Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Do it afraid
One fine evening (possibly wine and pizza fueled) you think- I think I want to be a writer.
This though is a cozy fire in your hearth until the unexpected knock at your door.
A brash, cigar smoking man complete with moustache is standing in your entry. "You want to be a writer? YOU?"
You answer. "Yes. I love to write."
Your first mistake. Because all fear needs is a conversation to invite himself in.
"You love to write, hey? And what have you written?"
Fear needs no further invitation to mosey on over to your couch and put his feet up on your coffee table.
But he makes a good point, you think. What will I write? Oh gosh, if I want to write, that means I HAVE TO WRITE. It will involve, gasp, a blank page!
By now fear is flicking on your television and taking off his shoes.
"Yes, and you will have to fill that blank page." He chuckles as his puts on your dressing gown and ashes on your rug.
What if you have nothing to say? What if all those ideas in your head just shrivel up and die once nailed to a page?
You pace the room. For days.
Fear comes and goes always returning with a larger box. He says he's moving in. Your apartment is nicer than his. Plus you have a view over Central Park. How you afford that apartment since you want to be a writer is not the point of this story. You afford it. And fear wants in.
You don't question it. Fear seems to belong. Every time he returns with another box it is as if he has always lived with you.
Two pillows, a beer fridge, a dart board, a stereo, his CD collection and the entire star wars trilogy later, fear has taken up residency. The final evidence that he lives with you is the appearance of his tooth brush next to yours in the bathroom. Yes, fear has teeth. BIG sharp ones. All the better to...
While all this is going on you are sitting before that Dreaded Blank Page. Foolishly you wonder, how scary can one blank page be? You quickly find out. Terrifying. The stuff horror movies are made of. Writing sputters out of you. At least you think that's what it might be. But it could just as easily be blood, sweat and tears filling the page. Nothing sounds as good as it did in your head. Nothing comes close the the magic you'd planned in your careful outline.
Then... nothing comes at all.
Fear runs a bubble bath for himself, his second today, and demands you make his dinner. Lamb chops with mint sauce. Or a roast. He doesn't mind, as long as you go to lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble and several weeks later you have yourself (not to mention your kitchen) in a state.
What were you thinking? People are going to read this stuff you call a story. And they will laugh. Laugh and laugh and laugh. And then everyone will know. You are not a writer. YOU. ARE. NOT. A. WRITER!
This goes on for months. You cooking and cleaning. Fear shouting orders. "Bring my pillow. I need another beer. What are you doing at that computer? Give up already. You have nothing important to say. No story wroth writing. Quit now while you can still pretend you didn't really try."
You don't stop. Okay, you do. In fits and starts. Tending to fear is exhausting. He has you refilling the beer fridge and doing his laundry. Not to mention entertaining his friends, Doubt and Worry.
But you write. You write and write. Embracing the anxiety, you write. Afraid of people reading you, you write and re-write and revise and write again. Afraid of people saying you had nothing to say, you make darn sure you write from that place that exposes your very being. At least you will know you wrote in raw honesty.
Almost a year later, you have it. A complete first draft. And fear. He's a little quieter these days. Since it's apparent that you did indeed write. Some times you succeed in evicting him for days at a time. There have been lots of clothes out the window, yelling in the kitchen, knifes thrown at walls scenes straight out of War of the Roses. But fear always returns. You getting better at not letting him in. Or writing even if he's in the room.
Months of editing and alpha, beta, gamma, whatever, readers later you submit. Query. Resubmit. Re-query. Cry. Wage war with fear and finally... finally... you...
Well, that's a story for another time. But that, my friends, is called being a writer. We do it afraid and we conquer our fears.
What about you? Have you got a house guest? How to you chase you goals even if fear is present?