It seems odd to talk about fear in relation to writing. When I think of fear, I think of grand things. Dangerous things. Deadly things. Snakes scare the hell out of me—for reasons I’ve never been able to uncover. About five years ago I acquired a healthy fear of fire—a story for another time. But writing? Equating fear and writing somehow seems… overblown.
Which is why you may have missed it.
Which is why it can cripple you.
You see, sometimes fear is sneaky. It doesn’t come in the form of heart-pounding terror that makes you run the other way. Sometimes it just makes you adjust your path. Just a little. Just enough to get past some obstacle that’s very tough to conquer, but oh so easy to circumvent. It’s easy to say that you’re not afraid… you’re just being sensible. But, if you really wanted something on that original path… maybe fear just got the better of you.
Almost every fear—I’m not talking phobias here, just the everyday, rational, garden-variety fears—boils down to the same thing: Fear of failure. Think about it. Fear of spiders is really just fear of being bitten… of the spider beating you. Fear of heights is just fear of falling to injury or death. And with any creative or artistic endeavor the possible ways to fail are too numerous to count.
In a sense, I don’t have just one fear when it comes to writing. I have them all. But if you boil it down to the essence, the only thing I fear is failure.
I fear that I will try to say something, but have nothing to say.
I fear that I will try to say something, but be unable to say it.
I fear that I will see a beautiful story in my head, but on paper it will be flat.
I fear that I will try, but have nothing interesting to say.
I fear that I will toil, and no one will like it.
I fear that I want to write funny, but no one will laugh.
I fear that I will try to write poignant, but no one will be moved.
I fear that my ideas will never be good enough.
I fear that my talent will never be good enough.
I fear that my words will never be compelling.
I fear that I will try—I will attempt something I so very badly want to succeed at—and fail.
But if I don’t try, I cannot succeed. And that is why I try again.