I’ve got a bit of a colorful vocabulary. I hold my tongue in mixed company, in public, and around kids. But get me alone, in the car, playing video games, watching the news, watching political ads from either side, or if I’m just having a really bad day and those colorful words will fly. But the F word I’m talking about in the title is not one that is censored. It’s not one that people avoid. In fact, it’s one that the media tries to incite. I’m not talking about a good curse word. I’m talking about a bad life word. Fear.
Fear is probably the worst F word I can think of. It’s the kind of feeling that get’s inside of me like a worm in an apple and eats a hole right to my center. Fear is what stops me from being accepting of any idea out there that makes me uncomfortable. Fear stops me from thinking of people as people and makes me think of them as different. Fear basically sucks.
But fear is something we all go through. And I’m not saying something is wrong with us for experiencing it. I’ve been afraid of lots of things. In fact, two months ago I was feeling really afraid. I was sitting in front of my computer, phone in one hand and chocolate bar in the other, contemplating all the horrible outcomes that might come out of a new piece of information I had just received. I sat there, surfing the web, staring blankly at the screen, and went for a bite of my chocolate bar. I was going to eat that fear into oblivion. Chocolatey, yummy oblivion. I opened my mouth, brought my hand up to it, and proceeded to wrap my lips around my cell phone. Even inside of my fear spiral I had to stop and chuckle. If I was so afraid that I couldn’t keep track of my chocolate, then things had really gotten out of hand.
The funny thing is that fear exists for a purpose. We as writers use it to propel or hinder our characters. Animals use it to avoid predators. And fear can be a great motivator. If used in the right amount. The strange balance is that just like the other F word, there is a time and place for fear too. Sure, both can get out of hand, but it’s the balance that keeps them useful. A well placed F bomb can illicit the right release of tension and some well placed fear can create the kind of action required to get out of a not so great situation.
The problem with fear comes when we let it stop us. Stop us from writing, stop us from creating, stop us from opening up to a new idea, stop us from moving forward at all. I find that fear and ‘what if’ are pretty closely related. I’m afraid because of what if . . . But the beauty about the creative process is that you can let fear go. You can explore all the ‘what ifs’ in a safe and, if you chose, unshared space. There are a few spaces that help me feel safe. Writing, yoga, meditation, and a really great, smutty television show. And, for me, the big challenge is trying to remember that those things exist when I’m in the middle of a fear spiral.
But here’s where I feel really blessed. As a writer I get to walk my characters through their fears on a daily basis. I cry with them when things go wrong, I cheer when they spit in the face of fear, or tell a joke in spite of it. Now I just need to remember that I have just as much control of myself as I do of my characters. Maybe I can’t change the world around me in the way I can change theirs, but I sure can change how I react to it. And if I need to take a chapter or two to wallow in my fear, then fine. But if I want to keep my story moving forward I really need to sit up, take a bite of an actual chocolate bar, and move on. So yeah, fuck fear. That’s right, I said it. Because that’s the kind of character I am. It’s not my fault. It’s just the way I’m written.