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Fear, Doubt & Loathing - The Axis of Literary Evil...

Courtesy Odyssey

It doesn't matter what year, what location, what group of people or their ages. Writers seem to have to swim through, or barely breathe under, the miasma that is the Fear, Doubt and self-Loathing in their attempt to be writers.

"They" say, (you know, those guys who seem to know everything..) they say, "We learn from others past mistakes. We heed them as watchwords for ourselves. We walk the path less beaten, less hammered, less hurtful. We take the yellow brick road straight to Success!"


It seems every cotton-picking hack, at one time or another, regardless of witnessing others pitfalls, has to personally fight this demon triad. And often, sadly, most attempting to take that horrendous hill, quit and die, never to be writers again.

Pretty sad and pathetic prospects huh?

I don't believe it has to be that way.

It turns out that this Axis of Evil has its own foe, and it meets its match at the Front Line of Excellence & Success with our own literary warriors - Hunger, Determination & Focus.

But as with any endeavour, a hard question first must be asked and honestly answered:

At this time in your life, is writing as an art form something you truly want to undertake, despite the endless need for learning, the failures, the corrections, the hardships, the lack of adulation and the endless ups and downs?

The reason it's so difficult to get an honest answer from yourself on this is that writing, unlike any other endeavour I know, carries with it a romantic, albeit unrealistic, appeal. The uninitiated think that because you are a feeling being and your soul wants to sing to the world that you should be able to pick up a pen with the help of heralding angels, and upon paper ink divine words as luscious and languid as cascading straight from the gods...


Sorry, prospective hacks. It just doesn't work like that.

This is the reality:
Courtesy Shari Lopatin
A writer hauls himself out of bed with the use of an industrial winch - utterly exhausted from the hacking he ripped from his belching loins the night before - and after making coffee and scratching himself in the appropriate places, pads off to his lair to take up literary arms and fight the good fight for another day.

Did I mention public encouragement and accolades following him down the hall?
Did I mention a refreshing shower and freshly donned street clothes?

No I did not, kiddies.

This is war and you are in the trenches with the dysentery and the ravenous rats.

There is only a slim chance of survival, much less success. 
You stink. 
And you look ugly. 
But the coffee is fresh.

Every writer, every day of his life, must learn to live with, and, in some freaky way, actually make friends with this Axis of Literary Evil.

The first step: Acknowledgement.

Admit to yourself that you indeed have all three psychobabble bad-asses squatting in your Sherman tank 24-bloody-7, and instead of fighting against this reality, embrace Fear, Doubt and Loathing like the yellow-bellied cowards that they are, and say, "Yeah, you're right here alongside my skill, but my good soldier buddies, Hunger, Determination & Focus are coming along for the ride too, and we're taking this hill with or without you. You No-Goods are in for a wild ride!"

Nothing like truth and the light of day to put freeloaders in their place!

Acknowledging you have these weaknesses is the start to overcoming them. Any therapist will say the same. And realizing these ills will stay with you until you die, famed artist or not, is another chunk of the battle won. Stephen King has publicly admitted as much, as have countless other scribes. It's simply part and parcel of the job.

And ironically, without this Axis our writing would suffer
As with the constant friction from a grain of sand, a luscious pearl is hone in a seashell. 
Refined flour can never be made without the grist in a mill.

The second and third steps: Acceptance and Appreciation.

That you CARE ENOUGH to have Fear, Doubt & Loathing in your craft is proof itself that for you only personal excellence is enough.

You'll notice I did NOT say perfection. It doesn't exist. It's like gold in el Dorado. Stop looking for it!

Accept that this Axis exists because you do care. Those who are indifferent to excellence couldn't write their own ticket to success if they tried!

Appreciate that your mind is fashioned in such a way that the art is paramount over all. That you work towards its glorious end despite the material wealth or public adulation that may follow.

Would Elvis have sang even as a lowly truck driver?
Would Picasso have painted even as a lowly peasant?
Would Einstein have sought out solutions to life's puzzles even as a lowly patent clerk?

You KNOW the answer to all of these questions.

Appreciate you have the gift for creation. Acknowledge and Accept that there are perils and hardships along the way, and decide to be Hungry, Determined and Focused enough to create regardless of the public's measurement of your Success.

Once you do, your Axis free-loaders will still be in your Sherman tank but they will shut up long enough for you to take the wheel and drive on to Victory. I promise.

Next post: layman's tricks for actually getting off the couch and getting behind that keyboard!

Until then, stay hungry my friends!