Skip to content

FEAR: i hesitate to use the term “social responsibility”…

February 8, 2012

because when it comes down to it, i really don’t like that term. i don’t think that people (who are in the public eye) should be made to be role models, although i suppose you could argue that since so many of them have put themselves into the public eye they willingly know that they will, inevitably, become role models. so i guess that’s a tough line to walk, and i don’t think i have organized-enough thoughts to delve into that issue at the moment.

these thoughts have all sprung from a question my mother asked me the other day, which was

“do you think there is a right or wrong way to write?”


it was a really good question, and my first instinct was to say “yes, and i’m not doing it.” yikes! i don’t know what that says about my a) writing style or b) self esteem, but i always feel like i’m slogging through a jumble. i do take notes on my writing, and i try like hell to make detailed timelines, but something about it doesn’t feel right to me, right now. (probably youth and callousness talking). so when i do new drafts, it’s like wading through knee-deep sewage, sifting for the diamond rings that have escaped the s-curves of the sinks. i always feel a bit overwhelmed, like i’m not keeping good enough records.

then i progressed from answering that question to talking about doubt, which has been a big theme for me lately. i had a moment when i posed a question on twitter (can’t believe i just used that phrase…. yikes) about how other writers feel about self-doubt. in my personal opinion, i don’t think that writers (and i guess this could extend to other artists, too – actors, directors, painters, creators, etc) express self-doubt enough. which sounds like a very catty statement to make, i realise, and i don’t mean it in that way.


i think that people put too much weight on appearing brave, on having that patina of glory, that sheen of “positive thinking” all the time. (that’s the key here – “all the time”, because let’s face it, being positive has been proven to healthier for you and i don’t condone being negative all the time although that is a particular struggle for me!) i don’t think that people acknowledge their fear quite enough. we are always wanting to appear brave, like we have our shit constantly together, and while that is admirable, and probably builds up strength, i think that acknowledging one’s fear is much more powerful. i know that sitting down and having a cry doesn’t necessarily feel the most powerful, does it. i never feel particularly powerful when i cry (which is quite a bit. QUITE a bit) but to be honest i think it’s a matter of accessing the most innermost and darkest parts of oneself, which sounds like such a heart of darkness cliche, i’m not explaining it right….

i guess people dismiss fear because it’s deemed a lesser emotion – a secondary emotion, that comes about as a result of something else. but i don’t think that’s right. fear is a powerful motivator – look at the anxiety-performance curve:



the right amount of fear (or “arousal”) lights a fire under our butts. too much of it, and we are crippled by it. how to abate fear? if i knew the answer to that, i’d be a squillionaire, and i can only speak for what works for myself, but for me it’s hearing about other people. it’s knowing that the other complex, intricate, beautiful bags of flesh that walk around me and beside me are just as nervous inside, just as sweaty-palmed, as gasp-inducingly frightened of their own dreams, of how to attain them. that they are just as fearful that they are not good enough, and yet maybe too good, that they are silly or inane or too much or too little. that the days that they spend staring at their writing – for hours – only to change a few words are wasted ones. we all have fears, all of us. we are always just so focussed on appearing brazen and beautiful that we cannot recognise that we are often most beautiful (and human, fragile, delicate, blossoming) within the orbit of those fears.

i don’t think that writers talk enough about their writing process, and what stymies them in that process. i told myself that if i should ever become a writer famous enough to be interviewed (fingers crossed.) i was going to be completely honest. like “yes, it really sucks. you cry yourself to sleep some nights because you feel like such a pile of garbage. yes, it really stinks getting all of those rejections letters, being told all the time that there is something else to edit, some other change to make, that your query wasn’t professional enough, that your poem wasn’t good enough. yes, it really, really accesses the bleakest parts of yourself when you sit down to write something and you have to force it out of you, and every word you write looks and feels like absolute crap, like you’re sure that what you’re writing is just really crappy.” but not to scare people off, no way. maybe writers don’t want to say that stuff because they don’t want to scare other people, or because they want to keep their fear to themselves. whatever the case may be, it’s not because a writer can’t verbalise what they’re going through. if a writer tells you that, they’re fibbing. we make our livings off of our words – if we can’t describe a feeling or a scene, we aren’t worth our salt. i want to hear the guts and glory. the grossness. the sadness. it doesn’t scare me. it reassures me that others are feeling the way i feel – nervous, scared, fearful. and then to take that fear and transform it – that’s one of the more powerful things you can do.


that’s my writing thought of the day, i suppose. to end, i’d like to supply a quote from anne lamott, who DOES write about writing. i think i need to read more of her… (thanks, mum!)


“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.”

– Anne Lamott



to end:

i posted that video because i had a really nasty feverish mucus-clogged virus for the past three days, and i finally feel like i’m back in the human realm! (read: able to type and form words). erraahhh i’m alive! back to editing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: