I’ve been on a writing-hiatus over the summer. It’s been a sabbatical, of sorts, for my creative muscles. I’ve spent time experiencing, rather than trying to create. However, now that I’ve settled down into my writing-chair at the end of the summer, I’ve found that I’ve developed a small fear for letting myself “go” during the writing process. This is a fear that I haven’t tackled in a long time. This small, personal essay explains a fragment of my process on dealing with the natural fears that exist when writing – or when creating something, in general.
Why, when it’s time to delve into writing once again, is it hard to break out of a shell of self-consciousness? There’s an ache to write. To express emotion and thought through the physical form of words. Yet, there’s a stalling point when the pen meets the paper, or when the fingers touch the keys. At this stalling point is a pivotal realization: “I am afraid to write.”
Why is it so easy to be afraid of writing? Writing should be easy. When it is only the writer and the medium, there should be no barrier. There should be no holding thought. No impediment. No enemy. But yet, there most often is. We’re afraid to express ourselves, even if that means we’re only expressing ourselves to ourselves. I believe that this fear stems from the inability to face our own emotions, our own feelings, about life, the world, and everything in between.
I’m always afraid to write. I’m afraid of my sentences not making sense. I’m afraid of my prose or poetry coming across as facetious, or flat, or purple. I’m afraid of how others might take what I’ve written. I’m afraid of it not living up to how I imagined it being. I’m afraid of exposing my feelings, in case others might read them. I’m afraid of placing a mark on the world. Sometimes, I’m afraid of being “me.”
Why do I – and a good number of writers – experience all of these fears? We experience them because we are human. It is normal to be afraid. It is normal to be worried about how you may seem, or how you may look. It’s scary to be a person in the world, and even scarier to be a person with a face, or a name, or a book, or a song, or even an idea.
But we have to embrace these fears. We must be brave. It is hard to remove fear. You may be able to overcome your fear, but that does not necessarily mean your fear is gone. With that in mind – I am always afraid. I am afraid of everything I mentioned above, and I am afraid of more. There is always a modicum of fear to everything. For example, I’m afraid of walking out my door every single day. What if I might die on that day? What if, by leaving my house, I have opened the door to the end? While that fear might be small and repressed in my mind, it is a genuine fear. However, I don’t allow that fear to keep me from going beyond the front gate. From stepping foot on the street and walking into the world. I have braved beyond my fear. Over time, the fear has become less pronounced. I listen to it less. I listen to my bravery more.
What I think I’m trying to get at is this: it’s okay to be afraid of writing. There will always be a fear to writing, no matter what that fear, exactly, is. However, it’s not okay to let that fear overcome you. You must learn to be brave in the face of your fears. You can do this by starting small. Start by writing comfortable things. Write a shopping list. Write a letter to your dog, or your flowers, or your shoes. Write something that doesn’t matter, and then throw it away. Soon enough, you’ll have written quite a few little things that never mattered at all. After you’ve done this, evaluate yourself. Ask yourself if your fears stopped you from writing these things. Maybe you’ll find that your fears were never really all that scary after all.
Start working on bigger things. Tell yourself that there’s nothing more to be afraid of when tackling a bigger project than there was when you were writing your smaller pieces. After a while, your fears should become smaller and less noticeable. When you sit down to write, you should let your barriers fall down. Embrace the fact that you are you, and that you should be proud to add your unique piece of writing to the world. Don’t be afraid. Let your fears make you brave.
Be brave, and write.