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Writing Straight in the Direction of Fear


There are people who face things that are actually scary. And then, on the other hand, there are writers who suggest that writing is scary.

Writing is not scary. Writing, when I'm in motion, is the least scary thing for me. Getting in front of the screen, or over the notebook with a pen in hand, and knowing that the words are going to start coming out? That's the good part. Doing something that I love to do -- for reasons that may continually escape me (who knows, for the rest of my life I might be struggling with the question of why I need to do this, why I love to do this, and why others share this love) -- is gratifying. When I'm in rhythm, I feel as though I can't imagine doing anything else with my time. Why do I bother with the little glass screens? Why do I bother looking at the news? Why not climb into the imagination's warm embrace at every possible opportunity? Why not stay there and rummage around?

Find something cool in the attic and bring it back downstairs to show everyone. Look at this neat thing I found! This spider. This wooden toy. This photo album. This silly hat. I wonder who wore it, who played with it, who took the pictures. Anyway, here it is! I want to share it with someone.

So no. There's nothing inherently scary about writing. For context, I'm under a blanket right now, with the wind howling outside. I took a nap today. Definitely not scared at the moment. In fact, the opposite: a little ashamed of privilege. A little ashamed that this is what I'm good at. But less ashamed because I'm trying to ply it, work it, get the attic empty. Show things.

I don't want to call anyone a liar who says that writing feels brave. Go ahead. If folks writes well and in order to write well they have to imagine that they're climbing a big scary hill, who am I to begrudge them? If fear helps them produce good writing, and we get to read it -- we get to see what's in their attic, and it proves to be cool stuff -- then fine.

Go for it, I guess.

What does scare me is when I refuse to write and the reasons that justify avoidance. They creep into my head when I'm not writing regularly, or when I spend a whole day wasting my time browsing (and not even really reading) old books. What scares me is the dripping away of time that could be spent building narratives -- but that is instead spent reading the news. Or just plain fearing the news. Or reading things that aren't even news. That are instead just lights dancing in the palm of my hand.

What scares me is the feeling that this kind of time-wasting produces. A kind of worthless feeling. A weakness. An inability to get moving. Stasis. It's a feeling that I think is brought about by an impatience, sure. It's a feeling that I think is about looking around at other successful people and fearing that I don't have it in me to get to wherever they are. It's just death is what I'm afraid of. Not being able to go up into the attic anymore.