"Now, I'd like you to relax and tell me what's troubling you."
I frowned in concentration. "It's hard to put my finger on it, but it has to do with writing."
"Ah, you're a writer. Very interesting. Go on."
"There are days that I feel frustration while I'm at the computer. I push through and get my quota out, but all the time there is this nagging feeling that my story isn't any good, or that no one is going to like it. It's hard to be productive when you're grappling with thoughts like that."
The doctor scribbled furiously in on his notepad. "That is very interesting. Are there any other symptoms?"
"I find myself strangely drawn to hang out on Facebook, read blogs, and do housework." I stared up in the corner of the ceiling. "You know, speaking of housework, you've got some cobwebs up there. Do you want me to take care of that for you?"
"What?" The doctor looked up, startled, and waved me toward a closet door next to the filing cabinet. "I think there's a broom in there. You know, this is really fascinating." The doctor made a couple quick notes, then stood up and started to pace. "It seems to me that what we have here are some early stages of atychiphobia."
"Is that a virus, or can you fix it with antibiotics?" My voice was muffled, coming out of the depths of the closet.
"Neither, actually." He dropped onto the couch to avoid my expert swishes with the broom which made history out of the cobwebs. "It's fear of failure."
"You don't say." I pounced on some Lemon Pledge and a dust cloth on the shelf as I replaced the broom. "Do you mind if I clean the top of these cabinets? I have a dust allergy."
"Go ahead." The doctor stretched out on the couch, putting up his feet. "I'd like to confide to you that I suffer from the same malady."
"Oh, no. Atychiphobia."
"Oh, right. What is that, again?" I finished up the edge of the filing cabinet and headed for the main desk.
"It's fear of failure."
"Right." I paused. "I don't think that's what I've got. It's more like a bad case of inner editor. My writing group says I need to quit listening to her."
The doctor snorted in bitter irony. "As it turns out, I am well acquainted with atychiphobia. I've been working on a novel of my own. I'm thinking about quitting, though, because I'm sure it's no good. Of course, I'm still in the first draft phase, but you'd think I'd see something great in it. I mean, if I don't like it, will anyone else?"
I dropped into the chair behind the desk. "The truth is, doc, you need to push through that first draft. Even without looking at it, I can tell you it's awful. All first drafts are awful. Doesn't matter who you are. But until you throw that clay on the wheel, you won't have anything to mold into a real story. Give yourself a daily quota and stick to it. And don't listen to a word that your inner editor tells you. Just those two things will do wonders."
The doctor stood up and gave me a hearty handshake. "Do you really think so?"
He sighed with relief. "Thank you so much. You've given me hope."
"No problem, doc. If you keep writing, you'll get past it. I'm glad I could help." I stood up and glanced at my watch. "If you'll excuse me, I have to run. I've got an appointment with my protagonist. When you finish that first draft, give me a call if you're feeling that attic-whatever-stuff hitting you. I'll talk you through the next step."
"I'll do that."
I watched his enthusiastic wave in my rearview mirror as I drove away. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder how it would affect chapter ten if I added a doctor character with strange phobias...