Writing Through the Fear

I’ve been struggling to write fiction since I returned to working a regular 40-hour a week job. I knew there would be some difficulty while I adjusted to the new schedule and I try to teach myself to write in the little nooks and crannies of time I can carve out. Other writers have done this and so can I. It’s just a matter of making the writing a priority, and I refuse to have happen to me what I’ve seen happen to other writers, where life forced them–or at least made them feel like they had no choice but–to stop writing. To that end, I’ve began making changes such as turning off the cable television and getting up earlier in the mornings.

But the biggest change I need to make is in my head.

I’ve actually been floundering around as a writer for the last year or so. I haven’t been producing at the rate I’m used to. I’ve been second guessing myself too much. In my head, I do a lot of saying to myself, “Yes. But…” “Yes. But…” could drive one crazy, if one let it.

Here has been my problem: I’ve been afraid; afraid to really let go and write the things that come from deep down in the scary places. The fact is, most of my short fiction, while perfectly fine, is also a little workman like at times. There is nothing wrong with this. I’ve written many stories like this, solid and entertaining pieces of fiction that sold to good markets and that people have enjoyed.

But every once in a while, I write something that…well, it sings. Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep might be the best thing I’ve ever written. “Out Among the Singing Void,” “All the Leaves Your Bed,” and “Fetch” all had that same feel, came from that same place, earlier in my writing career. There are moments in both Last Car to Annwn Station and even in Horror at Cold Springs that, while not at all the same in theme, tone, or use of language, when I wrote them I felt the story resonate deep down in my bones and soul. Not always. But enough to know I was doing something veryvery right. The piece I just finished, The Intimacy of Books, also had those moments.

But those moments when I give over and let the deep places have free range, when I let all the stuff–dark and light both–that I keep buried inside come to the surface and spill onto the page, when I set aside my fear of language and experimentation and strive for something beyond my normal style, those times scare me even as I feel (dear Tiny Gods, this is going to sound like I’m waxing mystical or some bullshit) a little transcendent.

I need to give myself permission to write from that place. I know that is why the Lowry Hill Tunnel Troll story keeps stalling. Because I start to write from that place and then I get scared and pull back. And this story is demanding nothing less than my best. I know this is why I’ve shied away from the Spear of Destiny novel for the last five years. I lie and say it’s because of the amount of research I need to do make this novel work, but really, it’s fear. I know what this novel is going to demand of me, and I’m afraid: afraid to let myself write from the deep place, afraid that I’m not up to the task the novel will demand of me, afraid the story will not live up to what I have in my mind.

I am afraid I’m going to fail the story.

I need to stop being afraid. I need to give myself permission to write from the scary places, the hard places, the places deep down inside. And if I do, maybe, just maybe, the story will sing…

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