Fear is the keystone of my writing process.
If I’m honest, That Time – that time I was too afraid to put words to paper, that time I stared at one draft so confused about what to do with it and so paralyzed to do anything that I did nothing, that time I binged on Netflix instead of writing – it’s Every Time.
It is strange.
When I work on a project, I rarely feel afraid. No matter what stage I am in – the messy shit of the first draft, the frustrating rewrites, the other frustrating rewrites, the oh-my-god-just-frickin-END-this rewrites, the final oh-dear-Jebus-this-is-IT polishing – I don’t feel fear. Not while I’m working.
Immersed in my work, I feel confident. Even working on the messiest of first drafts, the power of potential propels me forward. I love potential. Being not particularly naturally inclined to anything, I don’t really believe in talent. Not that I don’t believe it exists, but I don’t really believe in talent as a driving force in life. There aren’t good writers and bad writers. There are just writers along different stages in their journey. Potential is everything, if you’d just grab it and run.
And I believe strongly that any story can be good in the right hands. Consider Twilight in the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien. Or Lord of the Rings in the hands of Stephanie Meyer. The first I would probably have loved, the second………… well, let’s not be negative here! The point is fear over creating a bad story is pointless. Any story can be good. It’s only a matter of trying your hand at writing again and again until the right hands for the story are yours.
But I feel fear.
When I look up from my work, it seeps in. Working on a terrible draft, I am happy, driven by the potential of the work, confidant that every little correction to this abomination brings it one step closer to the story it’s meant to be. But then I look up, and I am vulnerable.
Fear is a physical thing.
It’s too easy to say It’s all in your head. Except it’s not.
When I look up from my writing, it’s like some heavy, oppressively heavy, piece of armor is plopped down on my body. My shoulders hunch with the muscles’ tension, my heart beats feel like they are quivering, my stomach all of a sudden doesn’t want to do it’s job, curling up in fear and rejecting any requests to accept food, and when I lay my head down at night and close my eyes, then all the terrible things that will happen if I write this story pop up in front of my eyes. The terrible things, I can’t even always name them – oftentimes, they’re just generic clouds of despair. Or maybe they are an agoraphobic future where I can’t leave the house because everyone knows how terrible I am, or they are the laughter that follows me to buy toilet paper in that future where Terrible Writers are the latest paparazzi craze, or they are the dreaded shame of unemployment benefits running out because of course no one will hire the Terrible Writer!
I don’t know.
I do know that if I just sit down and immerse myself again, the fear will disperse. But the bitch of this thing fear, is that it paralyzes. I know that if I just sit down, open my work and move my fingers in a way that makes words on the page, it will all go away. I know it. It’s not that hard. But when you’re frozen, even the slightest movement forward seems impossible.