A few words on fear

I’ve written the climax for my WIP.  Finally.  And this morning, as I was scrolling through (and not reading) the words I’d written, a thought occurred to me.

I don’t want to read it.

I’ve been telling myself it’s because the scene is too intense. But that’s ridiculous.  The climax I wrote for Wildfire was intense.  And I don’t remember avoiding it. In fact, I relished the action.  It’s fun to put your characters in treacherous situations to see how they’ll fare.  (Sadistic, but fun.)

But this time, the danger was too hard for me to handle. I skimmed over the scene I knew was too extreme and intended to just move on. Until I stopped myself.

And said, “self, what’s up? Why so avoid-y with this particular passage?”

Well, if you’re a regular reader, you know I avoid for one reason and one reason only: fear.

Damn stupid fear.

Writers everywhere are familiar with fear.  It’s an enduring staple of our daily routine.

Wake up, Make Coffee, Write, Fear no one will understand it, Edit, Fear it’s not good enough, Send off to First Readers, Fear they are just humoring you, Edit again, Fear it’s obsolete, Publish, Fear it will receive bad reviews (or, worse, NO reviews), Start the next book, Fear the first one isn’t as “finished” as you thought, Sleep, Have nightmares about obscure character arcs and archaic plot lines.

This is the method. And fear is the constant companion.

But usually, I’m okay with fear.  We snuggle up together in front of the computer screen on a daily basis. I’m aware of its existence and I write through it. Because I have to. I don’t really have a choice.  I can let the fear win or I can beat it down until it’s just a whisper in the back of my mind.

Don’t get me wrong.  Some days, the fear does win.

But that is why I have a writing partner.  To help me through the bad days. And I read other writer’s blogs, to feel supported – and not so alone – in this struggle.

But today, as I skimmed over the scene, I was able to answer my own question.

This fear is more imminent than usual.

And when I asked myself why, myself answered swiftly and with the most obvious response possible.

Because I am going on vacation in January. Some friends and I are going skiing in the mountains of Colorado. Just like we used to every year in high school and college.  I’m looking forward to it, not just because I love skiing, but also because of the nostalgia we are bound to strum up over a roaring fire and a glass of wine.

Why is this important to the WIP?

Well, the climactic scene I’ve written, and seem unable to read at the moment, is about a young girl trapped in the thrashing of an avalanche.

English: I took this picture on May 2006, on m...

Ahhhhhhh! (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As my six-yer-old would say, Duh.

Of course I’m afraid.  I’m going skiing in the mountains.  No wonder I’d like to avoid stories of a girl trapped under the snow-packed menace of an avalanche.

The fear I’m experiencing doesn’t stem from self-doubt. It’s a very realistic what-if-I-smother-under-a-packed-pile-of-snow brand of terror. Nobody wants to read about that right before they put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

This realization is interesting, partially because I had planned on giving my friends copies of the WIP to read on their way to Colorado (some of us are flying, others are driving). And now I feel the need to rethink that. Or at least warn them of it. In case their natural defense mechanism is also avoidance. (I’d feel a little smug if my writing made them huddle up inside the condo for the whole trip, but I’d probably feel some guilt about it too.  So I’d like to avoid that. Since, you know, avoidance is my thing.)

What I do feel good about, however, is the amount of research I’ve conducted on the nature of avalanches in order to write the scene.  While knowledge of the hazardous aspects of snow increases the fear (what I didn’t know wasn’t scaring me before), the newly-attained awareness of how to increase my chances of surviving an avalanche gives me hope.

Fear or no fear, I’m going skiing.  Because I can’t allow the natural anxiety about a conceivably perilous situation keep me from having that experience.  I wouldn’t want to be ruled by the fear, or let it dictate the quality of my life.  And perhaps the fear I’m working through now will make me a stronger, more aware skier.

In the same vein, I’m going to edit that scene in the WIP.  Fear or no fear.  Because it has to be done. Because the writing fills me up and enhances the quality of my life.  And maybe, just maybe, facing the fear will make me a stronger writer.

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. Good for you! Everyone experiences fear. It’s what we do with it that determines our destiny. I have no doubt you will do great things.

    Reply
  2. Merry Trujillo

     /  November 26, 2013

    You really are a wonderful writer and I can’t wait to read the next book. I agree with your friend that posted you were younger and didn’t have a family. I skied all the time as a kid, but after I had David, all I could think was, “What would David do if he lost his mom”? I went on a ski trip with our church youth group and really struggled with my fear. Hang tough! You are amazing!

    Reply
  3. Fear is the manifestation of the frustrated attempt to control what we cannot.

    Reply

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