Since I'm sure many people were scared yesterday, despite NASA's reassurances that the world is, in fact, in no danger of ending any time soon, today I'm going to talk about fear and how it relates to writing. Yeah, I know, so appropriate for the holidays, huh?
When you're starting a new novel, you're starting from scratch. Always. And that can feel like you're looking up at the longest flight of stairs in the world.
It feels like you're never going to make it to the top. But then, you start climbing (in this case, writing--or plotting) and you stare at your feet the entire time until you finally look up and you're already half way there!
But being halfway there doesn't always feel like a good thing. You're at the point of no return. It's either do or die. You have to convince yourself not to look down because if you do, you'll get intimidated by how far you've come. You don't want to be that far off the ground. You want to go back, retrace your steps, make it better. But you can't, because you're dangling. And you can't look up, either, because then you'll realize how much farther you still have to go. You're tired, you're scared, and you're kind of regretting your decision to do this.
Then, after a couple of scary slips and a few tears, you make it to the top.
You're a god. You actually did it. You can do anything now. You look back at all you've accomplished--and it still scares you--but that fear is mixed with huge senses of pride and relief. You walk around, telling everyone you know, "I climbed a mountain!" ("I wrote a novel!")
And then you slip.
You fall all the way down to where you started. The mountain, or flight of stairs, is no longer a beautiful thing that you've accomplished, but just a big old jagged rock. You're bruised and battered, your confidence is shattered. How could you make the mistake of slipping? Now you have to start all over. You cry a bit. You cry a lot. You research better ways to climb the mountain. You look at all of the mishaps you made before and figure out how to avoid them this time around. You start climbing again, and the mountain isn't as bad as it was the first time. You know what to expect, you're even more determined, and you make it back to the top in no time.
Your climb still wasn't perfect, but it was better. You know you can do this now--it wasn't just luck the first time. You go back to the bottom and start climbing again, and again, and again until you're like freaking Spiderman.
Writing is a long, treachorous journey that no one but a writer can experience. All of this climbing, these accomplishments--they're all inside of your head. No one else notices but you. We writers are alone in our long battle with our manuscripts. Being alone and not knowing what you're doing is scary. Sometimes it can scare you out of doing it. Sometimes it can destroy you. But, if you start and you're stupid enough to fall in love with it, you'll get better over time. It's a long uphill battle and we don't have anyone behind us to catch us if we fall. We are alone, but we are strong. We can do this: we're writers. It's what we're made for.
Do you get scared when you're writing? What are the scariest parts of writing for you?