Staying Afraid

Writing scares me. And not in a good, exhilarating way.

The act of sitting at the keyboard or with pen in hand, on the brink of creating something, more often then not petrifies me.

I can sit there for what feels like hours fighting the urge to flea, to shred the notepad or smash the keyboard, to walk away from ever writing another word for as long as I breathe.

This fear has always resided within me — a ulcer in my writer’s psyche, if you will.

When the writing is good, it’s because I’ve managed to evade it, to remain one step ahead of this fear.

But when it catches me, it is paralysing to my creativity.

To draw an analogy, evading this fear feels like I’m being chased through ankle-high water.

While the depth is uniform, and I can still lift my feet from the water, I can keep ahead of it.

But as soon as the water deepens, as soon as I dip below the point my feet can’t break free of the water, I slow dramatically.

And my fear catches me.

And from that point, it takes a mammoth effort to shake myself free of its clutches.

In times gone by, I have been known to take years to shake it off.

This is the pall under which I sit down to write most days.

So why continue, I hear you ask? (A question, believe me, I’ve asked myself staring at many a half-blank page or screen.)

The simple answer is, I love creating stories.

I love the act of discovering new characters, of building the worlds around them, of breaking them against obstacles, and then finding the strength within them to overcome.

There are very few feelings greater than that of finally reaching the end of a story I have created — of reliving my characters’ emotional journeys with each re-reading, again and again.

It is euphoric.

For that sense of accomplishment, that sense of having made something worthy of outlasting me on this planet, I would let my fear hound me to the gates of perdition.

But these achievements are hard-fought, for me.

And rife with anxiety.

Now I’m not one usually given over to motivation posters — I find them trite and belittling, as if I wasn’t aware I had a problem until I read the damn poster.

Earlier this year, however, in a period of struggle with my writing, I turned to google images for inspiration.

Carrie Fisher had not long died — a writer whom I still hold in high regard — so I soaked up some of her wisdom.

And a quote of hers about fear and confidence struck a chord:

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

This quote is now pinned to the wall in my writing space.

That a writer of Ms Fisher’s calibre suffered her own form of fear in her creativity, and managed to overcome that fear to produce works like Postcards from the Edge, Surrender the Pink and The Princess Diarist, is worthy of respect and awe.

And something I’m now trying to emulate.

Some days, my fear only allows me to write a few lines, some days a few words — and often scribblings that I know I’ll discard anyway.

Still some days, I produce nothing at all.

But if Carrie Fisher could persist, I remind myself, so can I.

And so, I sit back down the next day and try again.

And she is right: my confidence has grown over the last few years to the point where every once in a blue moon I think I might actually know what I’m doing.

My fear still stalks me, but it’s a beast I’m learning to live with.

Staying afraid, and doing the work anyway — it’s as simple and as difficult as that.

All images from Pixabay

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