ABC’s of Writing: F is for Fear

Posted by on Mar 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

IMG_8560 copyFear: The chill crawling up your skin. The gnawing sensation overtaking your gut. The hesitation to write what may not be received by others the way you imagine in your mind. The paralysis that prevents you from sending your work out, to your peers, to your idols, to the countless literary magazines. Fear is an emotion as common as ambition, desire, and frustration. It plagues not only the neophyte writers who are just beginning their literary journeys, but it seizes the seasoned writers just as frequently, just as fiercely. Whether it manifests itself in the form of self-doubt or inaction, fear is something all writers struggle with.

Write when it scares you. When you feel like you are not as talented as other writers or you just aren’t good enough, write in spite of this insecurity. There have been many times in my life as a writer that I felt my work just wasn’t anything special, and I didn’t want anyone else to read it. This uncertainty almost prevented me from pursing an MFA in creative writing. But I didn’t give it up, and I wrote and applied to several programs anyway. Heading to my first residency as part of Fairfield University’s MFA program, I was perhaps the most terrified I had ever been. What if the other writers think I’m not very talented? What if I’m wasting time and money? It turned out that this experience brought some incredible writers into my life. Writers who became friends who helped me through the bouts of self-doubt and fear. Writing when I was afraid and pursuing a degree in writing anyway, was one of the best decisions of my life.

Write what scares you. It is the things in life that terrify us that we need to write the most. I learned this lesson about five years ago when I considered myself a new writer. I was contributing monthly essays to a blog based out of California. After I had submitted my first two nonfiction pieces, the editor sent me an email. The crux of his letter was something like this: Your writing is wonderful and your content is interesting. However, I feel like you are holding something back. Something exists between your words that should be fleshed out. You write like you are afraid. Distill that emotion and write that. I took his advice, and went back to the essay.
What wasn’t I saying? After several days of thinking this editor was nuts, I finally realized what
I was holding back. Once I figured it out, I went back to the piece and rewrote it. I resubmitted it, and received a satisfied response from the editor.

Write because it scares you. When you don’t trust your words, when you are unsure of
the trajectory of your story, when you think no one in the entire world could possibly think any of your work is good, write anyway. Make mistakes. Figure out the plot as you go along. Rewrite a single sentence fifteen times. Linger on a paragraph until you think it sounds halfway decent. When you do this, you will write your fear and anxiety away. You will read what you’ve written and you will find a sense of accomplishment where fear used to be.

As writers of fiction, it is your job to cast aside your fear and let it drive your characters. Let your anxiety inspire you to take chances, pursue unpredictable plotlines, delve deeper into your stories than you thought you could. And, perhaps most importantly of all, do not let your fear stop you from immersing yourselves in the glorious fiction of your imagination.

Rebecca Dimyan is a writer, teacher, and food journalist. Her published work has appeared in Under the Sun, L’Allure des Mots, the Ampersand Review, Fat City Review, The Cupboard Magazine, and Gastronomica. Her short story One Night Strangers was part of the 2011 eLit Silver medal-winning anthology Memoir: Vol I published by eChook. She teaches first-year writing at Fairfield University. You can read more of her work here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.