. Once you’re published, there’s more pressure to write more books quicker. “Published” becomes a milestone of the past and is no longer enough. “Bestseller” becomes the new target and when that’s not enough, it’s about topping the sales of the last book, and so on, and so forth.

While having goals and wanting to grow is a beautiful thing–it’s the essence of life, truly–the shame we pour on ourselves when we fall short–and we ALWAYS fall short–is the problem.

The “Never Enough” Mentality

Lately, I’ve been pondering a lot about where this “never enough” mentality comes from. Do these expectations truly come from within us, or are they something we absorb from our environment? I sense that it’s a combination of both, but regardless of the origin, what it really boils down to is fear. Not fear that we aren’t accomplishing enough, but fear that WE, ourselves, are not enough. We convince ourselves that if we just finish this book, if we just get an agent, if we just get a book deal, if we just hit a bestseller’s list, THEN we will be enough.

We will be worthy.

We will be acknowledged.

We will be accepted.

We will be loved.

And the reason no accomplishment is ever enough is because none of these affirmations come from outside of ourselves. They come from within. I think we all know this on a conscious level but we’re just so darn busy all the time–we make sure of that, don’t we?–that we don’t stop to ask ourselves:

Why am I trying to accomplish this, really?

And is finishing this book, getting an agent, getting a book contract actually going to satisfy these needs? Is it going to soothe this fear inside of me that I am not enough?

Am I writing out of fear, or out of love?

Writing (And Living) From Love

So how do we turn this around? How do we begin to release the fear and write from a place of moving toward our purpose instead of away from our fear?

The first step, of course, is taking the time to ask yourself these questions. Like they say, the first step to recovering is acknowledging the problem. And this may be the hardest part, depending on how introspective you tend to be. I love journaling for this, because as we know, the act of putting pen to paper brings up understandings that might otherwise go untapped. In what ways are you creating out of fear?

The second step is to try to identify where these fears come from. Oftentimes these fears develop in childhood. They might be passed down from your parents. They might come from a misguided teacher. Maybe you’ll be able to identify the origin, maybe not. It’s okay if you can’t. You can still move forward, recognizing when those fears are speaking to you and not letting them drive your progress.

Third, counteract those fears by nurturing yourself in ways that aren’t necessarily related to writing (although, journaling, writing memoirs, and essays–like I’m doing now–certainly help!). Acts of self-love, in whatever form, boost your self-esteem so you don’t need to use productivity to patch up the holes. Meditate, walk, do yoga, take long baths, buy a new outfit that makes you feel like a queen (or king).

And most of all, be true to yourself. That is the biggest act of self-love you could ever gift yourself.

Last, have a strong vision and understanding of how your work contributes to the world–outside of yourself. This may take a while to home in on and cultivate, and that’s okay, as long as you’re working in that direction. You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Again, journaling is great for working through your thoughts on this. As you become clear on what you can offer others with your art, you will start to be pulled to move forward in your writing career, rather than pushed.

Why do you, deep down in your gut, write? Do you feel like you’re writing from fear or love? With which acts of self-love do you nurture yourself and your artist?

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ABOUT JAMIE

Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.

36 comments to Are You Writing Out of Fear or Love?

  • Beautifully stayed. A message I need to take to heart. Thank you!

  • So true, Jamie! Writing, to flow well, needs an open heart and mind. Writers might consider taking a moment, before rushing in to pound the keys, to affirm how remarkable it is to write. They get to pour out their ideas while creating new worlds in words that wouldn’t exist any other way. Any time spent with love in your heart (for your own creative process and for what you are producing) AND writing is a double thrill.

    • AMEN! You’re so right. We can get so caught up in thinking about all that we haven’t done or accomplished and forget what a blessing it is just to do the work each day. And I find that a heart of gratitude is a happy heart, no matter where in your career you might be. Thank you for this reminder!

  • Love this, Jamie. I feel the fear almost every day! I need to turn things around and write from love. Thank you so much for this, I feel like you were talking to me!

  • ellajoyolsen

    Oh, Jamie! What a lovely article full of soul searching and acceptance. Part yoga, part plan…all helpful!

  • crbwriter

    This is a beautiful post. Many years ago, I stood on a stage to accept an award, waiting for my cue to being my speech of gratitude, and thinking, “Great. I’m spending my evening getting this engraved silver platter, and nobody’s mopping the kitchen.” I’ve been working on those affirmations ever since. Monday, I set my WIP aside to rise, and started journaling the next book. It’s a fine way to celebrate spring.

    • Isn’t it unreal how we can work so hard for something and jump right into the next thing without taking the time to celebrate or appreciate it? It’s such an interesting part of human nature, but I find it’s true for most. I’ve been working on that myself as the release date for my debut grows closer. I only get one first release and I don’t want to miss out on the joy of it! So glad that you’re taking the time to find the joy in where you are–a fine way to celebrate, indeed. πŸ™‚

  • Holly Robinson

    Jamie, this is a gorgeous piece. It’s so true that, once you get published, all you can think about is sales numbers, and it’s worth your time to just pull out of the game for a while and write the book YOU want to write, because the real love is in the process of writing. If I’m writing, everything else in my life seems so much easier–even dealing with having the house full of people all day, all summer!.

    • Indeed! When I’m not writing, everything is wrong. Just ask my poor husband! Lol! I’m working diligently to keep the pressure at bay to write for my contract instead of my heart and it is a tough task, but an imperative one. Glad to hear that you’re able to manage it even as advanced in your career as you are. It gives me hope! Thanks, as always, for chiming in, Holly! Looking forward to reading more of the books that come from your heart. πŸ™‚

  • Fae Rowen

    Oh, Jamie…the f-word that brings me to my virtual knees. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing and advice. I write to share my “future history” possibilities with the world. Period. Getting caught up in the whole “publishing” protocol is such a distraction.

    • I’m finding that to be true more and more. It all feels so dire, doesn’t it? But when we step back and tap into our hearts and intuition, we know where the truth lies–in creating, and in making an impact. Kindred souls, we are! Write on, friend!

  • Venetia Lewis

    This is right on. I can take this to heart now. Thank you.

  • jamesr403

    Excellent, Jamie. And something I needed to hear at this particular time. Thank you! I need to revise your words and make them into a mantra.

  • I am going to be the contrarian here. While I do write from a position of love, (and I LOVE to write,) I think a good does of healthy fear is a good thing. But fear of what?
    When I was in High School my favorite English teacher, Mr. Quaranta, introduced us to the Padre Baltazar Gracian. He wrote a book of Aphorisms in the 16th century. One of my favorite started out “Cultivate your friendships.” To paraphrase, you need to have a community of peers that have achieved more than you. To quote Taylor Swift, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you need a bigger room.”
    One of the reasons I push myself is because I want to be worthy of your company. Of Angie Hodapp’s company, and Aimie Runyan’s company. I want to you to see me as a peer and I can’t do that if I haven’t reached your level of competence.
    Now of course, the devil is ALWAYS in the details. Too little and their isn’t much success, too much and you go crazy. For me, proving I belong in your literary pantheon drives me forwards. And of course, always do the thing that scares you.

    • I already see you as a peer, Jason! It’s not about a label or a book contract–it’s about doing the writing, sharing your passion for what you do, and letting your own light shine. You light fills up every room you walk into and that is everything I need to know about a person to admire them and want them in my company. You are a blessing, Jason, and the only thing getting published is going to do is give you the opportunity to let more people know it.

  • Linda Lee

    Dynamite post, honest and inspirational–rocked me to the core. Thanks, Jamie. Pinned, shared, and saved. πŸ™‚

  • Janet W. Ferguson

    Love this!!

  • Sandra Hutchison

    Is it useful, and to whom? I love that question. It’s the perfect question to ask whenever sacrifices are required. (But of course for most writers, the sheer act of writing IS useful on a deeply personal level, if only because we get so crabby if we can’t.)

  • johntshea

    You took the words right out of my mind! Love and fear both in my case, love indeed pulling, but fear sometimes pulling me back more than pushing. The fear relates to comparing and can spoil the pleasure of reading as well as writing.

    • Yes! The pulling back. I held myself back from publishing for so long because of my fear. Thankfully, I was able to push past it anyway but it wreaked havoc on my body. Releasing the fear has made writing such a joy in a way it’s never been before. I hope you’re able to release yours!

  • I agree with Jason, healthy fear makes me stronger. My fears are two-fold: One: I don’t have enough time left to finish my novels, Two: Who will reject me? About rejection, I’m thinking family and friends who may be offended by my, what I consider “healthy opinions” about sexuality and women’s truth. I refuse to cover up the childhood damage that played a role in my rejection of myself. I also offer this: I believe stating things in the present tense is helpful.

    I AM worthy.

    I AM acknowledged.

    I AM accepted.

    I AM loved.

    • To me, “healthy fear” is an oxymoron. Lol! Fear wreaks havoc on our bodies and relationships and indeed, our careers. I think when we love ourselves exactly as we are, exactly where we are, we are freer to create and to be healthy as we do it. But that’s just from the lens of where I’m at in my life now. πŸ™‚

  • Jeanne Arp

    So true! I believe there’s a perfect storm that takes place when our cultural Protestant work ethic collides with a free market economy and those idiosyncrasies that combine to make us successful. The three together create that obsessive monster that eats away at us. Because I’m particularly susceptible to that storm of obsessive achievement, as I stick my toes in the writing waters, I believe that the smartest thing for me may be to self publish. At least the. I can stay of the ‘more books faster’ merry-go-round. Oh so I tell myself.

    And yes, for me it is fear.

    • Well stated, Jeanne! And so very much what I have felt my whole life and have recently been working very hard to release. It sounds like self-publishing could be a good approach for you, but it has it’s own “expectations” too. The real denouncement comes from within. Sounds like you’re already on the right path–admitting it is the first step, right?

  • […] We all have problems that keep us from being as productive as we would like to be. Anna Elliott explores some bad writing habits and how to break them, and Jamie Raintree asks: are you writing out of love or fear? […]

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