In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes, “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
That last line—the more scared we are . . . the more sure we can be that we have to do it—resonates with me strongly.
“Have to do it.”
No matter how many times I sit down to write When the Lights Go Out at 10:16, fear overtakes me. To face this fear, I decided to ask myself why that is. In a five minute exercise in which I wrote by hand in a notebook, this is what I came up with.
I’m afraid to write this story because…
- I’ve had numerous false starts in the past when trying to start this story back up again
- I will fail, utterly and completely
- My rough draft may be as good as it gets
- Something I write may offend a family member or friend, and I do not want that
- I have a hard enough time juggling work with family commitments as is—this will make it even harder
- I’m not really a good writer or storyteller
- I struggle with putting together a cohesive structure/narrative framework for which the story must follow
- No one cares about this story or will even read it except for me and perhaps a handful of people
- It’s difficult to revise all these years later now that I am much older
- I will expose parts of me or my beliefs that will leave me vulnerable or open to judgment
- Writing this story will remind me ever the more how difficult it is for me to focus for long periods of time and this frustrates me more than anyone could ever know
- The story is too big and complex and I will not figure it out, and will fail yet again at completing it
Regardless of these fears I have in writing this story, I must face my fears head on. I will not give up this time.
I give myself permission to write poorly. I give myself permission to write drivel. By giving myself permission to write in this way, I allow myself a freedom I have not known before in facing this story on the page.
This great big scary thing is only as scary as I make it out to be. What is unseen in the dark looks just the same with the light shined on it. It does not have sharp teeth or claws. To the contrary, it may smile back at you for befriending it.