Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing With Fear

I think you have to be a little bit crazy to be a writer. Jasie, Lindy, and my husband Jaime have all told me at various times that they’d love to write something, but they’re afraid for some reason. Maybe they fear whatever they write will suck. Maybe they fear that they’ll only waste everybody’s time with the attempt. Maybe they fear whoever reads it will mock them. Maybe they don’t want to put too much of themselves on paper for anybody to read--and worse, anybody to understand. Maybe they don’t know how to begin, don’t know where it should start, don’t even know what their ultimate purpose is. They think I don’t understand their fears because I write all of the time. Every day. And when I’m done writing, I send it out to the world, either through publication or my private journal.

What they don’t know is that I am afraid. Every single day. I haven’t overcome that fear. I haven’t conquered the fear. I’m still terrified of everything I’ve mentioned. There isn’t a day or a page that doesn’t have some sort of accompanying anxiety and doubt. Sometimes it’s so bad, I can’t even start working. I’m paralyzed with it, my brain spinning in circles and never quite grabbing anything. Sometimes I’m so anxious I know it’s making me a bad writer, but the bad writing keeps flowing and my anxiety only increases. I don’t have any idea how to get rid of that fear, or move beyond it, or above it, or ignore it.

Writers are the ones who work anyway.

“I don’t want to get into it now. Let’s just say I was presented with two choices and I resigned.” That’s how Jim Lahey explained why he’s no longer a police officer on Trailer Park Boys. And it’s more or less how I feel about writing. My sisters tell me their writing related fears and I stare at them blankly because I don’t understand why that stops them. Writing is such a fundamental part of who I am and woven in so tightly to the fabric of my life that I can’t even conceive how they live without it. Imagine getting up and living every single day without calling on other worlds, living other lives, creating something totally new. Imagine never shaping it into something better, never trimming away the excess and finding the beauty lurking inside.

Imagine never getting another rejection letter or bad review. Imagine never worrying that everybody will find out you’re some sort of phony. Imagine never reading something you think is crap and wondering “Why isn’t my book in the bookstore?” Imagine steady paychecks, a regular pattern to your life, and a sense of security.

I don’t know how to get over fears. I can’t even say that I’m sorry I have to deal with legitimate concerns (bad reviews hurt. I won’t lie. I’m not a robot.) and not so legitimate concerns (I don’t completely suck. If I did, nobody would read my books at all). But I do know there are always two choices. Every single morning, I’m faced with these options and I can make a decision for that day.

Write with the fear.


Which one are you going to choose today? 

Image thanks to LWPrencipe on

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