Monday, June 20, 2011

Writing Fears

Tonight I had a brief conversation with a friend, touching on the social pressure to participate in an activity she found overwhelmingly frightening. This has got me thinking not only about what are my own "hot button" fears in general, but in my writing. We all have our individual crazy places, things about which we are not rational, things that create instant flip-out certifiably nuts adrenalin overload. I've made my peace with how difficult some issues are for me. Over the years, with a lot of help from my friends, most of these have loosened their hold on me. I've come to believe that "courage is fear that has said its prayers," and know myself capable of a great deal despite those fears.

But what about writing? This is the new part. Are there things about writing in general, publishing, career, my own work, that intimidate me? Are there things I do or don't do because of fear? A few obvious fears I can cross off my list. I'm not afraid:
  • Of having a book or a story rejected.
  • Of receiving a harsh review.
  • Of making a fool of myself on a convention panel.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. None of these things is any fun at all. I've figured out that being embarrassed isn't fatal, and that a sense of humor will go a long way. One reason I love networking with other writers is that we aren't all off-balance on the same day. We've all been through some version of the above, and someone is sure to say exactly the right thing to carry me through the worst. Then I get to do the same for another friend.

I have moments of self-doubt, in which my thoughts go in unfortunate directions, prompting me to believe, if only for a moment, that nothing I've written is any good, I can't write my way out of a wet paper bag, and no one will ever want to read my work again. Fortunately, these moments are so brief and so easily made ridiculous, I don't categorize them as fears.

However, I am afraid:
  • Of letting myself get talked into wasting precious years on a project that's not meaningful to me.
  • Of not having the courage to tackle painful or controversial material.
  • Of dying before I tell the stories in my heart.
This kind of pressure -- I Must Write Stories Of Significance -- is not helpful. Who is to say what work will be cherished a century hence? Perhaps it won't be that Momentous Tome, but a bit of fluff -- air and feathers and sheer delight. This is what fear does to us, thought, it makes us all tight. Desperate. Grim.

Talk about dying? Better, talk about living, about falling in love with every story, even the most fanciful. About letting that love, that joy, shine through. These things are, after all, ephemeral, but the memory of having experienced them is not. After all, today is all any of us have. This present moment. This present story. This scene. This word. This unfolding of the heart.

The illustration is "Fear" by Maria Yakunchikova.


  1. Thank you Deborah.-Molly

  2. Thank you, Deborah. The "choosing which to write, and is it the right choice?" weight has been on me of late.

    What is the picture you are using at the top of your blog? Is this path near your home?

    -- Kathi

  3. Kathi -- oh yes, I know that one. Instant paralysis ensues. Better, I think, to write the one for which I have the most passion.

    The image is from the Dolomites, taken by a dear friend who married an Italian. It's one of the places she goes hiking.

  4. Thank you for the post. I'm starting to write stories, and you said things that made me question my fears about writing (and getting published). Please write more about your experiences as a writer and about the publishing industry, if you will. This kind of information is always invaluable for newbie writers like me, and I think, always interesting for book fans as well.

  5. Welcome, Ceridwen Taliesen! I'm delighted that my post was helpful and supportive. Writing is such an agonizing process at the best of times, and because we spend so much time alone with our minds, it's easy to slip into isolation and self-doubt. We all need to hear that we're not alone, and those of us a little farther on the path gain as much from nurturing the ones who come after us as we give.