Apr 13, 2008

Erica Jong on writing problems

What’s your writing problem? Whatever it is, Erica Jong has the answer.

Writing quotation: “All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged,” says Erica in The New Writer’s Handbook. “If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.”

Writing tip: Fear is the root of many writing problems. Fear of making mistakes, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of vulnerability. (Fear’s actually the root of many struggles in live, I daresay).

My most recent fear is of misattribution of sources. I’ve been writing a fair amount for Reader’s Digest online (and the print version too, but those pieces aren’t published yet) and Spirituality & Health, and I’ve dropped the ball on attributing sources correctly. I sort of called someone a “psychologist” instead of “psychiatrist”, and gave someone else the title of “Dr” when she’s not – and it happened more than twice. I hate making those mistakes! And I hate getting my knuckles wrapped for them. (But if I didn’t get my knuckles wrapped, I wouldn’t have realized it’s a problem).

Okay, my fear isn’t misattributing the sources; my fear is really about losing clients. I love writing for Reader’s Digest and Spirituality & Health, and I want them to stay with me! I don’t know if they’ll shrug off my mistakes as normal writer error, or if I’m black listed or slightly tarnished now.

So now, I keep pitching my queries to them – even though I’m embarrassed that I didn’t submit perfect work in the past. I’m red-faced, but I want to push through that because I’m learning and growing and becoming a better writer all the time. They’re helping me do that!

And you? What’s your writing problem? What’s your fear? Sometimes digging out the roots can open the floodgates to both self-awareness and a new writing resolve. Bringing your fears out into the open can make them less harmful, less destructive.

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