Dean Wesley Smith is spending some time digging into writers’ fears over on his blog. The fear of success, the fear of injury to reputation, the fear of putting a story in the public eye, the fear that it really can’t be this easy – just write and sell/publish? That’s not what they say to do!
Overall, the fears are of the made up variety – not surprising for a group of people trying to make a living by making things up.
It’s almost as if we get so involved in telling stories that we can’t stop. When we aren’t writing – especially when we feel “blocked” from writing – our minds continue making stories. And when our moods are down, those stories are sad and destructive and our creative energy, no longer harnessed to fun and joy, runs wild towards the downward spiral. We imagine the terrible consequences of writing and publishing a bad story, the derisive laughter of our critics, the humiliation of knowing we created something “worthless.” The consequences grow vivid in our minds.
We create layers upon layers of fears, because we are so good at creating.
When I find myself in a situation that has actual things to fear, I have a choice. I can make more things up to fear in addition, or I can take responsibility for what I can handle, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
I go solo backpacking in the Idaho wilderness. There are bears, mountain lions and wolves out there, as well as elk that wouldn’t mean to harm you but could easily trample you to death by accident. Wildfire is always a risk, especially in late summer. I could fall down a cliff, break a limb, slip in a stream and drown OR get hypothermia. There’s altitude sickness, exposure, heat exhaustion, allergic reactions, landslides, sinkholes… heck, a tree could fall on my head.
I have some fears when I go into the wilderness alone, but I don’t feed them. I don’t give them more energy. I acknowledge them, plan for them if necessary, but there is so much more that needs my attention out there.
I used to get scared at night backpacking. I would be afraid to go out in the dark when I needed to pee. Afraid that animals were out there, ready to pounce on me. Afraid of really nothing at all.
But when I went on my solo trip in 2016, I had no fear at night. Waking with a full bladder didn’t give me pause because I didn’t want to venture out into the dark. The only hesitation came on the third night, and that was because of how cold it was outside my sleeping bag.
I had been expecting the night fears. Dreading them, even. I was afraid of the fear to come. I noticed when it didn’t. I could feel how leaving my tent in the night was different. The possibility of an animal attack was still present, but I wasn’t afraid of it. Cautious, aware, yes. Afraid, no.
That trip had so much more that I needed to think about than being afraid of the dark. My planned trip had me covering distances I’d never attempted before along trails that I’d never walked before. I had no room in my mind for fear.
I think that’s where writing goals can help. The focus is placed on something else, something external. Reach a word count. Reach a story count. Finish what you start. I wrote more and better when I challenged myself to reach a daily word count last summer. I started some days without knowing what I was going to write, but the challenge got my butt in the seat and the words followed.
If you can’t stop telling stories, then either you take control and write them or the fear takes control and writes you.