Thursday, October 2, 2014

Naked and Afraid


According to Dune, fear is the little death. I maintain that Dune got it wrong.

When we think of fear, most of us conjure up that whole body response to actual danger: heart pounding, rapid breathing, adrenaline pumping.

But fear comes in another form, as an insidious thing that nibbles us away from the inside out. It winds into our dreams at night and our thoughts by day, leaching away enthusiasm and joy and the energy needed to grow and thrive.

Often we don't recognize it at all. The cues are subtle. A slight flutter in the belly, a tightening in the muscles, the sudden desire to go back to bed and take a nap. When we notice, we call it many things: Worry, anxiety, restlessness, wondering, waiting.

Whatever name we choose to give the thing, it's always there in one form or another. We fear for our children or our pets. For the security of our jobs. The loss of health. The coming of some large scale global disaster. Death. Mayhem. Disaster.

As writers the fear can become immobilizing. It begins with trying to get the words on the page in the first place. Sometimes we call this writer's block. Or we procrastinate. Or busy ourselves with all of the other life things that present themselves and say we don't have time.

If we do manage to finish a writing project then the fear cycle starts all over again with queries and submissions and reviews and sales numbers and contracts.

My personal list runs along these lines:

Fear that I'm not good enough, that I will never get the words on the page, that my writing sucks, that I've lost my touch, that nobody will ever want to read what I've written, that I'm like one of those people on American Idol who think they can sing but can't even carry a tune. What if people are laughing at me behind my back? What if the readers who buy my books really only do so to laugh at the train wreck? What if - and this is a big one - what if parts of my inner soul that I try to keep private are revealed in my work? What if I put myself out there, naked and afraid, and it's ME that the readers reject?

Which all boils down, in the end, to fear that I'm just one big steaming pile of fail.

Well, so what? So what if the novel sucks or doesn't sell or gets rejected or has bad reviews?

I mean, if these things happen we will be sad. We've invested a lot of time and energy and a good chunk of ourselves into everything we write. But maybe what really matters is that we have been brave. We put ourselves out there. Wrote the story that came to us and sent it out into the world, instead of hiding it in a drawer.

Courage doesn't mean you were never scared, it means you stood your ground and did the thing you were scared to do. Which, I think, makes writers some of the bravest people on the planet.


  1. Great post. There are days when I cling to that "so what?" It helps me keep perspective. I'm not operating on someone's brain, not researching Cancer or building a rocket engine that anyone's life will depend on. If the book tanks, odds are no one will die. And I love Dune. Fear is the mind killer. The words must flow.

  2. Absolutely. There is no courage without fear, because if you aren't afraid, whatever you're doing--be it writing or facing down a grizzly bear--doesn't take courage. Courage is what makes us prevail in spite of our fear.

    Good post. :)

  3. You have nailed the latest feeling I've been experiencing. Fear. I'm terrified of the latest idea I'm forming and readying to write. I even start to doubt I should do it. But I know what it is and if I don't start it, I never will. I plan on carrying on and doing it. What do I have to lose? No one will know if I completely flub it up (most likely, but that's what rewrites are for. Right!?). ;)

    Great post! And one I was recently feelings on too.

  4. What if they find out I'm not smart enough, brave enough, or good enough? What if they decide I really AM too crazy? Now you're walking in my forest.


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