I surround myself with sayings painted on paper and canvas, reminding me to be brave, take chances, embrace new possibilities, screw what others think.
I meditate, exercise, live in the moment. I keep a post-it note stuck to my bedside lamp, reminding me to make good art.
I run with the wolves, journey along the road less traveled, and never, ever, let anyone move my cheese.
But I live with fear.
Not the run-like-the-wind-before-the-grizzly-claws-your-right-ass-cheek-into-hamburger kind of fear, but a fear that would make anyone from a third-world country desperately want to smack the living shit out of me.
It’s the spoiled-rotten, narcissistic type of fear.
Fear of creating something that is redundant.
Fear of imperfection.
Fear of getting messy.
Fear of things that might happen five years from now if my work gets published.
I even allow good things to send me into a spiral of dread. The offer from a noted writer and professor, who’s offered to line-edit my work. Interest from a highly respected (and successful) book agent.
Just a wee bit of insanity, that.
But I’m learning. I don’t get paralyzed by it as often as I used to.
I’m working on not using food to stuff my creative energy back down my throat. I can step on the bathroom scale after a period of “dread eating” and say “So, this is how much fear weighs.” And I’ve decided that carrying the burden of excess poundage is much harder work than writing five hundred words.
When I’ve desperately wanted to lie down and take a three-hour nap, I’ve made bargains with myself to write just one sentence. That’s all, no more. And it’s funny how the second, and third, and fourth sentences are usually waiting right behind the first.
That fear is ridiculous goes without saying, but it’s real nonetheless. I’m thinking that you might have some fear in your life, too.
What is your fear? How much does it weigh? What tools do you use that help?
For now, I’ll keep forging head with my newest mantra: Lighten Up, Francis.
This has been one of those rare, very good days.
A big storm moved in from the west and has hung on all day, which means there was nothing to do but write. Got some revision work done and did a wee bit of work on the next chapter. Not too many words, but I got over the hump of dread that comes with starting a new scene.
Then I found out that I am the winner of a signed copy of Evan Roskos‘ new book, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. Thanks to Evan and Matthew Quick for choosing me. You can read their open, honest, and insightful interview here.
Finally, I took a bravery pill and asked my current online teacher if he would consider taking me on as a student/client for line editing of my first draft once the class ends. I’d figured he’d say no, as he’s busy as an author and Dean of Humanities for a state university. He wrote right back and said yes.
This was such a good day. I just wanted to write it down to remind me they exist the next time I spend the day staring at a blank screen.
February has been here for more than seven days and I didn’t even know it. She never knocked, never poked her head around the door with a yoo-hoo. She simply crept in and made herself at home.
In starting this year of tiny steps toward a bigger life, January brought happiness. I achieved my sole goal for the month, to sit my ass in a chair each and every day and write. There were times I couldn’t wait to get to work, other times I sat and cursed myself for turning on the Self-Control app. Mornings when I drove to the library with a knot of despair in my stomach over not knowing where the scene I was writing would go. And the day I wrote 700 words of shit in order to find that one, perfect sentence that rang through my head with the force of a cathedral bell.
I’ve been thinking about what I want this year of writing to mean to me. The hard work, nose-to-the-grindstone part of it will not be the most important thing, but rather the increased awareness of the process itself.
What if I could project myself into the future, to a time when I might look back and say I wish I could tell my past self what I now know? I think I would tell myself three things:
1. Treat Time with the same devotion you give to your lover. You always have Time, it never leaves your side. It’s the attention you give Time that makes the difference in how your life will unfold as a writer. Fall in love with Time, for although it’s always with you, it’s only with you for as long as you are here on this planet. Think about the end of your life, with a plan to go out in a blaze of thunder and lightning that tells the world you and Time had one of the greatest love affairs in the history of the Universe.
2. Just when you think you’ve gone deep enough, go deeper. Strive for ecstasy, the ecstasy of prying and pulling the most painful feelings and memories from the darkest recesses of your guts so that your characters can live fully on the page. Good storytelling is only the beginning; it’s when you stand naked, with your fears and joys and longings and pain hanging out of every orifice, that your writing will mean something to readers.
3. There is no lion. You are a human being, conditioned to protect yourself from being eaten. But there is no lion, no tiger, no bear. There is nothing to run away from. This is fiction writing, creating a reality that is all your own and therefore can never be wrong. You will not die from putting anything you want to down on the page. Fly in the face of the human condition. Acknowledge the fear, then do it anyway.
I like the future me. Let’s see if February does as well.