Nothing to fear from fear

So there I was, reflecting on the editor’s edits (and agreeing with 99% of them), and I felt it again. The creeping dread that maybe this book, fundamentally, doesn’t work. That all the research and clever constructs – that word clever is a clue in itself – have been a waste of time. Who the hell wants to learn about the early Middle Ages in a contemporary British spy novel?

I smile at the inner critic, imagining him or her (I have two, each one a shadow of my muses) in front of me, flip them the finger and breathe in that heady vapour of fear. It tastes of stale tobacco and misty rain, with a hint of metallic tang. It’s familiar and strangely comforting. Because if it bothers me that much then it must matter. And if it matters then I need to give it my attention.

Fears are informative. (A great title for a children’s book, wouldn’t you agree?!) True, some are irrational, but there’s always a reason lurking at the back of it. Some fear spiders – in which case don’t dwell on the image below this post, from our kitchen wall. For others it’s snakes or heights or yellow jumpers. 

Me? I have a fear of heights, probably someone once lifted me out over a balcony (either 2nd or 4th floor, unless it gets higher as my memory fades) – and yet I love flying. Go figure.

As a writer I may not be able to defuse a bomb against the clock, or wrestle an elephant, or evade nighttime security staff, but I understand what it is to be scared. To feel the world closing in, mouth dry, hands chilled, and my eyes swallowing the horizon. 

Sometimes an experience translates directly to the page. As an incidental victim of gun crime, long ago, I know what it feels like to have a gun barrel pushing against your spine. 

Perhaps it’s time write about what you know was updated to write about what you’ve felt.

Some fears only seem to lurk in the dark recesses of a writer’s mind.
– Readers will think everything I write about is based upon personal experience.
– My friends and family will be appalled by what passes for my imagination.
– I won’t have any readers.
– I’ll have readers but they’ll hate my work.
– I’ll have readers, they’ll hate my work and they’ll leave negative reviews online.
– Even if I achieve some success with a book I’ll never be able to equal it or surpass it.
– I’ll run out of things to write about.
– It turns out I’m a terrible writer and at some point people will find me out.
– I’ll never be appreciated in my own lifetime.

Here’s the thing. All of the above fears may, in fact, be fear of the actual. I chose the list, in no particular order, because each and every one of them has crossed my mind at some point and taken up temporary residence. There are two metaphorical silver bullets for these fears. The first is avoidance; the second is understanding. And when it comes to fears about writing, the only lasting solution is to write yourself out of it, through it and beyond it.

Don’t have nightmares!


  1. narerozi says:

    Thanks for the spider……..LOL….Keep on doing what you wish to do, Derek and make yourself happy, to heck with what the readers think…So far I have no problems…hugs xoxox

  2. The of doesn't do it justice – the biggest I've ever seen in the house! You're right of course. We an only write our own way and trust (hope!) that our readers will find us. Hopefully some news about Shadow State soon.

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