Leaning into Fear

I will have the promised post on getting and pushing past being stuck soon. But today, I want to talk about something else.

Leaning into the fear.

This year, I have unearthed more about myself than I knew was there to discover. As I have expressed before, writing this hard and fast doesn't leave any room for me to hide from myself. The more I write, even when my stories are superficial, who I am shows up in the characters, the plots, the obstacles. It's like navigating a mine field made of all the lies I've told myself about who I am.

Except in this mine field, the one made of myself and my hidden pieces, the more things I blow up, the better.

To write well, to write myself real, to get past the things that stop me from writing, to become the person I want to be, I have to step on as many mines as I can. I have to lean into the fear, to walk where I dare not, and to find the places I do not want to go.

I keep thinking: I didn't read this in my books about writing. Am I insane? Am I the only one? Natalie Goldberg touches on the idea a little in her ideas of writing practice. She warned me a little. But it is easy to disregard her meditative writing practice in the face of so many others, who only discuss how to plot and create story and get published and above all avoid passive voice.

It's easy to feel betrayed, because they never warn you about this when you say you want to write fiction. They never tell you that you may meet yourself, and that it probably will be less than pretty. They don't tell you how to stick with it and move through the terror of discovery.

Yet, every month, I face the same thing. I find the place my story is headed and I feel that sick, cold terror. My writing slows down, I feel lost, abandoned, deserted. I don't want to blog, in fact, I don't want to exist. I'm too messed up to write, let alone to live — or so the frightened parts of me believe. I cry a lot, I spend too much of irowboat's time making him listen to my artistic angst before he tells me to shut up and write.

And every month, I find a way to push through. I give in and lean toward the places I most fear and find that it wasn't as frightening inside the terrible secrets as it was standing on the precipice. The words come, I forget to care if they suck or not, I just want to be done.

Each month, it is the same. Each month I know for certain that I cannot go on, that I am too frightened, too insecure. As soon as I realize that my job is to blow myself up over and over on the parts of me I have burried, I can move on.

It can even be fun, once the screaming stops.

And yet, I still feel unprepared for just how difficult it is. I have to re-learn every time that fear is my friend. The places I am frightened of writing into are the very places that can set me free. If I will only go there.

This month, it has been very, very hard to go there.

So I am writing this as a reminder to myself: lean into the fear. Lean in and find that one thing I don't want to know, the one thing I just can't handle. Write it; write it tired and fast and frightened. Cry, freak out, have a drink, laugh, do whatever it takes to hold on and keep with it. Whatever it takes to keep writing.

Because nothing, no amount of fear or truth or discomfort or sleepless nights, nothing is worse than not writing.

 

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11 thoughts on “Leaning into Fear

  1. I have a “comment” and a “question”.

    First, the comment: It seems to me that Everything you write in this blog, (that I’ve read, which, granted, are only a few posts,) are *well* written. It’s stirring and moving, I guess would be two good adjectives to describe the feeling. Is it just your style of writing, or does it come from all the writing you’ve been doing (i.e. practice) or the subject matter, or a combination?

    And the question. Or a few questions: Does facing your fears in writing help in other parts of life, like the non-writing parts? Is there a non-writing part to life once you become an author/writer…? I wouldn’t stay away from writing if the case were that writing becomes the life not a part of life, I’m just curious.

    1. Psst. These are really good questions and I have been saving them for a post. Promise, it’ll come soon.

      You practically write this blog for me, woman. I am grateful to you.

      To the first thing, I believe that my writing has greatly improved with the volume of the words I put out, and the blog fairly accurately reflects the shift (though fatigue can make me a bit punchy and sloppy at times as well). But I do see it, that even though for the novels I am writing “crap,” the crap gets less crapy and even verges on good now and then. It has furthered my belief that to become good writers we need to simply keep writing and let the first drafts fall as they may, and keep learning from what works and doesn’t.

      I have also noticed that for my posts, I am more likely to make only small changes before posting, and I do not edit as much as I used to (or probably as much as I ought). I like to think this reflects that improvement, even though it is a different kind of writing than the bulk of my practice.

      1. Hahaha that made my day! 🙂 I’m glad, but I bet I’m not helping you 1/10 of how much you are helping me. You’ve debunked all my writerly “rules” that have been restricting me… in fact, this reply deserves to be a blog post, so, we’re even to that extent!

  2. Your fear has served as encouragement to me to face my fears. I’m stunned and appalled to find myself sprawled all over the page in the most unflattering ways. Thanks for pressing me to push myself all the more.

  3. “I have to re-learn every time that fear is my friend. The places I am frightened of writing into are the very places that can set me free. If I will only go there.”

    This. Very much this.
    Thank you for reminding me that this part of the process is not something that makes me a shitty, self-obsessed writer (necessarily). Thank you for reminding me that it’s worth it.

    And, most of all, thank you for having the dedication and determination to do something that I can’t even fathom. Writers like you are who I want to be when I grow up.

  4. I’m going to start a new story today. I want it to be a short story hopefully for publishing on some online magazine that I will worry about once I’ve actually written the thing. And I am telling you this because I am going to lean into the fear when I write this thing. Also I am going to write it until it’s over and not give up and all that stuff.

    Because that’s what we hardcore writers do. XD (Now I should get back to work.)

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