Fear, Thy Name Is…Fear

Last year, I had a MAJOR writing-related meltdown that led me to series of blogs written by writers who were going through the same thing I was. It took me nearly 4 hours to read through all of that material, but I am so glad I took the time.

Sometimes we know what’s going on with us…for example, I knew that this particular block had a lot of fear behind it. But oftentimes, knowing the problem doesn’t exactly solve the problem. So I was scared. What now? Well, aside from the obvious, which was determining exactly why I was scared. You know, what I was scared of. For me, it was of complete and total failure.

Like starting another story and either:
a) having to abandon it
b) finishing it and not really liking it without really knowing why — or
c) finishing it, loving it, and sending it out only to be slapped hard in the face with too many rejection letters to count.

So after identifying the mess, next I had to figure out what would I actually do to keep the paralyzing fear from gripping me every time I sat down to write. Well, I wasn’t going to ignore it for one thing. That only makes it louder. So, what do you do, you face it. I acknowledge the fact that I’m scared. I might even, according to this post, talk to it.

me: I’m scared.
paralyzing fear: no crap, sherlock…
me: I’m really scared. I can’t move. I feel sad.
paralyzing fear: oh…I’m sorry?

The fear is acknowledged which makes it happy and it no longer has to keep chasing me down. Acknowledging it gets it off the defensive (and in my case, it also stops being snarky and snotty) and allows it to relax. This is when I tell the fear that I understand where it’s coming from, and this is also where I let it know that it’s hurting me. Because the fear thinks by getting in my way, it’s protecting me from hurt. It doesn’t want to cause me more pain. It’s trying to save me from pain.

Now, before I start to sound crazy, this really does work. I didn’t believe it when I read it, but at that point I was going to try anything, because I get so very miserable when I’m not writing, and it’s just no fun.

So I told the fear I understood it was trying to protect me from pain. But as painful as that pain is, it really is more painful not to be writing at all. Because at least when a project fails or rejection rolls my way, it’s only a matter of time before I dive into a new project and feel better. If I can’t dive into something new because fear is in my way, those feelings of failure and paranoia and like I’m wasting my time NEVER go away. They stay and I am made more miserable by my inability to get anything done, thus confirming all those fears and leaving me with the feeling that I deserved all that pain in the first place.

So now fear feels bad for me. Now fear is on my side.

paralyzing fear: ohmygosh…i’m so sorry. i had no idea.
me: It’s okay. You were trying to help, and I appreciate that. How about this? How about you continue to help me by being on the lookout for situations that might cause me pain, and then bring them back when you find them, and we’ll work them out together?
paralyzing fear: (nods emphatically) yeah…that could work. i got yer back.

Now fear doesn’t feel useless. It feels heard and feels like I will listen to it if it brings its concerns to me. Then we can hug and sit down and talk about it in a pseudo-rational manner. I don’t have to be afraid to write, and it doesn’t have to be afraid to let me. If the story sucks, I literally have dozens of other ideas. It’s no big deal. Yeah, it sucks to let go of characters that I love, but they are not the only characters I’m going to love that much. Some ideas will fall flat. It’s really okay. And now that fear has proof that I have survived before because we’ve talked about it, it can relax knowing that I’ll will take precautions to protect myself because I’ve given it a game plan. Now it can move to the side where it can keep watch, thus giving me room to breathe so I can write in peace and without fear holding me back.

So, I did this March of last year, and I was writing immediately. Like magic. For a few weeks, every day, fear would look at me and tip its hat (because my fear wears a little top hat), and every day, I would wave back and let it know that I was okay. And the next time fear and doubt and insecurity comes roaring in and blocks my path, we’ll sit down and talk about it, and fear and doubt and insecurity will depuff their little chests and relax because they know I’m listening and won’t head out into a fire ill-equipped. ^_^

Here’s a link to part one of the four-part series by Susan Dennard about Fear Related Artistic Blocks that helped me out so much if you need it. She is just so awesome. ^_^

15 Responses to Fear, Thy Name Is…Fear

  1. I hit a really scary part in my life when I didn’t even want to look at a computer, let alone think about the story I was in the process, you wanna know why?
    Because, I was eleven, and I had written the most graphic murder story known to man. It scared me to think that when I had a bad day (few and far between in those days) I could even think that. Anyway, after three months, and no new email containing a story in her in-box, my friend became worried. She finally confronted me, forced me to sit down over a cuppa at her place (oh tea, how sophisticated, *actually though, it was the one thing she knew that would calm me down*) and I opened up.
    She listened and listened and listened, one of the things a Visual needs (go check out my new post, it explains everything), and so she helped by looking at the story. She told me, that even though I had thought of this, the way my brain thinks is to special to be denied a pen and paper. I had to express my thoughts, otherwise they’d build up in my head and I’d explode, figuratively speaking.
    I got help and as soon as I got home, I polished off the story in a series I had been working on, and my friend said it was the best she had read that I had written.
    It felt great to go back to writing.
    So yeah, what I fear the most is my mind.
    And it scares the hell out of me sometimes

    • I’ve had a lot of conflict about what I write. It was probably 7 years ago before I started to really embrace it. I spent several years before that wondering if there was something wrong with me and if I should try writing a light fluffy bunny story that I would hate. It didn’t help that my mother was on a campaign for years and years to get me to change. She only recently, like in the last year, just accepted that I like darker stuff and that isn’t why I’m crazy, though she still doesn’t understand it at all. But that’s okay.

      So, all of that to say, I understand, and you won’t always be afraid. You’re lucky you have a friend you can share your stories with. I’ve had people literally pry my stories out of my hand (as I hand wrote all my stuff back in the early days), only to return them the next day because they were freaked out. I’ve even had a friend join my mom on the “get me to change” campaign. I thought it was a rather gross overreaction.

      So really, let it out! It’ll make sense one day. Or if nothing else, you’ll have peace about it. 🙂

      • Thanks for that, I never know. I might even revisit it, change it then use the idea for something different.
        When in doubt, write what’s in your mind, go back to it the next day, change it, work at it and make it into something beautiful.
        That’s my motto at least

  2. I have this image of your fear wearing a little top hat, rocking a jaunty little step, with even a monocle!! So glad you found a way to deal with your fear. 🙂

  3. This: ” …finishing it, loving it, and sending it out only to be slapped hard in the face with too many rejection letters to count.”

    This breeds fear and also a lack of care. You think, “Why should I create? Everyone’s going to hate it anyway.”

    We gotta get past fear and keep going. Great post!

  4. As Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Lol! But I’ve never conversed with mine. Maybe that would help. Glad it got you through!

Hi! ^_^