Fear is sticky.
If you know me and my work at all, you know I think a lot about fear.
Fear is like wet glue. Honey. Spilled soda. Taffy that you’ve played with, leaving your hands a mess.
If you carry fear with you all the time, it gets on everything you come close to, so that everything looks sticky and unapproachable. Even the soft things, the desirable things. Fear creates a barrier between you and not only the things you truly do need to stay away from, and the things you yearn to be close to.
Years ago, I read a terrific book called The Gift of Fear, which focuses on helping us restore and recognize our instincts about external physical threats. I highly recommend it. But so many of our fears are of less tangible things. I know that I have a very overdeveloped sense of fear. Without going into what some would call psychobabble, I’ll just say that I use fear as an all-purpose protectorant (I just made that word up). Fear and its bosom buddy, anxiety, are always with me in things both large and small.
The problem with seeing everything through the murky lens of fear is that it becomes desensitizing. It’s tough to see things the way they really are. Light becomes dark. Dark becomes even darker.
Because the page is right in front of me, and I know a lot of other writers let fear get between them and their stories, I’ll tell you what it’s like. There are so many things for a writer to fear: rejection, judgment, fear of exposing their deepest selves, fear that they aren’t good enough, that they are frauds, that they’ll never get it right. That’s a whole lot of pressure for one writer to deal with every time she sits down to the page.
I imagine that every story we can ever tell exists, whole, somewhere in the universe, and it’s the writer’s job to find it, see it clearly, and share it clearly. We have to hunt it down and tame it without changing it too much or distorting it. But what happens if we show up to the hunt lugging all that fear with us? We reach out to grasp the story, and it’s suddenly covered in crap. The more it’s exposed to our sticky fears, the less recognizable it becomes. Sure, the writer can bring perspective to the story, but if she’s paralyzed with fear, even that perspective can’t get through. To sit in front of a page, paralyzed, is torture for the writer, and not fair to the story.
My goal for myself is to figure out how to do a better job of cleansing myself of all of that fear before I approach the story. Like golf, writing is a mental game. (Steven Pressfield, who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, uses a lot of golf metaphors in The War of Art, his book about facing down fear and resistance in order to break through to your creativity. *makes note to read The War of Art for the fifth time*) Creativity is a mental game.
Creativity isn’t just applicable to the arts. The creativity and passion we employ in our lives make our lives better. Like a compelling story, a passion is a precious, rare thing. I want to find the rare, precious things, and see and enjoy them for what they are.
Tell me your passions, the things you approach with the least fear. Or, what would you get closer to if you could wash the fear away?
January 11 Words
Journal: 450 words
Long fiction: 1368 words
Short fiction: 0
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 605 words
Exercise: Only 5,600 steps. Late night Tuesday. Does a power nap count?