I don’t fear many things. I’m not a man driven by my fears, or hindered by a great many hang-ups.
I’d make a pretty good hippy, all things told.
What are the things I fear, you ask? (Of course you asked…I heard you *rustles bushed outside your window*)
Well, I’m not a fan of spiders. No sir/madame. I love to watch them work, and their intelligence and tenacity fascinate me, and the tiny guys with the little silly faces and very un-spiderlike bodies who hop around where I live are pretty cool, but the gangly spidery ones really give me the shivers.
Of course, guess what kind of critter ends up on me most? Yeah, spiders. On my face. While I sleep. I’d bet, even if you didn’t fear spiders, that still gives you the creeps.
Another fear: Whales. Between your hearty guffaws at my expense, just ponder it for a moment. Think back to those pictures you saw in National Geographic, or on some nature special on Discovery: The fully-grown human swimming with these beasts, gentle as they tend to be, who dwarf the tiny swimmer like a man dwarfs a hedgehog.
That’s what scares me. That difference in size, that dark water, those cold dead eyes just hungrily looking for more swimmers to eat…
Thank goodness that’s not a fear I have to face very often, land-locked as I am in the mountains of New York. Except for the Mountain Whales, of course. Sometimes I can hear their sad bellows echo through the night as they look for hapless humans to gum ineffectively with their toothless maws.
But, besides these few things, I’m a pretty fearless dude who’s been known to wander graveyards at night and pick fights with burly Russian men in public places.
And yet, I hem and haw about starting a new writing project, some deep, dark lizard fear tickling the back of my brain.
A fear of what? I have no idea. Failure? Maybe. That I’m not good enough? Maybe — though I feel pretty confident in my fiction writing abilities, and am not shrinking away from writing because “I suck, and I’ll never amount to anything!”
No, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s all these things, or maybe it is something else entirely.
But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The reality of it is no one is not afraid, not filled with trepidation, when writing. Sure, some folks are afraid of different aspect — maybe they are waiting to see how their book does in public, maybe they have racked up a wall full of rejections, maybe they’re writing about whale-spiders skittering through the thick underbrush of upstate NY. But they are all afraid.
I guess it’s just the way it is.
And you know what I find helps a lot? Knowing some folks who work through their fear.
Nothing makes you realize just how normal it is to hem and haw, procrastinate and worry, more than knowing a few folks who — even as the same crap nibbles at their heels — still write book after book, story after story.
If you feel this progression-stopping lizard fear tickling the back of your brain, do yourself a favor and mingle a little with the right crowd. Getting stuck in your head is a bad thing at those times. Definitely avoid the downers — the artsy writers who moan about how hard their novels were, how much time they put into every sentence, how tough it is to be a writer — but rub elbows via Facebook, email, stalking via binoculars and recording devices planted in that person’s bathroom, with a few writers. Those oddballs who flip their lizard-brain the bird and write three novels in half a year. Those champions of whatever publishing style they love, be it traditional or indie, who spend more time writing than they do measuring and arguing the merits of this path or that, this online store or that, agents being wonderful things or vile gremlins who steal your money.
Those mad (wo)men who wrestle their fears to the muddy earth.
If I didn’t know a few of these folks, I can’t say whether I’d have stumbled forward as long as I have, grasping through the darkness to the point I’m at now — still unpublished, but confident enough, and informed enough, to know when I’m getting in my own way and letting fears get the best of me.
Trust me on this. Punch your lizard-brain in its lizard-brain-face and get out of your own head. Put your self-loathing aside, stop looking for someone to give you a thumbs-up or an attaboy, make some friends with people who kick ass and take names, and finally realize the facts:
- You aren’t the only one who feels that way
- Others push through it, and so can you
- You are a shitty judge of your own work, so let someone else judge for you instead of letting your fear act as some internal gatekeeper
- That someone else can be a good writer friend who actually writes or a slush reader at a magazine
And, hell, maybe I’ll read your stuff in Clarkesworld.
And maybe you’ll read mine.