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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fright Night? Pfft, Try Fear Year

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week’s topic was my idea.  In honor of Halloween, I asked the group to discuss facing a fear. Here’s my take:
                  Okay, I’ll say it:  2012 kicked my ass.  From start to finish, bad things happened.  The awful began in March with the death of a much-loved aunt, followed shortly thereafter by the death of an uncle and, in a blink, another wonderful uncle.  (By year’s end, all said, I’d have buried two aunts and three uncles.) 
                  Then in June, one of my kids got sick.  Really sick; like in-and-out-of-the-hospital-for-a-month sick.  Once she was out of crisis, I breathed for about a week before yet another doctor told me that one of my other kids needed some testing for yet another medical issue.  Her diagnosis wasn’t life threatening, but it was life changing.  And terrifying.
                  Needless to say, I felt scared.  No, I felt absolutely, completely petrified. 
                  Somehow, even weighed down with all of my fear, I made it through the remainder of the year, mainly just by coasting on automatic pilot.  I felt like I’d spent the entire twelve months either in a funeral home, a hospital, or a clinic.  I never quite seemed rested; my eyes burned and my hair smelled of grief and antiseptic and whatever makes funeral homes smell the way they do (I don’t want to know).  I cried more tears than I thought I could produce.  I began dreading phone calls and emails, as they seemed to bear only bad news.  All of 2012 had scared the pants off of me.
                  I wanted to hide under the covers and stay there until someone, anyone, sounded the “all clear.”  I found myself wondering what else could go wrong – and then running scenario after scenario of scary possibilities.  Fear consumed me.  It absolutely took me over in whole. 
                  But fear is a funny thing.  Sure, it steals your breath and disrupts your sleep and makes you feel like every nerve ending in your body is on fire.  But fear has a flip side.  Fear also motivates.  It shakes those rosy glasses right off your face, forcing you to look at life a bit differently.  Fear moves you.
                  Yes, funny thing, fear:  after a full year of it, after wishing and praying it would go away and leave me unafraid, it motivated me to do something that absolutely terrified me. 
                  It made me start writing. 
                  I mean, I’d always written.  My whole life, in one way or another, I was always putting something down on paper:  short stories and unbelievably sappy poems as a child; news stories and witty feature articles as a college and then professional journalist; dry legal briefs and motions as an attorney.  I’d even begun this blog, but I rarely updated it.  I blamed it on work, claimed that writing legalese for a decade had messed with my creative writer’s voice, and left it at that.
                  But I knew better.  I knew I’d stopped writing because I was afraid.
                  Writing takes a leap of faith.  It’s one thing to put the words on the paper in the privacy of your home, but it’s completely another to show that paper to the world.  That’s what tripped me up, that’s what terrified me.  I tried to break it down; what exactly was I so afraid of?  Of course, I feared failure.  I feared rejection.  I feared that my writing was no good and that I wasn’t the writer I’d always fancied myself to be.  Failure meant loss of control, which meant I feared powerlessness and who wouldn't fear that?  Once I put my writing out there – even on my blog – I opened myself up to criticism and the interpretations of my readers.  That scared me silly.
                  And yet.
                  When 2012 blissfully ended and January finally arrived, I did something I’d never done before:  I loaded my pink overnight bag into my Jeep and drove to St. Louis to attend a writing workshop run by one of my all-time favorite writers, Wade Rouse.  I spent eight hours in a book store, seated at a square of tables, surrounded by people much like me, people who wrote but not for a living, people who wanted to write more, who wanted other people to read what they wrote.  (Well, maybe.)
                  We all came to the tables with a book idea.  Some had pages, some had chapters, all had a story.  I’d been writing mine for a few years, on and off.  I’d start and stop and then start again.  I told myself I didn’t care if I finished or if it was published, but there I was, 300 miles from home in a strange city at a workshop for writers hoping to be published.  Of course I cared; of course I was too afraid to admit it.
                  The night after the workshop, I returned to my hotel room and I proceeded to write for five hours.  And then I went home and I wrote some more.  I signed up for the second part of the writing workshop to be held in June in Michigan, and by the time I threw my pink bag in the car for that trip, my book was complete.
                  But my fear remained. 
                  I can list out all of the scary specifics running through my brain; the nagging questions that again invade my sleep:  What if no one likes the book?  What if no one wants to publish it?  Or read it?  What if people think it’s stupid?  Or that I’m stupid?  Or that I’m a poseur and not really a writer after all?
                  I still carry those fears with me, and I feel them each time I hit “publish” on my blog and each time I show my manuscript to someone. 
                  But, like I said, fear is a funny thing.  The only way to make it go away is to face it.  Otherwise, it just festers and grows.
                  I don’t know why I chose 2013 as the year to tackle my writing fear.  I can only assume that the death and loss and fear that filled 2012 snapped something in my brain, some reminder that life is short – and that fear is relative.
                  Sure, part of me fears writing and all of the little terrors it involves, but an even bigger part of me fears not writing.  Because this much I know:  the only way to be a writer is to write . . . and to be read.  Scary, yes, but not nearly as terrifying as the alternative, which I also know:  if I don’t write, I’m not a writer.  And then my biggest fear comes true. 
                  And that?  Terrifies me.


  1. Wow. So sorry you had a rough year. I can't even imagine what that must have been like for you.
    I'm glad you've decided to write. Had you not, I wouldn't be here commenting on this post because you wouldn't have met Froggie and I wouldn't have met you. It's neat how Wade actually connected us though, as he's the initial common bond. :)
    And yes, I will read your story. I have been so swamped lately! I still have to read a book for book club and only have 12 days to do it.
    Anyway, I understand about the fear of writing. I love to write and have stories in my head, but I am afraid of putting them on paper. I tried NaNo last year and I hated what materialized on paper from my head. I will share that I entered an essay contest last year and plan to do so again this year. :)
    Great post and fun topic!

    1. That's right, Melissa, facing this fear has led to some unanticipated benefits, like meeting Froggie and, through her, meeting you. Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and see what happens!

  2. I worked with three amazing women over the span of a decade, and formed lifelong friendships; our foursome went to a threesome in Dec, when one of the ladies passed away from cancer. It was devastating and has been hard even now- some days are rough. I completely related to this post- I am writing a book for the remaining ladies referencing shared experiences and humorous moments, to get me into the practice of writing, to keep at it. It's been a blessing and a curse, reliving some of those bittersweet moments, but I am writing! Thank you for sharing this post, and thank you for blogging, and joining our group! It's nice getting to know you through your words. I can't wait to read your book someday!

    1. Thanks, Sara. I'm sorry you lost your friend, but I am glad that from that loss, you are creating something beautiful for you and your other friends. One of the hardest -- and most touching -- things I ever helped write was a tribute to a law school friend who passed away at age 37. I co-wrote it with three other people, plus my friend's husband (whom I'd ever met) and I really felt that, in the end, she would have loved it.