The Fear of Nothing

I had to face one of a writer's greatest fears this week.

It's a strange one, because it's a fear of nothing - or, perhaps, nothingness might be a better way of putting it.

I'd done all the planning and preparation for a new book. I'd spent months working on the characters, the plot, the settings, all the usual elements. And so came the time to write the first line...

... and I couldn't do it. I hesitated, pulled up, stopped with fear.

Oh, the blank page - how can it be so foreboding?

I had to take myself for a walk around the river, get some air, and give myself a good talking to.

"Come on idiot... you've done all the work... you're ready to start... it's a decent idea... now get on with it..."

(I do often have to give myself a talking to, and very commonly in harsher terms that that.)

But despite my sterling attempts at self-motivation, it still took quite a while before I could actually write anything.

In the end, I had to go back over some of the other books I'd written, and think about a few of the places I'd been because of my writing, to actually give me the spirit to start on the new book.

Which isn't a bad cue for a quick photo break - this is me, in Geneva, a couple of years ago, talking about crime writing as a guest of the city's Writers' Group. What a magnificent experience that was.

Simon geneva 2.jpg

(that's Mont Blanc in the distant background. And the big coat was very necessary - it was January.)

Anyway, back to the fear of the blank page. Where does it come from?

Is it the thought of how far there is to go? How many words you have to write? How long it will take?

Or perhaps the fear of failure? Of what you put down not being good enough? Of embarrassing yourself?

Or even the trepidation of venturing into a new world, and wondering what you'll find there?

Whatever it is, I know it's very real, and not just from my own experience. I often get emails from aspiring writers who are afraid to start, or have chats with others who are feeling the same way.

What is there to say? Perhaps the old thought that  "a journey of a thousand miles began with a single step", might help?

But my fundamental belief is always this - writing is a joy, whether ultimately it's just you who gets to read it, or hundreds of thousands of people.

It's taken me to remarkable places I would never otherwise have gone, to meet wonderful people who I would never otherwise have known.

And as for what you learn about yourself in the process... well, that's another blog entirely.