Overcoming FOFU

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing recently, and that’s the problem really. I’ve been thinking, and not doing.

I’ve tried to give myself a break; the world has thrown a lot of things at us all this year and everyone is feeling a bit lost and anxious. I know I have stories inside me that I want to tell, and worlds I want to create. I know that I’m self-conscious about my writing ability – will people like it? Will I ever get my first book finished? A second book? A fourth?

Impostor syndrome, right?

Every writer in every interview ever has at some point doubted their abilities – I am not alone in this. I call it by a different name; FOFU or my Fear of Fucking Up. I spent so many years too scared to try writing because I knew how much I loved it, but had fixated on this idea that to pursue a dream like this was a ridiculous notion. What if I get this wrong?

This was the real world Emma, you’re going to fail.

There’s a lot for me to unpack here about why I feared failure so much, far too much for a blog post and besides, I’m not even sure I know exactly how these fears took root in my mind. This FOFU has controlled how I live my life for so long, in so many aspects, and over the last year or so I’ve become increasingly cognisant of just how entrenched it is in my thinking. If I’m really going to give myself a break, I need to learn how to fail and be okay with that. I need to feel all that fear, and do it anyway.

I took that first step last year, by enrolling in university and starting a degree in creative writing. I needed space, both a physical and mental space, to do something for myself that didn’t involve my usual work or wasn’t connected to my role as a mother or a wife. Something that was purely, selfishly, for me. I hung a lot of guilt on my decision to do this, as it meant I was giving up a lot with my existing career and the money that came with it, but I’m two semesters in now and I really love the space I’ve created for myself as a university student. I needed that space, desperately, and I gave myself that space. There’s no room for regret in that space.

Now I need to take that next step. I want to be a writer, and no matter how many books I read on the subject, no matter how many assignments I submit about writing, I’m not a writer unless I write. I can’t think myself into being a writer, I just have to write.

My FOFU really kicks the anxiety up a notch when I sit down to write, but I know that I’m at a crossroads now. If I want to be a writer, I just have to do it. It’s not about motivation, or willpower. I have all the equipment that I need, I have all the software I need (Scrivener is scary y’all, I’m just sticking with Word for the moment!). My desk is in a great spot, looking out over my garden. I have a leather-bound notebook to record my ideas. The planets are all aligned.

I just need to write.

And today, I’ve started to write.

I’ve been reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits and I’m using this to build a really effective writing practice. It’s all very practical and unromantic, but I know that I need this in order to keep myself pushing through all this fear.

So I’m starting with a small habit – get up every morning at 5 AM, have a shower, get dressed and sit down, open my laptop and write. I leave for work at 7 AM, so I have that 2-hour window between 5 and 7 to do all of this. On my days off, I can write for longer if I need to, but I do this every single day. For the days I’m not working on my WIPs, I will post on this blog instead, or on paper in my own journal for all those things that I don’t particularly want to share with the world.

I don’t break the chain, I just get on with it and do it. I am a writer, and I write every day.

I am a writer, and I write every day.

Obviously this is an ongoing process, and one I’ll continue to share with you all via this blog. I might fail – and that’s totally okay right? It’s important enough to me to give it a shot anyway.

If you’ve read this far, I’d love to know – what kind of writing practices do you have? What have you done to overcome your own FOFU moments? Any advice for me to overcome mine?

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