Whether we write with an electronic device or the old fashioned way with pen and paper, “what if” is a staple of the writing life.
Asking “what if” fuels our ideas into full-blown plots, creating twists and turns that hopefully catch readers attentions and refuse to let them go. It leads us down winding paths of thought, inviting us to think outside the box and generate problems or solutions that we haven’t previously considered. Asking “what if’ is what makes our stories flow.
But at some point, the question becomes personal for most writers. And it doesn’t have the same effect as when we use it as a writing tool.
When “what if” becomes personal, the focus is on negativity. The word “if” often indicates restrictions, conditions, or excuses. Sometimes “if” is full of regrets. It takes hold of our brains and paralyzes us.
For some writers, it’s about the actual writing. What if I can’t pull this off? What if I publish and nobody likes it? What if I’m a one-book writer?
For others, it’s about the residual effects of writing. What if my family isn’t supportive of my writing? I’m not good at promoting myself, so how will I ever promote my writing? Or what if I am successful – then what happens?
Can you hear the fear, the uncertainty in those questions? There is enough negativity in the world without focusing on the fear. While it’s natural to have self-doubt, you can’t let it consume you, or you’ll never know what you might have been able to accomplish. You have to get a grip on the negative thoughts and use them to your advantage.
How? Let’s start with “what if” we turn those questions around and put a positive spin on them? Ask yourself: What if readers love my books? What if I’m hugely successful? What other opportunities might I discover? Can I make a difference for someone?
None of us are perfect. We all have room to learn and grow, and we have to find the balance that works for us.
Believe in yourself and your abilities. Be aware that “if” is smack-dab in the middle of “life” and we all have to face it. So go on – ask “what if” – and change not only your character’s lives, but also your own.
Which "what if" is your worst fear, and how can you turn it into a positive thought? Please share.