It’s Halloween, which isn’t really a thing here, but it’s an occasion for me to ponder the fears haunting my poor, little, lost soul. This rambling thing (not really a post) was brought on by this post by Rachel Woe on the Sisters in Smut page. What should have been a fortifying little pep talk to myself turned instead into a reckoning with my fear-riddled soul.
Risks and fear are inextricably related.
The greater the fear, the bigger the perceived risk we need to take to overcome the fear. Some fears are shapeless, dark monsters lurking at the edges of our vision, and we’re not exactly sure WHAT they really are. Some are neatly defined, named, labelled and put in a box to gather dust. We never take the box down from its place on the shelf to examine its contents, but it’s there, allowed to live on on the shelf space of our minds.
I have a lot of fears, not all of them labelled and defined. Sometimes it’s a risk even looking at them. So much as a glance has the power to paralyze, and I’d rather crawl through life without it ever reaching its full potential (even in cases where I KNOW what to do to overcome the obstacles of my own fear) than to risk a glimpse and maybe fail at confronting the monster. You’d think a monster would shrink and turn into some kind of fuzzy pet fitting my palm once it’s named and labelled, but it never loses the wild, ferocious nature of a beast.
My fears carry names like “Failure to measure up”, “Incapable of finishing a story”, “Every single sentence in this is utter garbage”, “Never going to reach your goals for lack of trying.” They have teeth and claws hooked into my spine and keep me from facing them. They’re whispering into my ear and nest inside my guts. I will never find an agent and publish a book traditionally, so why even try? My self-published books will never find an audience, and as I’m the slowest writer on earth, why even keep at it, because it’s never going to make me enough money to be legitimate. Why even keep this blog when I’m incapable of posting more than four times a year, and incapable of keeping to my goals and promises? Why keep the newsletter when I’m never sending it?
But what if I give up? What will I do then? I’ve invested so much time into this writing endeavor, even at my crawling speed, so many spoons I didn’t invest in any alternatives… There’s nothing left for me but going on. I cannot stop. Besides, there’s a fear monster for the giving-up-scenario too: “You are a failure for giving up on the little talent you had. You wasted your life on a dream.”
There’s another fear: “This blog post sucks. It has no value whatsoever for your readers. It’s just whining. No one’s going to read it.” So why even post it?
I believe the fear. I believe its ugly, hissing words gurgling against my pulse. I have nothing to give, nothing to offer. I learned early on that I’m not enough, and never will be. But there’s one thing I know about myself, one thing I’ve learned through this mess of a life: I’m tough as old gum. And stubborn. I lived through the risks I took when I was younger because I’m too tenacious to give up. I will keep on writing because there’s nothing else for me.
Maybe I will even manage to take more risks. I want to. I want to finish a book and go get myself an agent. I want to see my book traditionally published. I can do it. Last year, I started submitting short stories to submission calls. It was a risk I took — “You will be judged and your words will be dissected — and discarded as not good enough” — a fear I faced and lived through. And some of my stories even got accepted. (Which is why you can soon read my story about a woman risking a great deal to reach her lover in a country in a state of emergency in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year 4.)
(I guess I’ll have to make a proper blog post for that story, because this turned in an acknowledgement of my fear-wracked psyche, and not so much in a “fuck it fear” post…)
My ogre used to tell me that I should be writing horror, because I’m so exceptionally good at being afraid. If I know one thing intimately, it’s fear. It should be a cinch to bring this fear onto the page. I live inside fear, I wear it as my skin, I braid it in my hair. But why should I give any more of myself to fear by giving it my words as well? I will rather keep writing the erotic, fantasy, fairy tales. I will write brave women who face their fears and go after what they want, hoping that maybe one day I will be more like them and less like me. I write to become.
I write to convince myself that it’s possible, that the fear is wrong.