Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Guest Post: FEAR (by Thomas Kaufman)

(not by) Russel D McLean

Continuing a small, hand-picked guest run here on Fridays at DSD, please welcome another of the pantheon of PI writers to the stage. Thomas Kaufman came to my attention a couple years back with his debut, DRINK THE TEA which introduced the world to Willis Gidney, a crook turned investigator with a cool story behind his name and a natty patter that endears him not just to other characters but to readers as well. In fact, readers were taken enough with Gidney that he's returned in a second novel, STEAL THE SHOW.

Kaufman's not just a talented author, though. Oh, no, he's also an Emmy award winner for his work as a cameraman and director. His work on TV cop documentaries must have helped him to at least some degree on his new career as a crime writer who was nominated by the ITW for best first crime novel. If you want to know more, I'd say go check out the man's website. But make sure you come back and see why today he's decided to talk to Do Some Damage about The Fear...


By Thomas Kaufman

Russel, thanks for letting me guest blog, and also for leaving space in the driveway.

If I may, I'd like to begin today's guest blog with a question for the writers:

What scares the shit out of you?

And let's forget about phobias for a moment, okay? That means no bats, spiders, snakes, vampires, werewolves, tsunamis, or the taxman.

No, I'm talking about something universal, a fear so pervasive that would send chills down the spine of any artist.

A recent study found that most people find their biggest fear is public speaking. Number one! Scarier than death, right? As Seinfeld put it, at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy.

But why? What makes public speaking so scary? I think it goes to the heart of our biggest fear, which we experience with any kind of performance – including writing a book.
Okay, ready? The biggest fear we have is (drum roll please)

People Will laugh at Me

When you examine the fears of a writer (or any artist, for that matter), you might think the worst someone could do is hate what you do. Or react indifferently. But laughter? Ouch.

This is something we're hard-wired to react to. Example: a person walks past a group of people, maybe three of four, and they spontaneously laugh as that person goes by. Now, it could be someone in the group just told a punch line, but a part of us may think they're laughing at us.

I'm telling you, it's everywhere.

And I think we writers are a bit more susceptible to this kind of fear than most folks, for the simple reason that we put ourselves out there. Let's face it, it takes some ego to write a story and then place it where virtually anyone can read it. The safe thing? Put your manuscript in the desk drawer. That way, no one can criticize it or deride what you've done.

But then there's not much point to writing in the first place. We want the work out there, and we want people to like it. So we're taking this chance.

What we must remember is that the people we respect won't laugh. They may love what we do; they may hate it; but they'll at least see that we've done our best, given it our best shot. Maybe they have helpful criticism. Maybe they're over the moon and plan to tell everyone they meet about your book. But laugh at you? Not bloody likely.

The other thing is that, when you look at the people who got laughed at, you'll see that rejection didn't stop them. So someone laughs. So what? You're still here, doing what you want to do.

When Brian Epstein decided to go to the major recording labels in England, they all rejected the Beatles. This bears repeating: Every single record label in England rejected the Beatles.

When George Lucas pitched STAR WARS, he was turned down by every major Hollywood studio. Did he fold his tent and steal away?

Now, if you happen to be writing something you yourself think is schlock, if it's just a pot-boiler that doesn't interest you, that's a different matter. But if your writing has meaning for you, something that you enjoy, if it 's like the books you like to read, then so what if someone laughs? You weren't writing to please them specifically. And not everyone is going to understand, or even like, what you've written.

But if you still fear the laughter of those who read your stuff, there is one cure-all: self-confidence, the knowledge that what you're writing is good. And that kind of confidence comes with age. So if someone laughs, let 'em. You'll still be here.

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