It’s not easy to admit when you’re afraid. Especially as a dude of a certain age because we’ve been taught our whole fucking lives that, essentially, fear is for pussies. And being a pussy is bad (but hey, guess what you’re supposed to chase your entire life…) and it was never a term of endearment growing up. Nowadays I have a vastly different take on a pussy’s strength and, sure, call me a pussy. It’s quite a compliment.
BUT, I’m getting slightly off track with the above. The topic is fear, and that’s what I face most days when I think about writing. I’ve been doing that thinking a lot in the last month or so, now that things are semi-calm again.
Let’s back up a bit, though. Towards the end of 2016 and throughout 2017, I came to an understanding that things weren’t right in my writing career. I’m not going into what those things were, but they put me into my tailspin and coupled with all the stress from trying to move, brought on a great big “fuck it” attitude. A seriously serious “fuck this shit” mindset that lasted from about September of 2016 to November of 2017. I wasn’t afraid of anything in 2017; I was just straight pissed off and last year, I probably didn’t top 5,000 total words… and a solid 3,500 of those were for a single episode of The Lift podcast, and those were written only because Dan Foytik of 9th Story Studios has superhuman patience and my undying respect for the quality of work he does and the passion he brings to the art of storytelling. How could I not say yes to that dude?
After a conversation I had in September last year with the every killer Nelson W. Pyles, I started to reassess the bullshit and to rein in my anger, to try and refocus it. I did, and I refocused it straight into fear.
First Fear: Same Bullshit
Yeah, my biggest fear is that I’m going to succumb to the same bullshit I did in late 2016 and 2017. I don’t want to fall into that hole again. Logically speaking, I shouldn’t. I’m aware of it, know how to avoid it, and should be able to skirt it without issue. Without a single issue, man, but that doesn’t prevent my mind from stopping me and looking over the precipice into the big hole of bullshit and all the anger that comes with it.
Nor does knowing it’s a hole I can easily avoid stop my mind from creating a new, similar precipice that’s just different enough for me to say, “Yeah, that could happen…” And when that happens, I’m right back to a quasi-fuck it state where I don’t want to do anything but watch paint dry. It’s safe and it saves me from definitely doing something stupid and jumping into a hole, real or otherwise.
But, you know, playing it safe never got anyone anywhere.
Second Fear: My Peeps
As you know, I moved from Ohio to Missouri. In Ohio, I belonged to a couple of extraordinary writing groups (in all their iterations), and had a very solid backbone of creative people. In other words, I never suffered from a lack of community, or connection, with other writers.
That wasn’t necessarily the case here. Yes, there’s a local writing group. Much closer to me than either of the ones I had in Ohio. But, Brownies, you know me. I’m foul-mouthed, sarcastic, liberal as fuck, and I moved to a place that is almost the absolute antithesis of who I am. I have no idea how these people are going to respond to me, whether they’re going to accept me, and that leads me to the fear that I lost something precious, something necessary.
What if they didn’t? What the hell would I do then? Shit and fall back in it, most likely, so it’s been easier to just click MAYBE on the events and not show up to them. The thing is, I did that in Ohio, too. I was a giant chickenshit when it came to the groups and had to literally be poked and prodded and cajoled into attending. Once I did, it was awesome.
And I’m realizing that I’ll never find out how awesome these new people are if I just sit on my giant ass and never go.
Third Fear: Suckage
This one, by far, is the smallest part of the whole equation, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t at least mention it. I don’t suffer from impostor syndrome in the classic sense. I don’t believe I’m a fraud, nor do I believe I don’t belong in the writing community. I’ve never had what many would define as “success” so I can’t really invalidate anything there.
However, I do suffer from many of the symptoms presented with impostor syndrome: perfectionism, fear of failure, deflecting praise. I can’t do much with the first two, but the last one I think is more just my humble nature (don’t laugh; I can be humble).
I’ve never been a confident person, especially when it comes to my writing. While I know any art is subjective and that I can’t please everyone, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to (see perfectionist) and then feeling like I failed because of it. I don’t know where this comes from, though. You see, I don’t recall ever getting a 1-star review (and no, that’s not a challenge…). I’ve had my fair share of 2-star reviews, and one nice lady said she wanted to throat punch my story. Aside from those, no one (except maybe my wife) has ever just said, “Dude, this is horrible…” to give me this fear. Yet, it’s there, a booger hanging from my nose I can’t get rid of.
But I know this fear is temporary. I’ve conquered this fear before, when I first started writing and publishing, and all it needs is time. Time for work to be read, work to be reviewed, critiqued, mulled over.
Sure, these are irrational fears, but that doesn’t matter. Irrational fear is still fear, right? For me, it’s about rationalizing the irrational, which is a bitch to do. I mean, this is my brain I’m fucking with, right? My gray matter, my sponge, my everything… (cuz yeah, my body ain’t winning any races any time soon).
But it’s working, sort of. I’m sitting here, blogging, at least. I still haven’t put much fiction onto paper, but that’s coming. It’s welling under the surface, wanting to crest, and it will. I thought I could stamp it out, keep it down, and keep my life quiet, peaceful. Live on the outskirts of this big city called writing, but I can’t.