So much of what I find myself doing and not doing revolves around fear. I’m not talking about the healthy keep-you-from-getting-run-over fear that keeps you from walking in the middle of traffic or jumping off of cliffs. I’m talking about the tiny gnawing fears: what will they think of me? Who will find out? What are they going to say?
Of course I feel this most fully in my writing. Sometimes I am able to put myself out there and let the inspiration speak through me, while other times I feel stilted, like I’m not good enough or don’t have enough to say.
Last year during NaNoWriMo, I started a SciFi novel. I really liked it, because I got to meld a lot of my favorite genres: the survival tale, the loner, the stranger in a strange land. I got about 10,000 words in, and then went to a SciFi meetup.
I can’t remember if I read that night. I can’t remember anything but feeling like all these other folks were so much better. How good they were at making up names for characters. How great they were at coming up with new and inventive ideas. How far I had to go.
And my story died. Withered right there.
So what was my problem? Was it because I was comparing myself to these others? Was it because I lost my inspiration?
I blamed my failure to complete the NaNo month that year on lack of time and a million other reasons. But really, it was all about fear. I had a good story, or what I thought was a good story, and I abandoned it because I was afraid of what others would think. I was afraid that it would look too much like another story, that it wouldn’t be enough of my own, that it would be too simplistic or too sappy, or too anything, or even worse: not enough.
But the worst part about this is that I abandoned the story. I took that character to another planet and left her there. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. Instead of going forward with the project, plowing ahead, I ran.
Now sure, no one died. No one was hurt in the loss of this story. But my fear grew, and it gained strength, and it knew it could tell me what to do, at least in the short term.
But what if I can tap into that fear and make it a character of its own? What if we can, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, invite that fear over to hang out with us for a while as we’re writing and creating?
Fear is ok. It keeps me from driving too fast and from kayaking by myself and from running with sharp objects. But it shouldn’t keep us from being creative. Fear has its time and place.
When are you going to invite your fear in to hang out?