Writing, Fear, and Rediscovering my Joy

computer-313840_1280 License Public Domain Free for commercial use  No attribution requiredI am sitting in my room in the dark. It is late. The kids are in bed. I hear my husband and little son sleeping next to me, their breaths coming in and out in a comforting rhythm. The base of my spine hurts. Writing in bed is not so comfortable for me, but I don’t really have anywhere else in the house that seems an intimate enough space to write in. It is strange that I used the word ‘intimate’ to describe a desirable state for a writing space, a necessary quality for a place in which to create. I suppose nothing else would be so apt though, as creation is an intimate act. Like giving birth, bringing something new and fresh into the world. Something fragile.

Does writing need protection then? People say a story should be able to stand on its own without an author there to explain every little thing. Readers will take from it what they will, even if what they take is not what the author intended. Why is that so terrifying?

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I am afraid of being misunderstood, of readers taking the opposite of my meaning. I am afraid to unwittingly endorse something I am entirely against. But is that at all likely? Is it possible for me to be so misguided or unaware? Why am I struggling? I have heard many times to “write what you know” and to “tell the truth.” To “go where the pleasure is, where the pain is.” “Face your fears.” Is to know your fears the first step in overcoming them? Why am I so afraid? Is it the hard work? I have never been afraid of hard work. Is it the vulnerability? Maybe. I would not have thought my shell was so soft though.

Before I published the first installment, it never occurred to me to worry about what people would say or how they would react. I couldn’t wait to show it to everyone. Yet now I hesitate. I have been shown that my work is not for everyone. Is it so crude?

It feels that my work is separating me from others, singling me out. I never minded being different as a kid or an adult for that matter. I actually liked it. Then why is this different? I think I still like it. Making mistakes means you are doing something. But that is not to say that mistakes will be made, but not to fear them if they are. I don’t think I am throwing my credibility away, although it felt like that in the beginning. Anything sex-related is still widely considered low-brow. But I bet, even as my peers may quietly judge me, they may still be jealous to never have stood out like me. Maybe I tell myself this to ease the sting. Whatever. I’m not really all that special.

But I am. I am special because I have always been the one to say something when something needed to be said and no one else had the guts to say it. I am fearless. I am because I choose to be. So I will do what I want because I want to. Because even if some people think I am wrong or won’t enjoy what I write, there will be others who do, who get it without me spelling it out. Whatever that ‘it’ is, I don’t know yet. But I don’t have to.

I remember being in elementary school and when everyone discovered I was good at whatever I put my mind to, they got intimidated. But so did I. I got intimidated by my own reputation. I felt like everyone expected me to be perfect all the time and it was exhausting to try to live up to that. I don’t know why I felt I had to. Maybe it was because I wanted to be different and that’s what made me different. Or maybe I wanted to excel and I felt it was in my hands and if I failed, it was my fault—that I had let myself down.

But aren’t mistakes how we learn? Why was I so terrified to make a mistake? In college I could not have burnt out harder. In walking away, I burned down all the progress I had made. I trashed my GPA. And it hurt. But it felt good too. It taught me that it wasn’t the end of the world. It was just a bump in the road. I went back to college and kicked the shit out of my degree. I nailed it. While it is true that my GPA never quite recovered, it was healthy when I graduated. And in the end it turns out GPA really doesn’t matter so much.

So here I am with what, nine months after the release of my first serial installment and no release date for the next installment in sight. Pretty shitty. Yeah, I would say I fucked that one up. So now what? Brush myself off and keep going. It is what successful people do. My book may be sinking in the rankings now, but if I want to lift it I need to keep going. I know that. But in order to do that, I need to rediscover the joy.

Wasn’t it the same with school? I needed to rediscover the joy. I needed to remember that school was not part of my image, part of how others perceived me. It was for me. Fuck everyone else.

Originally, I started in math because I was good at it. I was encouraged because people said it would lead to a stable career. I knew I always wanted to write stories. I knew that from when I was a kid. But stories would never lead to a reliable income so I went with math.

That decision was why I burnt out and had to reevaluate my education. Math was easy because if you took all the right steps, they would lead you to the right answer, applied math anyway. Stories were much more complicated. It was too easy for me to get caught up in my head, too easy for me to over-think things. Obviously. That is exactly what I am doing right now.

But why? Stories are about communication. I don’t write stories because I have all the answers. I write stories because I am searching for them. That’s it right there. There is my joy.

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