What scares you? Let’s not get too deep; I’m not talking about soul-crushing terror here. What scares you in your daily life? What keeps you from meeting your goals, finishing projects, and trying things you think you might enjoy? I’m scared of cave crickets, large fish (yes…fish), and writing.
The cave cricket fear is no biggie. It just means that I occasionally embarrass myself by jumping around screaming like an idiot, and I am not touching that load of laundry until my husband gets home to remove the spider/cricket/alien hybrid from the washing machine. I face my fear of fish, through a careful compromise, every year when we go to the beach. I will not miss out on snorkeling with my kids, so we swim where the ocean is as clear as bathwater, and I can see anything coming in time to panic and climb back onto the boat before it eats me. The fear of writing, though, that’s the one that gets me. I dream of being a published author. I have an English degree. Writing is kind of my “thing,” right?
It wasn’t until recently that I even realized I am afraid of writing. I was in the middle of formulating another reason for why I have yet to finish a project. This time my husband wasn’t going to let me cop out with my go-to excuses. “If you have time to scroll through Facebook, you have time to write,” he said. “The kids interrupt you too much? Fine, I’ll take them somewhere,” he offered. “No, it wasn’t a silly book idea. It was an awesome book idea, and I want to see the finished product,” he insisted. “I spent more money than I will admit buying you an excellent drawing tablet and software so you can illustrate it the way you like,” he reminded me. He just doesn’t get it, I thought. As I was trying to convey my feelings (the surge of anxiety, the loss of motivation after the initial high of excitement, the writer’s block, the crushing exhaustion that descends on me for no discernible reason when I sit down to write) it hit me. I’m scared!
I have all the tools I need. I never lack inspiration, and if you are a lover of fiction, reading or writing it, you know what I mean. Your brain will grab anything (a picture, a snippet of a conversation, a drainage ditch at the side of the road that looks like the perfect spot to hide a body) and turn it into a story idea. I have time. I mean, I have four kids and I’m a full-time student, so I don’t actually have time, but the hubs is right. If I can make time for Facebook, I can make time to write. I have support and encouragement. My husband expends a lot of effort trying to convince me to write. He really thinks I can do this, and he spent way more than I am comfortable with supplying the materials. It’s not just my friends and family either. My last creative writing professor secretly submitted a piece I wrote for class to a contest. I only found out about it when I got a $100 check in the mail along with the notice I won the Donna Sparkman Student Literary Award. I’m not bragging here, just making the point that there really is no logical reason I can’t accomplish my goal. So, what am I afraid of?
I am most afraid of letting myself down. I have built up this image of me in my head, the self I really want to be, the Writer. I worry that I talk a big game but can’t back it up. I have the ideas, I have the passion, and I am pretty sure I have some talent, but do I have the stamina? Can I keep on producing words until I have an entire story – a good story, with substance? Do I have what it takes to finish a short story, a book, a blog post? If I keep starting new projects, I am indulging my need to create, but by not finishing them, I never have to take a risk. If I don’t even try to finish a piece of work, then I don’t have to face the fear that I may not be able to finish it. Can you relate to this? What is your secret, or not so secret, passion? Have you had a hard time getting over some obstacle, getting over your fear, and just going for it? Are you afraid that you will let yourself down? Maybe you faced your fear, you figured out what works for you and finally managed to just do the damn thing. I would love to hear about your experience.
I keep reading that to be a Writer, you have to write. It sounds simple, but when you are afraid of yourself, it’s not. Successful writers say you have to just force yourself to do it. Set a timer, sit down with your paper and pen or your laptop, and just make words – any words. It’s not easy. I have been working on this blog post for two days. In case you haven’t guessed – this is what I am doing to face my fear of writing. I’m writing about it. Ultimately, my desire to write stems from a desire to relate to others. Art is about self-expression, but it is also about connection. Maybe sharing this fear will create some connection, maybe it will resonate with someone out there. At the very least, I have jumped a hurdle here. I don’t know where I am landing, but I took the leap. Fear has loosened its grip just a bit.
I didn’t write this as a how-to, and I am no expert, or as my husband might say, “guru.” I have learned a few things just by writing this. Like my fish-phobia compromise, I’m starting out in the clear, shallow water. I’m jumping in with a blog post, not diving into the deep with a 300-page novel. Start small. At some point you’re going to feel you are letting yourself down more by not even trying than you will if you try and don’t get it just right the first time. When that time comes, talk to someone about it. If you are afraid to audition for a play, go tell an experienced actor about your fear. I bet they will be able to relate. If you want to go back to school and get that degree, but you don’t know if you can do it or even where to start, talk to someone who did and tell them how you feel. They probably had some obstacles to navigate as well. And if you are afraid to write, but you know you were meant to write, well, you have your very first topic. Write that fear out of you and onto an empty page.
P.S. Hey look- I finished a blog post.