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 is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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