Fear and Writing

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pic via weheartit

Writing is like laying yourself bare naked on cold concrete for everyone to look at, a controversial exhibit on display in a museum. It is like slicing yourself down the middle and peeling back your skin to reveal the workings of your body for everyone to judge.

When I was younger I used to write about everything, and the darker the world I created, the better. I loved to tell harrowing stories, fearlessly diving down into the disturbing world of my imagination and pulling out scenes and images I knew nothing about in the real world.

I didn’t care what people thought of my work. I didn’t care what they thought of me.

But, with age has come this crippling self-consciousness that permeates my writing like a parasite. I am afraid of what people will think of me after reading what I write. I am afraid of being too honest, revealing too much in case they see me for what I am. I cover myself with layers to protect myself from the serpent eyes of those around me.

Don’t look at me.

What is it that I am afraid they will see?

I am afraid they will see how much I feel. The intensity of my thoughts and emotions that crash through me, that threaten to drown me some days. There is an ugliness in the world that I can’t help but see. There is so much gnarled pain and hurt, and the sound of it is almost deafening.

I am afraid to look at it.

I am afraid to listen to it.

I am afraid to write about it.

In case it overwhelms and consumes me.

I am afraid to feel. Writing is like picking at the scab on the surface of your emotions, that hard layer you form to protect the raw flesh underneath from exposure to the outside world. To write well, you need to reveal that sore tenderness, and I am petrified of the hurt that comes with that. I am afraid the feelings will overwhelm me and I will bleed out.

I am afraid of myself.

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10 thoughts on “Fear and Writing

  1. Well, I think that writing about the fear is the first step to getting rid of it completely and writing fearlessly. I believe that writers have to write to please themselves first (after all, if we don’t like the things that we write, who will?). I think you should write the types of things you like, and if people like them fine, if not, oh well. Don’t let fear stop you from letting your voice be heard!

    • Hi Quanie,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I think that is what I was trying to do by writing this post – I haven’t written anything in ages because I have been self-censoring and second guessing myself to the point where I quash an idea before it is properly formulated for fear of what people will think of me. The only thing I could think to do was write about the fear itself and I must say, it has really helped, and it’s good to know that a lot of writers have or are experiencing the same thing!

  2. Amazing post! Thank you for being so open about your fear! I understand what you are describing. I’ve felt anxiety over this too. I think all writers fear what others would think of their stories because what we write, whether it’s a romance, fantasy, or memoir, is intimate. We take these stories from inside us, put them on paper, and pass them around for the world (or at least a handful of people) to read. We wonder, what if there is criticism? Well, there may be, and every writer faces that, but they keep writing and keep sharing.

    I know when my debut eBook Hurricane Crimes comes out that not everyone is going to like it, but I am not thinking about them. I am thinking about those who will love my book. You should also focus on the people who will love your writing, because there will be a lot of them! I personally like it when writers go deeper and darker.

    Stay strong! Keep writing!

    • Hi Chrys,

      Thank you! It is a relief to know that I am not the only writer struggling with this ‘fear’ and you are right, it is the intimacy of what we write, of exposing ourselves and opening ourselves up to judgment that is pretty darn scary.

      Best of luck with ebook debut and I will definitely keep an eye out for it! Be sure to let us all know when it’s published.

  3. Great post! I think you capture perfectly a fear that many writers have of revealing themselves, or a part of themselves, that no one else has seen. Who was it that said, “writing is easy, you just open and vein and bleed”? I find it much easier to share my writing with strangers than with family or friends. I know at some point they may read what I write, and I hope they won’t be too horrified. Or mystified. But if you want to write about the things in life that scare you and others, the darker side of human nature, you have to be willing to expose yourself like that. And you will. It will come out. It’s weird, but to be a writer you have to be absolutely vulnerable, and at the same time, absolutely fearless. An odd dichotomy–but it works.

    • Hi Deborah!

      I have actually heard that quote a number of times and it describes perfectly what the act of writing is. I also find it easier to write for strangers. When I first started blogging over 2 years ago, I was completely uninhibited, because I had a nameless, faceless audience. But, as soon as family and friends started logging on and I started to share my blog on Facebook for old school friends and family to peruse, I started to become more self-conscious. Suddenly my readers had faces and they knew me, most of them had known me since I was little so it all became a bit daunting.

      Fearless and vulnerable at the same time? I’ll have to work on that.

  4. I think that is why I started to write fiction, it was a stepping stone towards expressing everything I wanted to say, but removing the “I”. It also allows us to explore the opposite point of view, to play devils advocate with ourselves. That was after I filled a whole bunch of journals in my 20’s with all kinds of internal perspectives. I think it’s all part of the process as you say of peeling back layers, we immerse in the stage we are in and whilst trying to banish the fear , we discover with age that it rules us less and less anyway.

    • Hi Claire,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Fiction is a great veil, and a great way to convey ideas and thoughts that aren’t necessarily your own. I think I need to create some healthy distance between myself and my characters – let them live and breathe a life that’s different from my own. I do have a tendency to write a little too close to home.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this, Melissa. You captured the very essence that I have had no choice but to submit myself to in some of my recent writings. For a long time, I was afraid of how people might judge me because of some of the issues I choose to be so honest about. As authors, we must succumb to our wants, needs and desires by becoming lost within our own writing. It is a release for us.
    With my memoirs, I have no choice but to tell the truth because in the end, it will help save the lives of others. And when it comes to my fiction writing, I will always use my experiences and imagination as a gateway for these works to soar. I hope you find the strength and courage from deep within to take your writing to places you can only dream about. There, you will find freedom and no longer hide behind those scabs.

    • Hi Gina,

      Thank you so much for your lovely, encouraging comment! I can’t even imagine what penning your memoirs must be like in terms of allowing yourself to be brutally honest about your experiences despite what others think and/or say. Have you read Constance Brisco’s memoirs Ugly? Her truth caused havoc within her family and many of them disowned her because of what she wrote – it even led to her mother taking her to court for ‘defamation’. But, she stuck to her experiences and her truth and I do believe helped a lot of people in the process.

      Good luck!

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