Maybe you’re floundering in the vast, Mojave desert of being halfway through a first draft. Maybe you’re hiding under your desk, trying to work up the courage to start. Maybe you’re proofreading the back cover of your completely finished book that’s going to print in five minutes.

It doesn’t matter where you are in the process, the paralyzing fear that your book will suck and be boring strikes at any time.

There will be part of you who knows without a doubt that you should stop writing right now and walk directly away (probably to the candy/cake/pie/ice cream store) and save your readers the eye-bleeding tedium that awaits them if they make the mistake of picking up your book on purpose. There will be another part who nods sagely, takes a drag of her cigarette, flips the page of her W Magazine, and murmurs, “Mmhmm. I told you you were self-absorbed and vastly out of touch with the extent of your talents.”

This is when you may begin, ever-so-gently, to freak out. And this is where you must, for the love of all that is good and right in the world, take a deep, deep, deeper than that, breath.

Here’s the good news: I have never, in my life, met someone who is actually boring.

Human beings are vastly nuanced, richly detailed, and endlessly fascinating. Yes, even the ones who ramble on too long or whose devotion to actuarial science is a little hard to relate to. Underneath the surface and skill of these folks is a vibrant living history, a shifting landscape of emotion, and a schwack of desires and longings.

This means you. The good news is you are, by nature, inherently interesting, and what you’re passionate about is also interesting.

The “bad” news? A fear that your book will suck and be boring might actually be alerting you that you need to dig deeper.

Is your writing skating over the surface of the raw truth that is trying to be expressed? Are you holding back your real opinions and playing too nice? Are you protecting the innocent to the detriment of really powerful writing?

Take this fear as a gentle roadside turnout asking you to get real.

Beef up your writing with vivid and specific detail. Get more honest, and more vulnerable, than you want to. Go deeper with what you have to say until you touch the core of it. Don’t pull punches. Write like you need to save someone’s life (because this might actually be the case). The best writing, and the best creative projects, are those that change us as people. And I’m not just talking about the readers of our books, I’m talking about us, the creators. If we’re bored writing the thing, the reader is gonna be bored reading it. We’ve got to take risks. We need to write like we mean it. We’ve got to have some skin in the game.

And this fear is, sometimes, how we get there.

 

Has the fear of being boring shown up for you? How did you deal with it, and what insights did it bring?

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