Home > Writing > Fear of our own writing (a reblog of sorts)

Fear of our own writing (a reblog of sorts)

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo over the last several years. As part of that, I signed up to receive notifications from a number of NaNoWriMo forums on various subjects. While most aren’t of much interest at this time of year (for me, since I immerse myself in the insanity in November), occasionally a post comes along that merits attention. Today I read one such post. It was so good, in my opinion, I felt compelled to respond to the original submitter in the NaNoWriMo forum, despite my lack of eloquence at the time. I also thought it worthy of a wider distribution, because I think what’s discussed is nearly universal for writers who’ve yet to gain confidence in their craft, like me.

The forum post is entitled, On Writing and Fear: A Realization

It was written by Heather. She gave me permission to pass this along. Go read it. I think you’ll be impressed by this twenty-five year old’s maturity.


For those who don’t want to click on the link above, here’s what she wrote:

If you are at the point that I have been, then I hope this means something to you.

In all of my education and socializing and acquainting myself with the world, I have learned many things. Most of them were very good. Some of them were not.

One of them has… if I can say the words, through trembling lips… destroyed me as a writer.

I learned to be afraid.

I learned that it was not the worst thing to be thought unskilled. There is patience to be found for new writers, who lack experience but not ambition or passion. It is not the worst thing to be thought peculiar. There are a multitude of universes, and corners of universes, where there are readers who beg for material that others would find unsavory or strange.

What I learned to fear was being thought ridiculous.

I learned that the emotions that I held sacred could be pulled from their houses, stripped of their layers of meaning, and dragged through the streets. I learned they could be laughed at, scorned, lampooned. I learned that one man’s honesty is another man’s farce.

So I learned to write, when I could, through a mirror, darkly. I learned to scrutinize every word that flowed from my pen, to see whether it could be twisted and scorned. I learned to be careful not to let myself be open, to fear the daggers of those who came with mocking laughter.

I learned to write dishonestly. And this destroyed me.

I could not be creative. Who would want to be, if they could not tell the truth? Who was willing to shout the truth, if they were afraid to be dismissed with derision?

I learned to apologize for everything I did, to push it away from myself as quickly as possible. If it was mocked, I could mock it as well. I could laugh, be self-effacing. They could not bludgeon me with a weapon I used to bludgeon myself. They could not impale me with their laughter if I was already laughing.

I no longer wrote anything worth reading, because I no longer wrote with integrity.

It has taken me years to remember the courage that I had before I knew I needed to be courageous.

Now I sit, shaking, at the threshold of a familiar country. I am like Eve in the garden, ashamed of my nakedness, clutching desperately at the omissions and apologies that cover me like leaves. When I reach for truth, I know it will burn me, turning to ash the thickened skin of guilt and fear that I have grown.

I learned to be afraid. I am still afraid. I am terrified.

But I cannot run from the words that thrum in my soul, beating against my ribs like a cage, demanding that I let them loose before they destroy me from inside. I cannot shut my mouth from shouting the music that has swelled in my lungs.

If I am mocked, so be it. If I am ridiculous, so be it. If you would parade me through the streets like Lady Godiva, then I will climb onto the horse and ride with the wind in my hair, naked and unashamed.

  1. July 11, 2013 at 4:41 am

    A very timely post, Dave. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and am going through the usual “this novel is s**t” dribble. And I recognize the fear that Heather writes about. I had an experience in a college-level workshop where one of my stories–the ending, specifically–was laughed at, mocked. The mocking was led by the professor and I assume since he was known for getting young writers hooked up with agents and publishers, some students took his cue to impress him. At least one student saw the devastation and humiliation writ large on my face and tried to comfort me later. I’ll admit the ending was melodramatic and the story had a lot of problems overall. But I’m not convinced it was necessary to humiliate me.
    Ironically, my final story for that semester was one that the professor crowed about, to the point of introducing me to someone important (an agent, maybe? a publisher?) at a writing conference. But I was still wounded and if he was offering me an opportunity at that point, I missed it because I couldn’t reconcile his willingness to humiliate with his willingness to praise one and the same writer. I remember standing in the room, between him and this important person, and being dumbstruck because I hadn’t anticipated his praise. I had no 3-minute elevator pitch. I had nothing. I just smiled at him. They walked away.
    Thanks for posting Heather’s comments. Her words are wise and definitely what I needed to see this morning 🙂

    • July 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Funny how others experiences can really connect with our own, even if they are separated by decades. Her story really connected with me as well, which is why I was compelled to pass it along. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Sorry to hear about that awful experience of yours. I’m not sure how I would have reacted, but I’m not convinced I would have ever gone back to the class ever again. That professor sounds like a jerk.

      I’m glad you were able to overcome that awful experienced so you could continue pursuing your writing.

      As always, great to hear from you, Marie!

      • July 12, 2013 at 4:32 am

        Thanks, Dave. I think what helped me get through that experience was, in part, that I had received comments on my story from the other students. Those comments were generally constructive. Since I have such a thin skin, I could never quite trust the professor again, although he always treated me well after that incident.
        I always enjoy reading your posts, Dave! Hope you are doing well 🙂

      • July 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm

        Thanks, Marie. Nice to know you’re out there. Things are good for me right now. Hope things are well for you. BTW – really enjoy your blog.

  2. July 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for the reblog of the “sort of” reblog 🙂

  1. July 11, 2013 at 5:27 am

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