There are two particularly smelly beasties that prey on me almost every time I set out to write; meet my greatest fears as a writer — the (not so great) Expectations and The Blank Page.
The expectations (whether high or low) of others and my own, often leave me with the feeling of finding myself standing waist deep in a bucket of gore in the midst of some big cat enclosure. It’s not pretty; there’s a whole heap of silent screaming and ineffectual cage scaling. They can smell fear, you know… big cats, other writers, readers and critics who love to tear apart the newbies who dare to encroach on their patch. Thankfully, I’ve not yet been subjected to feeding time at my own expense, but I see it happen to others and I worry that my time is only around the corner.
I have only been ‘out there’ with my writing for about a year now. I am very much an emerging writer; sending out flash fiction and short story babies into the big wide world, to be picked apart and masticated by unknown people and my peers alike. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the heart palpitations as I hit ‘send’ or ‘post’ and wait for some form of response (good or bad) from the ethers. But recently I’ve been able to accept that it’s an extremely brave feat to put up your hand and say those, at times, onerous words — I am a writer. What comes with such uncharted territory, is mine to learn from, to grow with and to hone to whatever shape fits me best. In this respect, maybe my heart palpitations are healthy; they keep me anchored to reality, feet firmly planted on the learning curve, ready to face the next lion that jumps up with designs of Laur-annihilation in mind.
That said, I count myself extraordinarily fortunate to have support from a community of like-minded writer, editor and publisher types who have the guts to tell me the truth about my writing and at the same time, offer hours of their own time to help me professionally. I am lucky to call several of them good friends. Knowing there are people who believe in you and what you do, is the best motivator for action; and herein lies my second greatest fear — the Blank Page.
*Insert dramatic score here*
Call it what you want; lack of inspiration, writers block, absent muse or Mt. Everest sized pile of dirty laundry — the blank page leaves me simultaneously sweaty palmed and righteously pissed off. I have ideas, damn it. I have characters that skulk around in the back of my consciousness. I have paper, pen, laptop and electricity. So why does it have to be so hard? I don’t know if it is the feeling of not being in control —
I want, no, I need to write, but it’s not coming out and I can’t do anything about it.
— Or, if it’s just blind, naked and goose-bumpy fear of what might come out —
What if it’s utter crud? What does that make me? Can I call myself a writer if what I pen never sees the light of day?
It’s around about this time that the Mt. Everest sized pile of dirty laundry wins over and the gremlin inside me cackles maniacally as I shut down the computer and slink away. I know I’m not alone with any of this. Every writer has at some stage or another been affected by The Block (and not the horribly scripted and tooth achingly bland TV show, although sometimes, ANY distraction will do), but until I discover what it is that works to unblock me, it continues to scare me.
We all have our demons, those dark creatures that emerge from the trees on the side of the road to shake warty fingers in the face of whatever project you might be on. I’d love to laugh at them or send them flying with a well placed round-house kick, but I’m not altogether convinced that this approach is the right one. I’m slowly learning that in order to best my fears, I need to confront them — head on and maybe even with a smile. If I learn to befriend them, find out why exactly they’re hanging around me like bad smells with delusions of grandeur (because let’s face it, a blank page and unmet expectations probably won’t kill me), then perhaps I’ll get better because of them.
I like what James Anthony Froude once said… “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”