Some Thoughts on the Relationship Between Writing and Fear

  • There will always come a moment when the joy of discovering a new artistic medium (I.E, writing) is eclipsed by the fear of not being good enough.
  • The amount of courage required for a task does not necessarily equate to an equal amount of compensation, success, or satisfaction.
  • You are right to be afraid of the writing life. It is lonely and often without prestige. The amount of time and effort put into improving your writing or creating a work of writing is rarely rewarded with a satisfactory amount of praise or money. But at the same time, if you’re a writer and you’re reading this, this probably isn’t a deterrent to you. You probably understand that the reward of the writing life isn’t in the reward, it’s in the thing itself. The reward is in the moments alone when the words flow outward and inward, connecting you to the entire universe.

  • The ego protects the writer from the fear of not being good enough, but it is also the ego that prevents the writer from seeing reality. Seeing reality, and your writing for what it is, with its strengths and weaknesses, is both a terrifying prospect and the only way to work toward actual improvement.
  • Fear never goes away. It is a biological mechanism built into us. To be afraid is to be part of the human experience. The idea is not to eliminate fear, but to learn how to work with it.
  • The Courage to Write is an excellent book about this topic.
  • Fear often results from some kind of unknown quantity. It can be a good barometer for blank spots in your knowledge and process, or understanding a psychological block. But tread carefully – fear exists for a reason.
  • Fear results in pretty sentences that have no meaning. I see this a lot in beginning writers, who write meaningless beautiful sentences that are spun like cotton candy. Soft, fluffy, and lacking in actual substance. It takes courage to write something stripped-down to its essential components, to create prose that speaks plainly. When your work is laid bare, so are you, and if you make yourself naked
  • Fear can also result in writing stiff prose – lackluster descriptions, characters who speak like automatons, plots that fizzle and fall flat. It can result in being afraid to bust out of genre norms, to play it safe. It can keep us from finding our true voice and style, or from experimenting.
  • We’re writing, not storming the beaches of Normandy. We’re not in physical danger. That’s important to remember when we feel like our fingers are paralyzed at the keyboard, and every word feels like salt being rubbed into our raw throats. But I’ve read before that a wound to the ego is processed in the human mind similarly to physical pain. After all, a lose of identity and self, a weakening, a loss of pride, is in many ways, close to death.
  • We’re all going to die someday. Writing is, like many pursuits, an expression of being alive – a spark in the cosmic darkness. It is not a claim to immortality. It is a finite moment. That’s a beautiful, and ultimately terrifying, realization.
  • You wanted to be a writer because there was a part of you that believed in yourself. It was joy for the thing itself and enthusiasm that was tinged with a courage that possibly, you didn’t even know you possessed. And it was that courage that propelled you forward, invisibly, maybe without you even realizing it. All of your mechanisms working in lockstep, defeating obstacles, pumping blood, to get from one sentence to the next, to push yourself forward. Remember that, the next time you tell yourself you can’t. keep going
  • If you don’t do the things necessary to achieve your goals, that means that you don’t want it enough. Period. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is, how much it hurts, or how much you have to sacrifice. If you can’t do those things, then it just means it’s not that important to you. It has to be a desire that overcomes the obstacles that fear presents, or it’s a desire that’s going to ultimately die.
  • Do you hear that? It’s the chug-chug-chug of the heart like a locomotive train. Fear lives in the body. It resides coiled in the lungs and the stomach. It’s a physical presence. It is real. Realize it is real, and give it the respect that it deserves.
  • Understand your fear, don’t just stomp on it and ignore it. If you know your fears, their origins, and why they continue to assuage you, that is the key to knowing yourself.
  • The fear of writing is not just the fear of writing. It is the fear of failure, the fear of loss, the fear of death. It is the fear of -not being good enough- and outcast from your peers, denied joy and respect. Many people will encounter this fear and their response will be to stop writing, to turn away, to avoid having a failure added to their name. But you cannot prove you are good enough by not having any failures. You can only prove you are good enough, to yourself and to others, by your successes, despite how many failures you may string behind you.
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