Fighting the Fear
Anyone who has ever undertaken a creative endeavor has, at some point, stopped themselves and asked… Who Am I Kidding?
It’s that niggling little voice at the back of your mind, whispering “Who do you think you are, doing this? Who do you think will care? Everyone knows you’re a hack. Even you know that this song/poem/cake/novel/etc. is a piece of garbage that no one will ever look twice at. Why don’t you put it down and go watch some television instead?”
That voice can be very mean, and very persuasive. And right now, it is YELLING at me.
The worst part is that it always seems to speak up the loudest at the precise moment that you are needing to summon every ounce of perseverance you have in order to keep going. Because the other truth about creative projects is that they are often tests of endurance. I don’t know
many people anyone who has worked on a project that they care about for one day and then decided, “Hey that’s pretty good! Guess I’ll go do something else now.” Truly great work requires planning, revision, and endurance.
Honesty time: I’ve never been so good with follow through. Super honesty time: I’m still the kind of person who will drop something in a heartbeat if I don’t find it to be fulfilling. Okay, sometimes I drop things because the ADD fairy runs up behind me and yells SQUIRREL! through her bullhorn and I’m like WHERE?, but I’m getting better about tuning her out.
I justify my tendency to drop things that aren’t doing it for me by invoking the ‘Life Is Too Short’ clause. As in, “No, I don’t think I’ll stay at this minimum wage job that is overrun by adolescent drama… life is too short.” Now that I think about it, most of the things I’ve walked away from have been unpleasant work environments. This is the aforementioned invocation of the LITS clause coupled with my belief that money, even good money, doesn’t justify dealing with crazy co-workers or whoring my integrity out to sell crap that’s made in China (read: every retail job I’ve ever had). But I digress, somewhat.
My point is that walking away from a bad situation takes a different kind of courage than persevering through something that is emotionally difficult but necessary. I know that I possess both kinds, but the latter skill is a tad rusty. I have millions of abandoned or squirreled projects, here and in NH. Just last night I was telling my mother that I need to scour their home for the box of notebooks and loose papers that I know I left there somewhere, so I can start thinking about picking up those threads. I have a million ideas, few of which have ever come to fruition, because I’m afraid of what that nasty little voice in my head might say if I decide that I care about one of them.
But here I am, facing down that voice, because I’ve decided that I do care about my novel, a great deal. So much so, in fact, that I have just made arrangements to significantly clear my schedule to give myself more time to work on it. So much so that I have set up an office in which I can barricade myself and snarl like Gollum at anyone who dares to disturb me (Sorry, C). I have a room of my own, as Virginia Woolf so eloquently argued was necessary for women to write fiction, and I am not afraid to use it. I desperately want to be able to call my self a Novelist, with a capital N and without having to couch it with the word ‘aspiring’. I am sharpening every tool in my mental toolbox, that I will better be able to do battle with that little voice. I am prepared, as they say, to give her what for. Fair notice to my inner editor to also be on alert, because I have turned off the spell check and I MEAN IT.
I am afraid. I am SO afraid, of writing something that is awful, or insensitive, or vulgar. But the time has come to embrace those fears, and use that energy to feed my fire instead of running around trying to stomp out the sparks that might offend someone. Who knows… there may very well be people on this earth who would find those same sparks inspiring.
What I am writing matters, even if it only matters to me. Being secure in that feeling is where I will draw my strength from as I muddle through this first draft… this first idea that I will nurture from the womb of my imagination to that inevitable day, maybe years from now, when I will send it out the door with a kiss on the forehead and a pat on the behind to meet its future.