Fear and Loathing In These Pages

Sometimes I have so much to say that the limiting factors are time and typing speed.  Sometimes I am so deeply challenged by everything that’s going on that all I could write would be a list of questions.  And then, fortunately not so often, there are times like now.  Blinking cursor times. Image

Times when I avoid even sitting down to write because it’s scary to think of what will happen.

I used to be a spelling bee geek; I’d walk around with a single word in my head for simple love of the sound.  Absinthe. EnnuiMacadam.

I’ve learned words this year, too: eschatology, theodicy, cisgendered–but the word on repeat is much less interesting.  Short, sharp, and familiar–and very, very unwelcome. It’s Can’t.

A big mouth in a small body, Can’t never works alone.  It inevitably brings its best friends, Fear and Doubt.  It’s hard to tell for sure, because I’ve been too scared to take a close look—but at a glance, F & D seem huge.   Gigantic, even.  They are definitely the muscle of the operation.  And I know their game—they don’t just intimidate; they grab and hold tenaciously.  So when they appear, I run and hide.   I even avoid the places they like to hang out.  Blank pages, for example–fear and doubt love white space.

But tonight, I’m writing.

Make no mistake; it’s not because I’m brave.  I’d grant fear & doubt adverse possession of this page in a heartbeat if they’d just leave me alone.  It doesn’t work like that, though.  They are expansionists at heart.  Their version of manifest destiny would leave my life looking something like this:

Image

So, what does a writer do when fear and doubt threaten to take her down for the count?

Well, if you’re me, first you avoid thinking about it.

50 Facebook quips will fill a single-spaced page. 

Failing that, you simply wait for it to pass.

20 days?  30?  Pay for each with small shards of your soul.

And then you start to wonder if you could simply think of that well-worn “lean in” admonishment, sitting with the butterflies and breathing through the dizziness to Just Do It?

Sure, but buckle up: the worst part comes next.  Fear is prickly and Doubt packs a sucker-punch, but certainty sits, hollow yet heavy, right in the middle of your stomach. 

And then you know: You will never be able to do this.  What were you thinking?  You?

And it’s not just about writing anymore.

It’s about everything—dreaming. Trying. Risking.  This certainty says “Don’t. You. Dare.”

If any of this sounds familiar . . . well, first of all, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry you’re struggling.  And I’m sorry that I don’t have an answer, not for either of us.  The thing I can say—that refrain of liberal religion, perhaps the most saving and relevant and real message any of us has to offer—is this: you are not alone.

It is that message, and a friend brave enough to share it, that helped me; it even came with a lovely cartoon.

And today, that was enough.

And so today, I am taking my words back.

And may tomorrow be a day when neither of us loses them.

j

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