4 Fears: What is stopping you from writing?

1. You are afraid no one will want to read what you write.

You know it but will probably never say it out loud – what other people think does matter to you!  If they think your writing sucks it will hurt you and you will probably be convinced to believe it.  But does it really mean it does?

Conquering this fear:

Come on.  You have friends.  You have someone you talk to.  Someone who listens to you.  If a person finds what you say worth listening to, even for entertainment value alone, they will listen to you.  Writing is another form of speaking and those who listen now will read then.  It is another form of speaking yes, but in many ways a better form – you do not stutter, you do not reserve, what is written is written and not whispered or muttered.  So much more clear for your listener-turn-reader!

For those of you with no/few friends – this is an even more advantageous place to come from.  Your perspective will be new, fresh, different.  Your writing is probably going to shock those around you with the newness of your voice and your opinion.  But the friendless are more likely to fear #2 than #1.

2. You are afraid someone will read what you write.

Say, the friends you wish you had, the ex boyfriend of step-father your villain is based on, the person who you know will disapprove of your ideas – for instance, my conservative, Bible-thumping, far-right republican grandmother will probably bury me quietly in a shallow grave were she to read a hot romance scene I had written.  It may be far more general a fear than that – a fear of your own success, a fear of your own power to reach others, a fear of the responsibility that goes with that power. 

Conquering this fear:

Think of your favourite writer.  Imagine the world of books without them.  Your reading life would be bereft, your idea bank would have a much lower balance and be perhaps overdrawn, and the album of images you store in your head would be missing some particularly profound moments. Think back to when they sat down for the first time with a pen and were hit with this particular fear.  What would you say to them?  How would you cheer them on? 

Now go say these things to yourself.  This is much bigger than you are, you poor puny potential writer.  You are someone’s favourite.   It is part of your purpose as a human being to fill the space in their library, guide their thoughts on a journey through your ideas, and provide for them the choice between an idea that was once only yours and their own way of thinking.  Their future will be bereft without you. 

3. You are afraid to reveal to others what you really think. 

We glean from our own experiences the characters and circumstances that make up our stories.  Our characters have a root in reality, their weaknesses and their strengths come from real places in what we perceive of the people around us.  Our opinions, our agendas and our emotions colour who they become in our books – FACT.  Another fact is that we  write from secret places within us.  We write from love, from respect, admiration, desire, but also (and just as often) from guilt, hurt, anger, pity, annoyance, and vengeance.  We find in writing it is easier to face down our villains and confront them than in life.  But in writing these things out we expose ourselves to the realities of what happens after they have read the story.  We all have our secret thoughts and we reveal them very carefully.  Writing can make us less careful and this is what we fear.

Conquering this fear:

The solution lies in living a life and writing from the same place – a place of authenticity.  Censorship of your writing is not the answer.  Honesty in your living is.  Maybe your writing can help lead you to this place of authenticity.  Maybe this is the bridge that will get you to being the real and the best you.

4. You are afraid to really think.

Not only do we fear revealing to others what we really think, but really thinking is in itself a fearsome task.  There are issues each of us has shelved and refused to face, memories that have been repressed and hurts that have been ignored.  The catharsis that writing can push you through is something many of us are not ready for.  And so we write around subjects and push out mediocre works in place of masterpieces of triumph.  For instance, in my own life I face issues of race.  The impact race has had on my family life is one I struggle to face and to write about.  I don’t want to face the harm that the actions of my loved ones has put me through.  I don’t want to face blaming them and then forgiving them.  I don’t want to deal with their self-righteousness and open myself up to being hurt even more when they decide they don’t want to be forgiven because they have never done anything wrong.  I don’t want to face it, much less reveal the way I see it to these same persons.

Conquering this fear:

There are some towns there are no roads around, only through.  We can get stuck in them and make them our final destinations, or we can push through them and get to the destination we were made to journey to.  But in order to undertake the journey we must face what it is worth to us.  Does defining yourself and your path and creating your own space to be authentic have enough value for you?  What possibilities would you create by taking the steps to write?

I hope this inspires you to pick up your pen today.  Pray I find the value in my final destination enough to conquer my own fears.

On writing… and not.

I have always wanted to write a book.  This time is the third time I have begun a work of fiction, made it into a good 1/3 of the writing, and found myself truly bored with the subject matter.  So bored, in fact, that I don’t want to write a single word.  Enter writer’s block.  Perhaps you can identify?  If so, I’d love your insights about my new idea.

Reading, on the other hand, has never lost its charm.  I grow in leaps and bounds in the ideas of others.  In fact, I am currently being inspired by the life of St. Teresa of Avila – a nun who was asked by her confessor to write down the history of her life, the origin of her ideas, and the direction of her faith.  So radical was this woman that I have never understood how she came to sainthood and not to burning on the stake!  Yet to her, her ideas were simple, her life was wretched, and her story quite insignificant.

And so I have found her inspiration battling within me against my exasperation.  I feel a powerful calling to write but why bore myself with the staleness of my creations well past their sell-by dates?

Out of the blue I hear the voice of my writing instructor calling out the story in us.  She would tell us that your own life is a rich field waiting to be harvested.  Your own experiences are ripe with undiscovered fiction.  And so it came to me that I am to start with fact.  I may find myself boring but I alone have populated this particular character in each of these experiences and I have a round sense and an original perspective that no one else can capture but me!

And so I will write.  My story.  I will harvest my own field awhile.  I may never publish in my lifetime – so rich is this story with the secrets of others – but I will write it for it to one day become a story the world can read.

When this tome is off my chest perhaps I will find fulfillment in the rest.

Writer Terror

“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”   
— Flannery O’Connor

All weekend I have been battling with my writing class assignment.  The result has been that not one word has been written.  It promises to be a very intense piece of work (visceral is the word the instructor used) and I am likely going to have to work it and re-work it.  So far I have been writing light works for my blogs, little bites of my day.  It has been a forward-looking journey charting a new course through lands hitherto unknown and filled with optimism.

Not so my writing class homework.  This promises to be a visit to the murky swamps of my memories.  And I admit it freely here – I am intimidated.  The assignment for this week is that I take a childhood memory and re-write it in the voice of my childhood.  Three pages.

Writing about the past is something I have never practiced.  Not about my past anyway.  I don’t mind brief visits to other people’s ponds.  But much like I don’t like the idea of going to a psychologist to dig through the silt and make a new decision on what happened in the past I have a strong resistance to sifting through on my own for sources of fiction.

You would swear I had skeletons in my closet!

A big part of what scares me is the burden of protecting the people in my life from the magnifying glass.  It scares me to have to examine each character closely and make a decision on them.  It scares me to show the decision I have made to them.  They lived in my life un-rehearsed, un-varnished and would never have guessed when I was growing up alongside them that one day I would open my veins and bleed out my secrets, which are shared secrets and therefore their secrets, through a pen.  The rye words exchanged, the events we pushed into the past in order to still be able to relate today, the wrongs we have worked hard to forget and survive.

I struggled to identify a childhood memory that wasn’t in some way tainted by one of these secrets.  The drama that belonged to the adults affected how we children would be allowed to relate – where we went, who came over, what could and could not be discussed with whom.  In the end I found some untainted memories in our neighbourhood, things shared with my brother and our friends, but most of them I had to really fight through the mire to get to.

Without even beginning to write I see how enormous an impression adults leave on children.  A theme for the story of my life.  The fears and the fierce love of our protectors and the way they fought for us or over us during the days of our childhood – the prickly hedge that kept us sheltered from the world.

Having already admitted to my commitment phobia, I am going to apply my own advice to this problem.  I have a problem – I am terrified of writing for this class.  My goal is to complete every assignment from the heart for this class.  And you, the reader of my blog, I ask to hold me accountable.  If by Friday each week for the next five weeks I haven’t mentioned it, this means I am avoiding it.  Please kick my rear into gear.

relapse

It suddenly got hard today. This commitment to emotional detachment. And with no rhyme or reason. There is no one to blame for this – no man has swept me off my feet. No song has swept me back into the past. I have not let my guard down in the face of difficult challenges.

Maybe I am more in need of comfort than I thought. Maybe the traumas of this week were bigger than I let myself believe.

I suppose it is to be expected. A serial monogamist will suffer from withdrawal like any other addict. The ideal will lack luster at some time or other. The grass on the other side will be greener at some point. This is the material from which cliches are made.

Today writing is a difficult thing. Finding something outside of the old addiction or ideal of romance takes a force of will beyond today’s capacity.

And so tomorrow will be the day that I will write next. Something inspiring. Inspired. Focused. Enlightened.

But let me just make it through tonight…