Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In the Face of Fear

*Deep breath*

Ok. I am going to be brave. Very brave.

Last night, I wandered into my bedroom, sat at my desk, and put my fingers on the keyboard. "Let's do a bit of freewriting," I thought. "See where your mind, and your fingers, take you."

This is what appeared on my screen. Most of it is verbatim. I edited only a few places to help it make sense. But it flowed out of me. Time stopped. I couldn't hear the music playing in the background. I couldn't hear my daughter shrieking with delight over her latest adventure on her Scooby Doo video game.

I was in my writing world. I was free.

Here it is:

I have this mental image in my head of me sitting at the computer, tapping away, eyes concentrating on the screen, my mind completely engaged in the act of writing. I do not sense time turning, I do no sense the change in temperature of the room, whether it be hot or cold, stuffy or cozy. I just write. I am the writer, at last, complete in her bliss, doing what she loves to do.

And then reality coldly chucks me on the chin, a bony finger with a pointed nail, that scratches my flesh and returns me to my mental prison.

“No, that is not how it is, not today,” it says. Reality is cruel and unforgiving, snatching your dreams from you as quickly as a dog retreats from an abusive master.

“But it can be like that today,” I protest.

Then the mind plays its game again, the wall sliding into place, click, click! And it is shut.

“How do I open it? How do I get to that place?” I cry. My fingers dig into the metal, but leave nothing but fingerprints and sweat and fear.

Yes, fear. Always the fear. Perhaps it comes out at such times as these because it knows I am weak, knows that my mind is fragile. The words have been dormant too long, fighting for air, being squelched by too many other things in life. Demands and deadlines and drama. They have not been allowed to be released, to meander through the fields and wind their way around the brain, playing, flirting, clashing, again and again.

Fear says, "Stop, you’ve written enough, no more, no more! It will not be good, it will drag you into the muddy underside of a worm’s belly. There will be no release from it, no salvaging it."

Yet you refuse. You purse your lips, heedless of the cracked skin, heedless of the throbbing in your head demanding you go lay down, let the battle be over, acquiesce to fear’s heckling laughter. Your fingers continue to move and create and work, over and over, letters then words then sentences then paragraphs. Images. Emotions. Thoughts. All there, all clamoring for space. You watch them, let them go play, let them create havoc on the page, let them climb up and down and around and through, over and back.

Fear retreats in the midst of the words' giggling joy. It is powerless, hiding behind its cloak of imagined steel. The words ping against it, rain at first, then snow, then hail, tearing the cloth, exposing fear’s sordid, skeletal body for what it is – fragile and thin. Breakable. Surmountable.

It crumples, hands raised in defeat, in torment, pleading for mercy. You do not give it. You do not surrender. You are its master. Victory is yours.

Well. There it is. My written assault against the fear of writing. And let me tell you, it felt good to write it. Does it make sense? Probably not. But that's ok. Stream of consciousness is sometimes a good thing. It unlocks the mind and makes it possible to create.

What amazes me is that I really like some of the imagery in this - even though I have no idea where it came from. And that is writing. That is happiness. That is joy.


  1. You can do a lot with that imagery.

    You did what writers long to do --took the personal and made it universal, and made the universal personal.

    We all face fear -- it's how we overcome it that frees us.

  2. I now exactly how you feel. I've had all of those thoughts myself. Good job.

  3. Ok--I'm jealous--that was some powerful writing!! Loved the images:)) You are good!!!

  4. Bravo for you! You tackled the fear head-on and you got some good stuff out of it. I don't think I've ever approached "it" head on before. Usually I'll try a stream of consciousness ramble about something else...anything but "that". :)

  5. Devon - I love your last line: "We all face fear - it's how we overcome it that frees us." Wonderful!

    Travis - Thanks. I do think that fear and writing go hand in hand. Sometimes I conquer it, other times it has conquered me. Hope to do the former this time!

    Tiffany - *blushes* Aw, thanks for the kind words.

    Lisa - It's strange -when I sat down to write, I had no notion that this is what would come out. I think I was just frustrated over not being able to work on my novel and had to write something, anything, to get myself going again.

  6. Beautiful, Melissa. Kudos for facing that fear down...and with such imagery! Brava!

  7. Thanks, Christine! Now if I can just face it down every single time I go to the computer! ;-)

  8. Well done for facing the fear, and such imagery too.

    I love Devon's last line too, so true.

  9. Thanks, Debs. I was surprised at the imagery that spilled out of my mind. Nice when that happens - doesn't happen too often!

  10. There's just no keeping good writing down!

  11. Woohoo! That's the way to face down that ugly inner editor. Try freehand too sometimes and/or writing a whole page without stopping. It can open the floodgates for your words.

    Oh, and maybe a picture of a gargoyle with his mouth taped over and hands bound? That'd be a great reminder stuck to your screen. :)

  12. VERY nice, Melissa! Well, okay, not nice, per se, but very well done. Great imagery there, I totally agree.

    Freewriting is sometimes where I find the most powerful stuff. It's not always the smoothest, but I think it tends to be the most honest, moving material that I write, and I see that here in what you've written.

    Way to face the fear, and really own it. Good job!

  13. Joanne - I agree!

    Angie - Freewriting is such a great tool. I had a teacher in high school who really liked using it. It can be a tremendous help.

    Jen - Thanks. :-) When I look at what I wrote, I realize that the emotions are very raw. I think that's how I was feeling at the time - just tired of being afraid and having it completely drain me mentally. I feel better now, though. :-)


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