Don’t Be Afraid to Write

Here’s the initial first draft of the book cover.

I’m re-writing the first half of Keeper of the Creatures and I have to turn off this nagging voice that says, “John, that might be corny” or “hey, that’s a bit cheesy.” There’s an inherent fear in the first draft phase and it is predominately a fear of coming across as cornball. It’s the fear that it might come across as juvenile.

Initially, I wanted to delete the “mobile messages,” which were essentially papers that come to life and flutter like butterflies and swoop down like origami cranes. I fought back the “this is corny” voice that laughed at the main character’s name (Lucas Drackenburger). When creating another character Lydia, I felt this need to make her less distinct and less boisterous. 

As I work on my re-write, I am glad that I’ve silenced the inner critic. There will be a time for sharp analysis and heavy editing. But in this fragile stage, where the story is still coming together, I need to avoid the fear of a story that might not seem as sharp or witty or whatever it is that writing is “supposed to be.”

It’s easier for me to face the fear when I remember that this book is for Joel and Micah and Brenna. However, I am realizing that my initial impulse to keep the book private and to avoid self-publishing was less about privacy and more about a fear that people might laugh at it.

So, I take this back to my classroom. I wonder if the reason kids struggle with writing is the vulnerability that is required in sharing one’s voice. I wonder if the reason we don’t see as much creativity is that there is a risk in all creative ventures and students are often risk-averse. It has me thinking that in making writing so safe, I haven’t done enough to push students to write courageously and face their fears in finding their voices.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

5 responses

  1. We are our worse critics, that is for sure. In the classroom, tell the students to take those risks to put in those "corny" sounding things. I have found that when I write something I think is dumb, others love it. We are just to used to telling ourselves "I can't do it."

    Nice post.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation. I like the idea of bringing that process into the classroom a little.

  2. In my writings, I find it is most challenging to put my true thoughts or ideas on paper, but I strive hard to do it. Sometimes it is a painful process. When you are delving into a story, you are carried away with parts of the self that usually stay, well, within the self. Writing is risking exposure. It's giving an insight into the minds-eye that others rarely see.

    But as a reader, it is this raw expression that I revel in the most. When I read a piece that is innovative, risky, or what you may call "corny," I think two things. One, that the author is brave and honest. It takes guts to be able to find and hone the words that are needed to drive a good story, narrative, or point. Two, he or she possesses talent. To be able to capture an element in a primal fashion that is real and humanizing, takes a sort of moxie and deliberation that is not easily achieved. This is especially true on a level that relates to children or adolescents.

    See, I think many people may call ideas or characters "corny" or "cheesy" because it exposes them, the reader. Because if they are identifying with the character or writer, then they are feeling something and they have to stop to consider why. If someone rejects something because they find it corny, cheesy, silly, or lame, my reaction is to wonder why it has brought this feeling to them, the reader; my thought is not that the writer is mistaken or has poorly written something. Perhaps the reader's inner child has popped his head over his shoulder saying, "I remember feeling this way or wondering that." It may make the reader feel childlike again, and that's not easy for everyone. It requires letting go of some control and relaxing a little. It may take the reader to an inner self that has been long buried beneath adult attitudes or so called social sophistication. It may uncover childhood memories or times of awkwardness. It might excite their inner child or make them feel giddy, which is, sadly, not experienced as much as it should be in adulthood. That type of exposure or direct identification may cause someone to feel uneasy and so they deflect with defensive statements such as, "That's corny," or "That's cheesy."

    It reminds me of the reason I like the "geeky" or "nerdy." I mean really, aren't they just set apart because they aren't afraid to be themselves? I like that they are human, cognizant of it, and don't care what others think. And you shouldn't either.

    Good post!

    1. Thanks for the lengthy response. It's been hard for me to turn off the "this is cheesy" filter, but I'm glad I've been ignoring it.

  3. There are some obstacles in writing. We should keep in mind and try to remove these obstacles. Writing is not a difficult work but need proper concentration on work. We should keep in mind who will read our writing and what can be his/her reaction on it.

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