fear of writing

The Fear of Writing

Sometimes writing scares me. I have things I want to write about, exciting ideas that often come to mind while I'm doing something completely un-writerly like grocery shopping or exercising. My heart races a little bit, a shiver runs down my spine. I rummage around looking for a notebook and pen, a leftover to-do list, something to make a note of this amazing idea before it gets lost in the detritus of everyday thinking. Then comes the scary part.

No matter how good I think the idea is, I'm afraid to start writing about it. Afraid to sit down in front of that blank computer screen and do the labor to bring that idea into the world.

What is so frightening? What is it that stills my fingers and pushes that idea to the back of my mind? Is it the fear of failing - that I won't be able to do this thing justice, make of it what I know it could be? Am I worried that this magical notion really isn't magical at all, and that once I begin to flesh it out on the page it will turn into a deformed monster rather than a beautifully realized story?

Could it be that I'm terrified of what I might discover about myself if I go deep enough inside my heart to bring this story to the world? Terrified to take the risk of exposing myself, my talent (or lack of it), my story?

"The risk of writing is an internal risk," says Laraine Herring in her book Writing Begins with the Breath. "You brave the depths of your own being and then bring it back up for commentary by the world. Not the work of wimps. Many writers would likely rather climb Mt. Fuji than go in there, but in there is precisely where you must go. You can't really prepare yourself for what's in there because you don't know all that's in there."

I'm not a mountain climber. Sometimes- especially when it comes to writing- I'm a wimp. I'm afraid of the unknown, afraid of change.

I don't like taking risks.

But I do know that the well of ideas and emotions living inside me need to find their way into the world, need to come to life on the page. And I must find the courage to start putting them there.

Anaïs Nin once wrote this: And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.

I think I'm ready for that day.


How about you? What fears stop you from writing? Are you able to take the risk and bloom?










Write on Wednesday - The Click

She’d been working so hard all year, why shouldn’t it have arrived around then: that “click” when it feels as if a previously locked door has opened and words and sentences suddenly seem to exist in a new dimension located somewhere between your brain and the screen or page, leading you through an infinite house whose rooms have strange geometric shapes you’ve never seen before, yet you always somehow know where you are.  ~ from Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman

Athletes call it "the zone," musicians call it "the sweet spot," and Francisco Goldman calls it "the click." Whatever term you use, you probably know what it means - that moment when everything works perfectly, you become suspended in some alternative universe where only you and whatever you're doing exist, and time seems to stand still.

Whether you write, play music, paint, dance, golf, swim, run - there's a "clicking point" when your body, mind, and spirit are in perfect harmony and you just can't do it wrong.

Getting there - now that's the trickier part. For me, the hardest part is just getting started.  I was reminded of this during the past few weeks of my online writing workshop.  We had new assignments each week, and, in typical Becca fashion, I'd procrastinate until the very last minute.  Coming up with ideas wasn't really a problem, but even when I had a good idea I'd put off sitting down at my computer and starting to write.

What's that all about, anyway? I discovered my reluctance to get started was partly related to fear.  What if I took my very good idea, starting writing, and then got completely stuck? Or if I couldn't express what I wanted to say? What if I wasted that wonderful idea with my incompetence?

That happened sometimes, and when it did it was hellishly frustrating.  I wanted to reach inside my brain and drag those perfect sentences kicking and screaming from wherever they were hiding and lay them out on the page. But other times, once I convinced myself to start writing, I was fine, and the words flowed fairly easily and fluently. On a few occasions, I actually "clicked" with my subject matter, and, not surprisingly, those were the pieces that turned out to be the most interesting and emotionally rewarding.

Maybe I need to come up with some sort of fear-reducing ritual...jumping up and down 10 times, or throwing salt over my shoulder, or burning incense.  Maybe a good stiff drink, á la Ernest Hemingway.  Whatever it takes, there's no way to click with writing unless you're actually writing.

You just gotta do it.