Friday, November 1, 2013


If anyone has seen Donnie Darko, you'll know how silly the simple dynamic between fear and love is.  You can't boil all of life down to a lifeline of fear and love.  And yet it remains true that the two greatest of human emotions, or two of the greatest anyway, are fear and love.  Love may not always be the best motivator, but fear is a very serious detractor. 

As a writer, fear manifests itself in many ways.  The first and most dangerous manifestation is writer's block.  Writer's block can be a very real phenomenon: a writer may sit down and concentrate very hard but nothing comes out.  I'd wager, though, that most of the time writer's block is a result of some sort of fear; fear that what comes into one's head isn't very good and not worth writing.  Surely, many a thing will flit through a writer's head that isn't worth sharing with those closest to you, let alone a wide reading audience.  I categorize the hesitancy to write down unworthy words as fear rather than prudence because every writer/artist should know that the act of writing is a positive act.  One sentence leads to another and, eventually, you hit upon some praiseworthy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, pages, and then maybe whole books.  If you instead sit around without writing anything waiting for some magical spark to pop into your head, fearing what will happen if you write down the nonsense occupying your mind, then you're lost.

The other major fear that might impede our progress in the act of writing is that of editing.  Once you have a piece finished you have to edit.  But you might fear that the entire work is crap and beyond salvation, so you scrap the entire project... or, worse, you put off the project.  Putting off the project--still wanting to finish it for whatever reason--is much worse than scrapping all of it and moving on to the next project, because often if you put off one project it will be near impossible, if not entirely impossible, to work on anything at all while the unwanted piece calls out to you from a secluded drawer.  Your mind can never concentrate on the task at hand when there's another task waiting to be done.  The editing fear is similar to the already-published fear: I've published something, but I'm too afraid to draw much attention to it because I fear what might happen if people actually read it. 

Unfortunately I've been dealing with both the latter fears recently.  The book that I'm working on hasn't been worked on for a long time, partly because of life events but partly because I fear spending too much time on the project when I have the time.  So I don't make the time.  Or, if I do make the time, I refuse to take advantage.  I think it's awful and I worry what will happen if I ever finish it.  27 Million Revolutions has been published for over a month now and I've hardly marketed it because I fear that, having done the marketing, still no one would buy it or care, and I can't handle that.  I'd rather no one buy the book because I haven't done the marketing than no one buy it because they don't care about the book, the subject, or about supporting me.  "I'm very, very afraid," in the words of Donnie Darko. 

Indeed, fear blocks the paths of most of us as we seek out our goals and dreams in life.  When we are growing up we envision ourselves being something totally cool... but then grow up and find ourselves thinking, "Eh, it's too much hard work, and I fear that I might put in the hard work but still fail and then be left with nothing."  Sometimes our fears so convince us that we shouldn't pursue our dreams in life that we are also convinced that our dreams are actually wrong or evil or some terrible nonsense.  I say this as someone who believes in God, and therefore also believe that are some life paths that should be off-limits: fear should not have such control over us.

There is some truth to the notion that the act of pursuing our dreams matters more than whether or not we succeed.  The hard work we must put in to achieve our goals does usually have positive effects on us as people. 

There is more truth, however, to the fact that if we are afraid, then we need to find friends and partners who can encourage us and hold us accountable to the lofty heights of our imaginations.  If we or God cannot remove fear from our eyes, then someone must; otherwise we'll never be a good writer, or a good at anything except mediocrity. 

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