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.

You cringe.
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?


  1. Tab, I laughed out loud all through your depiction of Fear. The big good for nothing! LOL! Tell you what, you take one arm and a leg and I'll take the other and we'll pitch his lard-ass out the door on count of three. ;-)

    I know very well about these feelings, but Tab, get out of town. I mean, anyone who can write this post is a writer, period.

    Now that I am in my dotage, being wheeled around the home with my teeth in a glass, maybe the biggest thing I have learned is that, if it matters to me, it probably matters to a lot of people. That gives me a lot of permission and confidence, to feel i can write about whatever moves me.

    And besides, As Teddy Roosevelt once said, if you aren't afraid, it isn't courage to do a thing. We brave, girlfriend. Uh huh. *strut*


  2. I am struting Shay. I'm a strutin! :)

    Fear fuels the fire, right? :)

  3. Oh that fear! He gets right in your face and shouts sometimes. I sit him down, get him his drink and then I ask him 'whazzup? whotcha doing here?' He hates that. I tell him that I so appreciate his concern for my well being but I have another job for him - and then I give it to him - he's to wake me up in the middle of the night and scare me when I'm not writing. He LOVES this job.
    Thanks for the DELIGHTFUL post, Tabitha!

  4. I don't have fear about my goals I have other fears which sometimes get out of all proportion yet seem very real.

    I enjoyed reading your post as always most enlighening.


  5. So that's whats been shacking up at my house and causing so much trouble?

    I love this Tabitha! You've really put it all into perspective here. ;-)


  6. This is one of the best things I've read in weeks.

    Praise God for your accomplishment! No small feat, considering editors at pub houses I chat with say like 90% of the people they request from NEVER send. (could that be true????)

    Considering the pile of books that has not just visited our home, but taken over (lounges on the ottoman, camps out in the bathroom, sits by the FIRE in August???), that's saying something.

    YOU GO, GIRL!!! And if that guest doesn't behave, KICK. Him. Out.

    On your team all the way,

  7. Hi Tabitha-- sometimes being a writer definitely needs to be wine and pizza fueled. This is great... and you're right... we have to push through the fear if we want to succeed.

  8. Thanks for bringing fear to life! Haha. Nice job. Interestingly, I've been thinking a lot about how fear hangs around in the lives of writers, always in the background waiting to throw in a toxic comment or two. It got me thinking, Why do we put up with this? Wouldn't we put up our guard against such behavior in any other area? Of course, we can't always push fear out the door. He's too elusive. So we live with it, in spurts. I guess the writing and the need to bring life to our words is more powerful than fear, or we wouldn't be trying. :)

  9. I think he's camped out under my desk, nudging me in the shin. Once in a while I give a good him a good swift kick in the you know what.

  10. I don't think you could have painted a better a picture Tabitha! And you're right after some time has passed and you're still writing Fear starts to get a little uncomfortable!

  11. OOh, that FEAR is a pesky house guest indeed. Congrats for getting him to leave--even if it's only temporary. :)

  12. Oh, he is here all right. He brought the whole gang with him. Doubt, Worry, Stress, Hesitancy and Anxiety. They have over stayed their welcome, but not a sign of them packing up and heading out the door. It is exhausting. You didn't send them over here by chance did you???

  13. My fear hasn't to do with the writing...I plain love that. Fear knocks on the door when I think about what will happen to the finished piece.

  14. Wow-- I just know that if you write your book as good as your blog posts-- you will be published really gast!!

  15. Oh I don't like fear. He runs around my mind with dirty feet and leaves my brand new self esteem covered with muck. KNow of any good exterminators?

  16. "All fear needs is a conversation to invite himself in." Ah yes....words the door, thought the door. But you've the key. You will not be stopped.

  17. haha... I love it. Good job...and just as I was wondering, why am I doing this? I'm a 26 year old full time writer, and when most people my age are out working in paid full time work, I'm sitting at my computer typing away, not earning a cent. Thanks for the gentle encouragement. It seems to be coming from all different directions lately. Also, just picked up a minor typo just in case you were wondering: "No story wroth writing"...but I absolutely loved the piece, and found myself smiling more than once :-D

  18. I absolutely love this! You really nailed it. I think this is like... my WEEKLy routine. He's definitely an unwanted houseguest who wont leave!!

  19. Tabitha, this is so well put. I loved the bit about...

    "Two pillows, a beer fridge, a dart board, a stereo, his CD collection and the entire star wars trilogy later" as well as fear running a bubble bath.

    Fear sucks. I try and boot it out the door. If not, I run for cover for a few days until it's safe to reappear.

    PS: Email your snail mail address so I can send you an Inky Letter!! :)

  20. Bless you Tab and kick that nasty old Fear out your door because YOU ARE A FABULOUS WRITER!

  21. It takes time to get past that fear.

  22. Great depiction of that nasty houseguest! Just remember he is visiting YOUR home. Put him to work!

  23. This was an awesome and inspiring piece, Tabitha!

    I agree that we sometimes have to face our fears in the eye. We have to fight our fears and say it's worth it. We have to sweat, cry, and bleed onto the page to make it worth something.

    In the end, we'll know that it was all worth it when the work is finished, when our story is told. Fears will disappear and evaporate. Doubt will vanish. Worry only remains, but will soon leave right out the door as soon as your query is accepted and your book hits the shelves.

    So, write on!

  24. The words YOU. ARE. NOT. A. WRITER... inspired this one for me...

    We do it afraid... love that!!!!

  25. Oh, I get very delusional about my writing. The only thing that helps is shutting off the inner voice and just getting the pages finished. Then, when I'm submitting, the neurotic side of me has fun. :)

  26. I don't think I've really been visited by Fear, but Avoidance and his twin brother Procrastination have seemed to have moved their stuff in and started to tempt my alter-ego, Laziness. You created a pretty accurate depiction of the way it sometimes works.

    Tossing It Out

  27. I know him! He's been threatening to move interstate with me when husband and I retire! I'd love to leave him behind if and when it happens. He also hung mercilessly around my daughter when she had writer's block doing her Masters in creative writing. Now that she's successfully completed that Uni degree, he's nowhere to be seen! Off to bug someone who's considering the work load, financial constraints and commitment to undertake further study no doubt.

  28. And isn't that the truth?! I pray a lot, and I find it helps to be with other positive writers. It inspires me.

  29. Hilarious! And sooo true! : ) Btw, love the photo's you use on your posts

  30. My Fear usually brings his friend, Doubt, when visiting. The best thing for me is knowing I'm not alone - that amazing writers I admire and respect (like you) have similar interlopers.