What Do You Fear Most?

Katherine Longshore 7 Tuesday, November 01, 2011
I’m writing this post after a two-hour trick-or-treat marathon with eight boys, so forgive me if I get a little twitchy.  Lucky for me, our theme this week is fear. 
I noticed on the web and Twitter on Halloween that several writers had the same idea.  Halloween is a great time to talk about fear.  Donna wrote about Book Two fear.  The sophomore novel is notoriously difficult.  And painful.  I’ve lived through the first draft, but have yet to see the edit letter to find out if I can live through that.  Wish me luck. 

L.B. Schulman wrote about debut terror.  The fear that the book will come out and no one will read it.  Or that people will read it, but they will hate it.  Kristen Simmons expanded this with a list of the ten things that scare her most about her debut (my favorite?  She’s afraid the apocalypse really will come in 2012, before her book is published.  I’m glad someone else voiced this one!)  Our dear follower, Angela Brown, wrote about the fear instilled in us by doubt.

It’s a relief to see that I’m not the only one to have these fears.  That this novel that I have so lovingly constructed might be absolute crap and I don’t know it.  That I might have only one book in me, and Book Two will never see the light of day.  That I might one day wake up from this incredible, lovely, terrifying, exhilarating dream and discover that I’m still a preschool teacher.  I loved being a preschool teacher, but I love what I do now so much more.

But my biggest fear – the one that gets me hyperventilating, the one that freezes me as I pour my tea – is that one day, I will no longer be able to write.

I fear that the ache that sometimes appears in my wrists will spread to my arms and elbows, that it will become too painful to think and I just won’t be able to tap another word upon the keyboard.

I fear that I’ll be in a horrible accident that will turn my brain to mush, and the only thing I’ll remember is that wild torrent of passion that sweeps along the best of scenes, almost as if the words on the screen are not connected to me at all.  And I won’t be able to do it anymore.

I fear that one day, I will sit down at the keyboard and every word, every sentence will be like sawdust on the tongue.  That my fingers will be weighted by dull words and sluggish phrases.  That my characters will sit like paper dolls – one-dimensional and expressionless – unable to do anything more than change their clothes and slide across the page.  That my stories will be derivative and cliché.  That suddenly, the formation of a sentence, the choice of words, will become an impossible, painful task.  Insurmountable.
I am afraid to stop writing.

Because even if by some horrible turn of events, my editor realizes that selecting GILT was the worst mistake of her life and it tanks and my contract is revoked and I have to return every cent of my advance and I become the laughing-stock of my critique group and the SCBWI and the world at large – even then, physically, I should be able to write.  (Emotionally scarred and mentally unstable, I can’t say I’d promise anything good, however.)  I could go back to journalism.  I could try poetry or memoir or creative non-fiction (again, probably nothing good!)  I could pull out my journal every day.  Even at the worst of times in my life, I’ve always been able to write something.

I am a writer.  It’s what I am, it’s what I do.  Losing it would be losing myself.  And in the end, isn’t that what we all fear most?


Eeek! This is terrifying! I thought just the worry that what I've written is crap & I don't know it is bad enough. But the thought of never writing again?

You found it. The scariest thing.

Oh you are so right. My list of 10 items just grew by a few more. And "I am afraid to stop writing" is absolutely near the top of my list. It's like going on vacation and coming back and stepping on the treadmill and realizing you're no longer in shape. If I stop writing...I'll lose it...must keep going...must keep going...

Sorry to give you nightmares, ladies. Like we need anything else to worry about, right?

Yikes! Even with all the doubt that creeps, sneaks and batters at my confidence until I feel weak in the knees and my insides feel like Jello, I don't think I've contemplated the inability to write...ever. That is frightening in a way that there are no words. I must go now and give my laptop a big hug and massage my fingertips, thankful for the ability to write right now.

By the way, I blushed at the mention and haven't stopped. Thank you.

You're welcome, Angela! And what a great response -- be "thankful for the ability to write right now."

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