I think it is almost impossible for a writer not to worry. When I interviewed Louis Sachar he told a great story of sitting with Judy Blume at a dinner and asking her if she ever worried after she finished a book if it was any good at all. Blume, author of so many books her website doesn’t bother listing the number, responded, “Every single book.” Alice Hoffman – who has written over twenty novels, been a bestseller, been selected for Oprah – told me she begins every book feeling as though she doesn’t know how to write a novel. Which is not to say that all is bleak, that a writer’s life is nothing but ulcers and midnight sweats. Not at all. The point is not whether a worried thought crosses your mind. The point is how will you respond when one does.
The reason I bring up Louis Sachar and Judy Blume and Alice Hoffman is this: it happens. The worst thing you can do is believe that there is something wrong with you because you are worrying; that if you were a better writer, or a more disciplined writer, or a more successful writer you wouldn’t be having these thoughts. This, of course, is worrying about worrying. Every single one of the hundreds of writers I have interviewed worries at least a little. But every one of those writers goes on to finish his or her book.
This distance between your fear and your true self, and the means by which you traverse this distance, is often the business of life. It is possible not to be afraid, or not to worry, but you should not expect this. Rather, master the art of releasing worry as quickly as possible. Your work, your marriage, your life is a balance, not a fixed point on a graph. Were it a fixed point, you would arrive and be done. You do not want to be done. There is always the next day, the next sentence, the next book, and with each new step the balance must be maintained. You crave that balance, and just as with the tightrope walker, the pleasure lies not in arriving safely on solid ground, but in finding your center on a journey through the open space of free choice.
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