Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reaction anxiety

Time for my annual blog...

Writing, any writing, invites comment and judgment, and, although driven by the whip of the Demon Muse to vomit the innermost workings of our benighted souls upon a virgin page, we Writers must then, in fear, face the Reader.

It's not just that we fear that we may reveal too much of ourselves; nor is it just that we fear criticism or ridicule; nor yet that we only fear the Reader may think less of us for having read our work.

All of the above, of course, we fear.

There is another, subtler fear lurking in our fevered brains, Narcissistic and unavoidable, shameful and insistent.

I discovered this abomination very early on, when I surprised myself by the feelings unleashed by Madame Editor's reaction to my work. It came into sharper focus when I was able to observe my beta readers while they were reading my first (as yet unpublished) novel, to my everlasting reproach and secret delight.

I have briefly mentioned this disease before, but it recently reared its Loch Ness serpentine head and neck out of the peat-stained murk of my mind while my latest beta reader dove into my writing. The good news is that she emerged sound of mind: the bad news is that I did not.

Of course, all Writers suffer various and sundry phobias (the latter, as Tolkien said, being the ones that came in the front gate, went out the side, and came back in again), and I shall simply have to learn to live with it.

This fear is the sneaking suspicion that we will not be able to make our Readers feel what we want them to feel, to gasp, cry, laugh, or get angry when we want them to: in short, that our writing will have the desired Effect.

For this is why we Write - well, apart from the inability to resist the Demon Muse's tempting lacerations, and the possibility of a movie option - we Write to elicit a response. Don't we?

How do we overcome this?

Why would we want to...

I say glory in it, bask in its degenerate musk, and roll the sweet syrup of it around your tongue.

And then dive down to the deepest Marianas Trench of your mind, crawl on your belly through the clinging mud of its darkest caverns, take a safari to its least explored jungle, and dredge, drag, and capture enough of your greatest fears and loves to cover the next empty page.

Alas, since I am as yet unpublished (as I think I mentioned), this is the among the best I have to look forward to.

For now.

What fun Writing is!


Abby said...

Ahh... us unpublished bloggers. Join the club. ;) Nice post!

I can identify with that fear... does my writing elicit the desired response? I can't say whether I've succeeded yet.

gdtownshende said...

Even Tolkien, in his intro to LOTR, mentions the fear of whether or not he'd be able to elicit the response he sought in each passage written. I don't believe he used the term "fear," but that is exactly what he referred to.

I think you've hit the proverbial nail on its now very sore head, Zonk. In the end, this is probably the greatest fear of many writers. After all, the last thing we want is for our readers to cry when we want them to laugh, to laugh when we want them to be struck sober, or to snicker when we want them to be overcome with awe.

Glad to see you blogging again, my friend! :D