Writers are by nature intense creatures. I really believe people who are creatively inclined tend to experience life, well, more intensely than other humans.
Combine that with trying to break into or stay afloat in a tough publishing business, and the writerly pursuit is not without its fears and anxieties.
So what is your greatest fear as a writer? A horrible review? People not liking your book? Obscurity? Paper cuts?
Remilda Graystone says
Probably never getting published.
But if it's after getting published, I would have to say being the only person who likes the story, or having it not make any sense. I am really afraid of my story and the way it works–meaning the rules in the world–not making any sense, which is why I'm being such a perfectionist about it now.
We'll see what happens.
Kathie Leung says
I think my singlemost fear is that I will have done so poorly with my query that I won't get past the slush pile and out there in that 2% that get published.
And that was hard for me to narrow it down to that one thing. I'm kind of neurotic when it comes to my writing.
R.D. Allen says
To become incredibly famous and lose my quality of life completely.
That my scribbles will never be than, well, scribbles.
I'm afraid that my writing will never be good enough.
I'm not sure what that means, exactly – good enough for what? – and it's not as though I'm losing sleep over it, but yeah, that worries me.
erica and christy says
I'm scared no one will ever read my book. (well, critique partners notwithstanding) (although they count for a lot)
My greatest fear is that no matter how many query letters I send out, nobody will want to see more; or that if they do ask to see more, they won't ask for the manuscript
My greatest fear as a writer is that I will, after countless long hours in front of the computer finding the perfect words to create my story, finish a novel, send it to a publisher only to have it covered in red – rejected. Ultimately I'm terrified of someone telling me that writing may not be for me when I live, eat and breathe for writing.
That despite what others, like professors, colleagues, and family think of my writing, that any book would suck.
My greatest fear as a writer is two-fold.
If I die before my work is published, it may vanish into cyberspace without a trace…
…or someone will see all my scribble notes without understanding that I am not suicidal, just…
Cathi Stoler says
That I'll finally be published but no one will like my book.
Facing a blank page and not being able to fill it with anything of value.
If I want to keep going and I do- anything else that happens (or doesn't) will be fine.
If I want to keep going and I give up. Then I lose.
J. T. Shea says
Sean Craven, yeah! What writer would want to end up like Dorothy Parker or Hunter S. Thompson or John Irving or Elmore Leonard? The horror! The horror!
Scooter Carlyle, if your neighbors burn you in effigy, or better still, in reality, consider the boost the publicity will give to your book's sales! Not to mention great material for a sequel!
Elizabeth, what gives me the impression you fear procrastination followed by tremendous guilt? I was going to procrastinate today, but I've decided to put it off to tomorrow. Now I feel tremendously guilty.
Ulysses, damn right about insurance salesmen! I usually kill them and bury them in my garden, but I'm running out of space.
Jodi Henry, I'd be happy to have my books in every bathroom in the world, but with all the pages intact, of course…
Bryan, bears? Just bury them next to the insurance salesmen.
Anonymous 5:25 pm, you do realize your conservative neighbors and in-laws could be avid readers of erotica, yours included?
My greatest fear is death. Nathan's death. My own, of course too. But, if Nathan died, there would be no more Nathan Blog or Bransforums! Then I would die of withdrawal symptoms, along with quite a few other writers, I guess. It would be a bloodbath!
But, on the bright side, the sudden deaths of so many writers would reduce the query piles of agents everywhere, which query piles have no doubt greatly increased since Nathan retired as an agent. So it could be all for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
Now, everybody, find the Monty Python crucifixion song on You Tube and sing along. 'ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE…'
Valerie Ormond says
"Fear itself"…I may not be the best, but at least I haven't been afraid to write.
This is only currently my greatest fear, and maybe it's a little crazy, but here it goes. My husband and I just moved from DC to Texas (Austin) where we have now bought a house. Apparently Fire Ants are a problem down here, and we've had several nests in our back yard that we've had to kill in the past two weeks.
We also have two little Shih Tzus, and I am absolutely TERRIFIED that my younger one (who isn't super smart) will go poking in a fire ant nest and be swarmed by these horrible little insects. I don't know how I would get them off of the dogs, or how many bites they can take until they are seriously ill. Fire Ant bites produce massive welts on people, and I'm worried about my girls to the point that I've been plagued with really bad dreams about one or both of them being swarmed by a nest of them.
Every time we go outside, I walk the yard in a grid, looking for new nests I need to kill. It's seriously getting to me.
Sorry to disappoint. No more fears. I've experienced countless literary deaths in my imagination and I've reached that point that Bill Murray reached in Groundhog Day when nothing more could phase him. The only "new" thing I can experience at this point is triumph.
I fear most of all that I'll truly find myself through writing and have no reason to write what I want to write anymore.
Wait, no, once I've found myself I'll be able to write what I want to write. I would then fear that readers would want me to write about my journey, which would be put paid to once and for all behind me.
I fear I want to write to change the world to my liking.
You should put those fears you described and write a horror/suspense about the dreaded fire ants.
by the way, they like to eat your clothes if they get in your closets, and will do some damage to trees, wood structures, etc.
Just don't pour gasoline down the ant hill and light it. They run deep…even…under your house.
(wicked laugh here – but I can relate.)
One Line says
I'm afraid of never getting a chance. No one "in the business" giving me a shot because I'm a no name. I'm afraid of writing all this time and nothing ever coming of it. Ever.
That after everything, it's meaningless and worthless.
Wanda du Plooy says
Not finding a agent and not getting my words out there!
I'm not too keen on the idea of brain-devouring insects burrowing into my larynx and waiting, patiently waiting, till I'm a bedridden old man before finally injecting their slow-acting salivary fluids into my cerebellum.
So, that, and writing a pile of crap when time is short and you dearly need to be writing something stellar.
Do you actually read all the comments?
I fear that if I say my fear outloud it will become true.
Diva Donna says
Mediocrity=my deep dark fear.
Bad Amazon reviews. Clearly some of these folks are crazy and just plain mean and vicious. No books yet but I dread the day I get a rude review from a cluelss psycho.
That I'll be "discovered" and become wildly famous and successful–a la the Girl w/ the Dragon Tatoo trilogy–only after I'm dead. Sad, but true.
Scott Foley says
As many of us do I work full time in a day job, so writing is a joy which I can spare frustratingly little time for on a weekly basis.
I don't worry about running out of ideas, or even that I will never be published. People will think what they will of my work. My greatest fear is running out of time to voice my ideas and coax them out into the light.
That I won't get a second chance.
Last year I came close to getting an agent a few times, but they never pinpointed the problems w/ my ms. But now that I've finally figured it out and almost finished revising, no one seems interested.
So far this year my queries go unanswered or they get rejected.
Very frustrating when the "new and improved" novel is finally ready for publication. My fear is after all this work, my novel never sees the light of day.
Greatest fear for me would be to not be able to write. And I don't mean not being able to find time to write or not knowing what to write, because those are factors you can still work around (everyone has their way of overcoming the dreaded writer's block, and EVERY writer will somehow miraculously FIND time to squeeze out a paragraph or so a day). I mean sitting down to write and not being ABLE to find the inspiration, to find that the passion has become passive due to life's occasional emotional and spiritual and mental and physical torments. Because although life can be a writer's best motivator and a great source of inspiration, it can also be a writer's worst enemy. It can take away what it gives, I mean. That's my greatest fear – not being able to write anymore.
Rena Rossner says
I think that the hardest thing is always the fear that you won't know what to write. That the well will dry up, that you'll sit down and all of the sudden not know what to say. And I feel this each time I sit down to write. The fear of letting your fingers taking over – a willing suspension of disbelief that you actually know what you are doing and you know what you want to say and how to say it. That, and being afraid that after all that, what you wrote was crap and nobody will want to read it anyway…
Mike Koch says
Obscurity is certainly on the list but also that I run out of steam or get to busy/distracted to continue to write. I do so enjoy it.
My biggest fear–as a writer–is that all the blood, sweat, and tears will be for nothing. No one will bother with my story, not a single reader, not a single agent–not even my neighbor's dog–and my characters and I will live a long and lonely life together with untold adventures and the jeers of nay-sayers who confirm that we (my characters and I) really DON'T have what it takes to get published.
I can't tell if I want to throw myself into my wip, or drown myself in my oatmeal.
Becoming rich and famous. I'm more the toiling in obscurity type.
A. E. Anderson says
Greatest fear? Fear that my ability to write is more of a delusion than actual skill. I fear that my delusion has compelled me to waste large amounts of time that ultimately will yield little more than a few dead trees.
My greatest fear is not writing. Whiling away the hours doing useful things that are not writing, and preventing myself from creating what could be of value. In other words, fear of success!
Self-doubt, although I'm not sure.
Being unable to write has to be the greatest fear, due to disability or life crisis.
After that, never being published, and/or an established writer gets hold of my idea and writes their own best selling version of it.
I feel sick just writing these down!
Robert Lay says
My greatest fear continues to be that I am not really meant to be a writer, and that's second only to my fear that nobody will like my work.
Pamala Owldreamer says
My greatest fear as a writer is never being a great writer and no one likes, wants to read or will EVER publish my novels. My second greatest fear is writing for years and never realizing I am a horrible writer.
groupies: intelligent, beautiful and irresistible ones
Dawn Pier says
Well, 242 comments so far – you've clearly hit a nerve with this one Nathan.
Ah, fear, that paralyzing friend o' mine – here are mine, in the order they flash through my brain to become a rope that twists tighter and tighter around my wrists:
1. That I'll never finish my WIP.
2. That I'm writing the wrong thing as my first attempt at writing a book (so many ideas, so little time!).
3. That it will be a rambling, stupefying piece of turd when it's done.
4. Ergo, that it will never be published and all that time spent will be experienced gained, yes, but also effort spent on something that will forever languish on a hard drive somewhere.
Thanks for this Nathan. Now I must go and try to untie these knots I've tied myself up in.
Honestly, my greatest fear is never believing my work is good enough to even submit anywhere.
Ironic Mom says
I write primarily humorous nonfiction, and my tongue-in-cheek motto is "If you can't laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids." Having said that, my biggest fear is that my kids will hate me some day for it. I do believe that when they're in their 20s, they'll love (or at least appreciate) these humorous tales, but I still worry.
The usual. Rejection. Failure. Ebola-infested keyboard gnomes.
Writing a book, getting an agent, going through the whole publishing process… only to find no one wants to read my book and then fading into obscurity. I think too much.
Pamela Jane says
Vanishing before my death, i.e., speaking loud and clear (through writing) yet it comes out as a whisper, lost in the noise and the furious pace of modern life.
Putting hard work into a book and getting it published, only to learn that someone published a book just like yours already, and then being flooded with law suits.
writing something superfluous and meaningless.
Rejection doesn't scare me because writing is so subjective. If someone has to like my manuscript enough to represent it they should be picky. Form rejections are business, they aren't scary. Personalized rejections are the closest thing to a compliment that a writer could get without actually being accepted. If I got published and only one person read it, I'd be ok as long as I felt that it was as close to perfect as I could have made it.
My best poems or chapters are the ones I never want to show anyone because they're too personal. It's hard to be that honest though. I'm scared of not being able to "go there" when I have to.