Of every emotion a writer can feel, fear can perhaps be the worst. One look at the best sellers list can send knees wobbling. One look at the publishing industry, the requirements, the authors recently acquired, can make our hearts rise to the top of our throats, an insidious knot refusing to go away, thundering away at the thought of reaching that level.
Or it could be worse. It is good to have some insecurities when it comes to publishing, when it comes to meeting expectations of others; without that, we as writers would have no drive to get better and improve our craft, which there is always room for.
What is this worse fear?
It is the fear concerning ourselves, and whether or not we really have it in us to write.
Anyone who has sent out work only to get a form rejection letter knows this, and if they kept writing, they survived. It hurts to hear rejection of something you worked so hard on, but there is something else, deeper, that happens. The fear of failure sets in, crawling through our skin and settling in our heart. Our self esteem has taken a blow, and we start to doubt our abilities.
You don’t have to get a rejection letter to doubt yourself. In fact, it is natural, unless you are a narcissus or overly arrogant. No offense, by the way. I have my moments as well.
Sometimes a story hits you so hard and so fast, sometimes your muses grab you by the collar and scream in your face, and suddenly, you feel overwhelmed. You feel like the story is too big for you to handle, for you to wrestle down and pound into the page.
There are times, when writing Hope of the Mirra, when I just freeze up entirely, my breath catches, and my fingers lock in the air, trembling above my keyboard. At these times, all I can think is: this is too much for me to handle. I have bitten off more than I can chew. How could I ever think I could even manage to channel this story, much less set it properly on the page?
It is frightening, when I get to that point, but every time I take a few deep breaths, calm my mind, and dive in, giving it everything I have, even if it feels like I am ripping apart every fiber of my brain trying to control this muse as it dances too close to the flame of inspiration. I have to write it all down, I have to capture it, dance with it, and let the story sing.
Why? Because, while there are millions of other writers out there, this story has come to ME. It has sought me out for the writing, and won’t leave me alone until it is told, on the page, and out there for others to live it as well.
Fear could have stopped me. It is difficult, when a story feels overwhelming, when it feels like it touches too close to home or when it torments your brain, without relenting, until everything is out and you feel utterly drained and half-dead. The rational side of my brain tells me to walk away, yet these stories, the ones that grab you by the heart and yank, that steal your every breath, are the ones worth telling.
If a story stays with you, if it won’t leave you alone, revel in the excitement that this story chose you, no matter how scared you are, no matter how under-talented you feel, no matter how overwhelming the project seems. Write it. As you write, you will learn, falling into the rhythms of your own special muse, letting the words fall from you, as everything settles into place.
Without actually writing, you’ll never know just what is in store for you in this tale. You will never know your personal limits, if they even exist, and you will never reach them, because you were too scared to reach.
As T. S. Eliot said: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
It isn’t easy to conquer fear, but each time you say no to it, each time you plow on through anyway, it will get easier.
Just keep writing.
~Tiffany “Kysis” Tackett