Page Fright: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Words

One of my books says that you aren’t a true writer if you don’t feel a stabbing anxiety in your chest every time you look at a blank screen. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one out there that goes through a minor panic attack while deciding which words are worthy enough to fill the vast whiteness confronting me. Ralph Keyes, the author of the aforementioned book, “The Courage to Write,” calls it “page fright.”

How does one break through this terror in order to produce a book? That question has yet to be answered (I’m not far enough into the book), but even when it is, there’s a good chance I won’t believe it. I’m sure that I’ll understand the argument’s logic, but belief is another realm entirely.

It’s discouraging, because I have so many ideas that I want to commit to paper. Who cares if the world reads them; I just want to write them. You may be thinking, “If you don’t plan on letting others read your personal work, then of what are you afraid?” Honestly, I’m afraid of letting myself down and losing myself in the process. Ever since third grade, when I wrote my very first poem, I’ve been dubbed a “writer” by my family. Later, it was my teachers who encouraged me to pursue writing. For my entire life, my identity has revolved around being a writer — so what if I try to write a novel and fail? What will become of my identity then?

I know that being a decent writer isn’t the only thing that defines me. I began to list within this post other things that I also consider to define me, and it turned into a huge overhaul of my “About Me” section — complete with pictures! So if you get bored, check it out, leave a comment, “like” the page; you know, all those things that validate my self-worth. (Kidding… maybe…)

Back to the topic at hand. I’m going to try reasoning through my problem, since I’m sure there are several invalid premises lingering around there somewhere:

I’m never satisfied with anything I write, so it goes without saying that I won’t be satisfied with any work I produce for my book. If I’m unsatisfied with something I’ve written, yet let others read it, most of the time they praise my work. It would seem unlikely that every person who compliments my work is lying (just to make me feel good, which is what I’ve always been inclined to think). As such, at least some of my writing must be good, regardless of the dissatisfaction that I feel. I shouldn’t put so much weight on what I think since I’m always going to think it’s bad, unless told otherwise (I’m a sucker for external validation, a habit that I need to stop). Therefore, I have no reason to expect that my book will turn out unsatisfactory and shouldย NOT listen to myself when it comes to self-evaluation, period.

TL;DR — I should not let my harsh self-critiques stop me from writing, since my judgement is often flawed.

With that settled, where do I begin? I have several ideas: a children’s book where the princess saves the kidnapped prince; a futuristic, post-apocalyptic novel that deals with a society that rediscovers technology; and last — but not least — my thought-provoking and tragic zombie tale, which I’ll be writing with my brother, since we came up with the idea together (it’s just going to be one research-intensive book).

At least I can blog without “page fright.” That’s a start.

I’m starting a new tradition where I put a picture in every post. Today’s picture is courtesy of XKCD.

13 thoughts on “Page Fright: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Words

  1. We have different opinions on the writing of top ten lists, it appears ๐Ÿ™‚

    I like reading them, and they attract viewers, but I find writing them rather dull. same with reviews, but again, they’re necessary. Your book review was very well written, because the style felt genuine. My opinion articles are where I feel I can truly express myself, and where my most honest writing comes from. We are two very different people; you’re able to express yourself through what I cannot, and I respect you for that.

    Great blog.


    • I think I had more fun with the pictures than anything. ๐Ÿ™‚ I should have posted a picture of DAS BOOT from SMB3 (you know, level 5, the cloud world) instead of the P-wing. I love that boot.

      Thanks for the compliment on the book review. It was totally genuine because I wrote from my heart and didn’t worry about how it would sound or what people would think. I wish I could do that with everything. I did find a posting on CL this morning for a new site looking for fantasy and sci-fi short stories, so I may try my hand at that. You’re comments gave me some encouragement.

      You have a great blog as well, and I respect the fact that you’re able to update it as often as you do. I wish I was able to update more often, but I can’t always think of things to write.

      If you ever want to swap guest posts, just let me know ๐Ÿ™‚ I can write something about being a female in the gaming world; I have plenty of experience with being treatedly poorly by customers while working at both Rhino and Gamestop.


  2. Awesome. Come up with a few ideas and share them with me. Maybe you could write about how guy gamers differ from girl gamers? I could do a similar post. Or if you think of anything nerdy, then that’ll work. I know I’ve strayed away from the nerdy posts as of late, but I’ll be trying to work back towards that theme.


  3. This really hits close to home! I’m exactly the same way when it comes to my writing (and I always have been that way); I panic, doubt my abilities, and wonder if I should just scrap everything and call it quits. “Page fright” is a cute way to describe it…and it’s so true. Several of my friends have bugged me to read my stuff, and I always deny them because I’m scared. But maybe I should just bite the bullet and let them read it, eh? What do I have to lose?

    Like you, I’m also terrified of rejection. Writers should have a tough skin and I realize that, but it’s a challenge to build up those calluses. There’s something about those red marks that makes me freak the hell out!

    Cool post. I’ll definitely be back! We panicky writers have to stick together. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hear hear!

      Sometime I tell myself to suck it up and “just do it,” because it’s all in my head. At least, I hope it is. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t blog as much as I’d like because I get stuck staring at the screen… and I don’t even have to share it with my friends if I don’t want to!

      You should check out the book I mentioned! And thanks for the comment.


  4. Your post popped up in the Related Articles Zemanta box when I was composing my own “Page Fright” post, and I moseyed on over here to check it out.

    You write, “Ever since third grade, when I wrote my very first poem, Iโ€™ve been dubbed a โ€œwriterโ€ by my family. Later, it was my teachers who encouraged me to pursue writing. For my entire life, my identity has revolved around being a writer โ€” so what if I try to write a novel and fail? What will become of my identity then?”

    This really resonates with me: the tyranny of being told you’re good at something. Ever after, it can either be true or false. If I’m not “good,” then I must be “bad.” And if I’m “bad” at writing, what on earth am I good at?

    At any rate, it’s clear we’re not alone in this feeling. Good luck with your page fright!


    • We have to get out of that black and white, “good” or “bad” thinking that we get stuck in (though that’s easier said than done). I think that way about everything and it can cause one to be too hard on his or herself.

      Thanks for the comment! ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Pingback: Page Fright « Imperfect Happiness

  6. To start, pick one person to write for and write to them. Don’t focus on anyone else reading it other than them. This is what Stephen King does when he writes.

    The only thing preventing you from writing are your own insecurities. Just write. Don’t worry about what people think. Just write and post. Write and post.


    • I guess writing with my mind on the “general” audience does make the task seem more daunting than it should be. I’ll try to focus on writing as if I were writing to an imaginary friend.

      Thanks for the advice. ๐Ÿ™‚


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