Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Facing the fear of starting a novel

Julia Coleman is the author of "The Writing Environment" in the MWC Creative Writing Primer (MWC Press, 2012) and teaches creative writing basics online for MWC@JMCsocial 
Julia Coleman

I am afraid. 

Not teen slasher movie afraid where the starlet leaves the safety of the cabin, running through the woods (in flipflops no less - what?) only to clumsily trip on a root and meet her ear-splitting, blood-curdling demise.

No.  Unlike that clich√©, my fear is subtler.

 Like the sinking feeling from noticing the fuel light is on in the car (how did I miss that?) and wondering if it just came on or if it has actually been on for the past two days. 

Like the awakening acceptance (oh carbohydrates, why must you sabotage me?) that I have to buy a size larger in my favorite jeans.  Again.

Or the unsettling sentiment stirred when I glimpse a dumpy old woman staring at me from inside a retail store only to realize it is my own reflection.  Sigh.  Sigh again.  This realization deserves two sighs.

I am afraid to write a novel. 

But I desperately want to write a novel and I have for some time now.  Just as the writers and dreamers that prededed me I believe that I have a fabulously engaging story to tell that millions will want to read, share and discuss.  Yet, here I am two years later, still perched on the rim of the volcano staring into the caldera.

Procrastination is not the root cause.  I file my federal tax returns in early February.  I pay my bills the day I receive them.  I am accustomed to and unfazed by deadlines.  So that is not an explanation.

No, this is fear.  It is my innate paralytic inability to even start, much less finish, said novel.  The mental indigestion associated with this simmers and belches as more time passes between announcing my intent and not even beginning the task; so much so that the blank pages marking this ill-fated notion loom like the boa contractor quietly sharing a cage with the unknowing mouse that will eventually become dinner.  It is not a question of “if” but a question of “when” will I be consumed by my fear.

Woe is me.

What an embarrassingly whiney thing to say.  After all, it’s not like the fate of the free world depends on this.  It really is just about my own personal pride and sense of fulfillment.

Why am I so afraid?  Is it fear of failure or fear of success?  Is it fear of rejection? I certainly have had lots of practice with that.  Is it the fear that time is running out or that I have all the time in the world?  Whatever it is, I have allowed the phantom to take the wheel. 

OK, I have acknowledged it. I have owned up to it.  I accept responsibility for it.  So now what happens?

Tick, tick, tick. 

I love sports so this is where I insert a sports metaphor.  If this were baseball, I would step up to the plate and get at least three swings.  If this were basketball, I would get two free throws even if I miss the first one, and if this were football, I would have three downs to get 10 yards and extend my opportunity to score. Perhaps it is time to give it the old college try.

Clearly I need to write. Just write something – anything really.  Commit to the task and give it a shot. 

Write without expecting huge commercial success.  Write knowing that I will be competing with the 15,000,000+/- books to be published in 2013.  Write because it is my first love.  Write because it is my Everest.

So maybe I just need to “put on my big girl panties” as they say and get after it.  But as you might have already guessed, I bought the big girl panties at the same time I bought the aforementioned larger sized jeans.  So does that count as a first step?
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