I read a great blog post yesterday over at  Deadline Dames about facing your fears in your writing.  (Lilith Saintcrow, “This is no Bloodless Art”)  Which is interesting, because my last post played around the edges of fear in writing as well. I’ve been fighting the temptation to stay on structurally safe paths, to not tackle projects that I think are bigger than me. Lilith is talking about something a little different – that fear of facing emotional pain in our work, of wanting to hide from the dark places.

But we’re both dealing with the same issue, that of facing your fear in order to make your writing as authentic and powerful as it can be.  There’s a quote from Dune, that I love : “fear is the little death.”  It is, you know.  It makes us smaller, destroys us little by little, keeps us from growing and exploring and connecting.  

Right now my biggest fear truly is that I cannot possibly succeed at giving a shape and voice to the still inchoate ideas swirling around in my head.  But there have been plenty of others over the years.  A partial list looks something like this:

  • People will read this and think my writing sucks.
  • People will read this and be offended because I wrote about sex and my characters swear.
  • My mother is going to read this and be offended by – everything.
  • Nobody will ever read this and I am wasting my time for nothing.
  • This is going to be brilliant and I’m terrified of success.
  • If I write this, people will know more about my thoughts and feelings than I want them too.
  • Writing this is going to dig up some dark stuff I’d rather leave alone, thank you very much.
  • If I write this, people will be angry and hate me.

And so on.  Sound familiar to anybody?  I bet you all have you own lists, similar but different.  I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

In twenty years I don’t want to be disappointed by the things I didn’t write.  I’d rather have a body of work that shows I put myself out there, made an effort, took a risk.  Which is why I’m forging ahead with Swimming North and all the chaotic ideas that go with it.

And now it’s your turn. What fears come into play when you write?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Drop a comment and share.  And while you’re at it, in the interest of facing your fears – what is the last thing you’ve written in your WIP?  Could be a sentence, paragraph, or passage. Dare you to put it out there – unrevised and unrepentant.  I’d start, except I can’t remember the last thing I actually wrote, because I’ve just been revising for days.  So I will just post the last line from the last chapter I worked on, which now see has the word fight in it twice and needs to be reworked.  I cringe, but will follow through:

“Murdoch was fairly fit, but he was certainly no martial arts expert and had always been lousy in a fight. He wasn’t going to be able to turn somersaults and kick drawn weapons out of people’s hands.  But he wasn’t about to go down without a fight.”

Your turn!