What is fear? How do we create it? How do we decide what we are afraid of? Is it a decision we make, even a subconscious one? Yes, people can do harm to us that causes us to be afraid or events can occur that ignite fear, but that fear still has to come from our own selves. How does fear worm its way into our hearts?
DD is terrified of spiders. I get impatient sometimes, telling her she can control that fear. Then I remind myself that I am no stranger to fear. There is the fear of memories from long ago that I have tried very hard to forget, fear of the unknown, fear of the turmoil that always seems to be inside my head. There is the fear of wondering why I never finish anything I start, or why I flit from one task to another without ever accomplishing anything. The fear that it meant I was stupid, lazy and incompetent. At least now I can put a name to some of those fears. I can conquer what I can name, so in learning about adult ADHD, I can find ways to be more productive. As I help my child learn strategies to manage her symptoms I find strategies to help my own.
The fear of certain memories – well, some will never go away, you learn to cope. I’ve been afraid most of my life in some way. As I made it to adulthood I wore that fear like a force field around myself. As long as I never admitted fear, never left my comfort zone, never faced any fears, I could pretend they did not exist. Living life in the shadows of anonymity is comforting. You can stay happily in the background hoping to go undetected.
Where does that leave someone who, despite the fear, wants to write? I realize that I write because I must. Like anyone else that has the compulsion to put words on paper, I would write if no one read a single word. Fear though, can be a funny thing. It is possible to fear both sides of the coin. I fear the thought that no one would ever read my writing. I fear that if they did, they would only find the writing poor and the voice lacking. But I also fear writing something of substance, truly worthwhile and never being able to repeat it. I fear that momentary flash that never blesses me again.
How can a writer resolve these fears? I think the answer is that you cannot. I want a nice, simple answer that makes all the fear go away, but I know that it does not exist. I also think that is a good thing. This time I have to face my fears knowing it is going to be painful and knowing that I am always going to be afraid. One can write anonymously, but that doesn’t take away the fear. Fear of failure – fear of success. I think they are necessary driving forces.
I can ask myself what is the worst that can happen. I can put my words out there to find no one cares. No one laughed, no one cried, there were no moments of insight or of pleasure; only nothingness. Or worse than nothingness – disappointment. I think of relatives and friends reading my work and wondering how to be polite. Is that the worst that can happen?
What if my words are greeted with enthusiasm? What if they prove to be powerful and thought-provoking, humorous and insightful? I could no longer sit in the shadows unnoticed. Friends and family might be proud. I would be uncomfortable. Is that the worst that can happen?
The worst that can happen is living a life so drenched in fear that you cannot even face them. Putting words out there for scrutiny and criticism is a daunting thought. What is the worst that can happen? Giving in. Not facing the fear and living life in a void. There are so many directions I want to travel in life and in writing that I will never get to them all. Some avenues are serious, some are just for fun, but each path holds its own set of fears. I may be an intrepid traveler but I am willing to take one small step at a time. I realize there are questions about the origin of fear that I have not answered. Maybe knowing you can face them is more important than knowing where they come from.
What about you? What fears will you stand up to today?