Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Feel the Fear and Write it Anyway

We interrupt the current series on scene to bring you this post on writing, fear, and creativity. 

I was having breakfast with my wonderful Nashville friend Sue (wait, should I say she's from Nashville if she is originally from Portland?) this morning and we started talking about feeling skittish and being nervous and anxious.  (Did the world financial situation have anything to do with this conversation? You be the judge.) 

I allowed as how I've recently realized that I'm nervous or scared pretty often these days. I travel alone a lot, and that makes me nervous.  I meet new people all the time, and that does, too.  Staying at home makes me nervous that I'm missing things out in the world.  And then we get to writing.  As my sister would say, gee-zus.  I attempt to write emotional truths in my novel and then I think about what my 92-year-old mother will say and I get nervous.  Or I write these true confessions in this (very public) blog and that makes me nervous.

But here's the deal:  I'm so used to the feeling of being nervous that I rarely even notice it anymore.  Ratchet it up to terrified (say, book deal) and you'll get my attention, maybe.  Meanwhile I go about my business being happily scared half out of my mind, doing it anyway: boarding the plane and hoping some kind gentleman will volunteer to lift my heavy laptop bag to the overhead compartment, meeting the new client, and opening up a new page to write on the computer or the spiral journal. 

I'm finally beginning to realize that if you're not scared, you're not living.  If you're not putting your nerves on the line on a regular basis, it is time to dial it up a notch.  This is true in garden variety living life, and its true in writing. 

Fear is the flip side of creativity.   But you can–and must–harness it.  Maybe there's a creative person somewhere on the planet who doesn't experience fear, but I don't know where that someone is.  If you find him or her, let me know.  Meanwhile, here are some ideas for harnessing fear in the service of creativity:

What you resist, persists.  Like anger or any other strong emotion, you can't let fear drive you but if you try batting it away, that doesn't work so well, either.  Try just letting it be.  Acknowledge it and then go write or board the plane or run the marathon. 

Denial is a river in Egypt.  And it is a big river, indeed.  Denial is a tricky mistress because being in denial means you don't realize you have a problem.  Its a brilliant coping mechanism.  Seems to me, though, that even those of us swimming in the depths of that river always see a glimmer of the light of truth.  Swim towards that light.  Allow it to illuminate the fear.

Only way out is through.
  I hate this emotional stuff, because it is so damn hard.  Which is of course, why we resist and go into denial.  But truly the best option is to plow into it.  Have you ever had the experience of resisting and resisting writing and then finally getting to it and having such a blast you wondered what the fuss was about?  I have.  It happens nearly every day sometimes.  Often you just have to walk through the fire.

Just do it.  This is probably about the gazillionth time I've invoked the Nike mantra in this blog.  That's because it is so simple and true.  Honestly?  This is the gist of it all, the kernel, the seed, the nut graph, the takeaway.  The single most important thing in life is to just do it.   Ignore the fear, forget the pain, concentrate on the moment, right here, right now and go write.

And, in case  you need more inspiration, here are some links about creativity you might find of use:

Building Success with Creative Adaptation

How To Write Remarkably Creative Copy

Of Creativity

We'll be back to the regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, with the final post in the series on writing scenes.  Meanwhile, you can read part one here, and part two here.

10 thoughts on “Feel the Fear and Write it Anyway

  1. Lindsay Price

    Absolutely. If there’s something you fear, the only way to deal with it is through it.

    I’ve done nicely with that concept in writing, and almost enjoy tackling ‘fear’ projects. Now if only I could apply the concept to life… 🙂

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Ah yes, it is sometimes easier to apply these concepts to writing than life, isn’t it? At least with writing we only have to face the blank page…

  3. Tony Funderburk

    And no matter what, you gotta believe.

    So when something happens to stifle you, don’t just let it “be”…”leave” it behind.

  4. Beth

    My husband used to tell me that “fear is paralysis at the brainstem level” & also that conflict is neither good nor bad; it is simply a normal part of life. There’s a fine line with fear where if you can, as you describe, push through it every day, it becomes creative fuel rather than paralysis.

  5. Charlotte Dixon

    Tony, yes continuing to believe is a key, isn’t it?

    Beth, love the bit about the paralysis at the brainstem level, I’ve never heard that.

  6. eddsaid

    Wow, you said “Fear is the flip side of creativity” with such certainty, and it would have never occurred to me to link those two words together. Day/night–life/death–fear/creativity? I consider myself creative. If I were asked to word-associate, I would say “joy.” No right or wrong here–just viewing the same jewel through different facets.

  7. eddsaid

    Wow. You stated with such conviction that “Fear is the flip side of creativity,” and that linkage would have never occurred to me. Day/night–life/death–fear/creativity? Interesting. I consider myself creative. If I were asked for a word-association I would have said “joy.” No right or wrong here–just viewing the same jewel through different facets.

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    To me, joy is the wellspring of creativity, as well as the result of it. Fear is what stops us from using our creativity talents, from putting the words on the page or the paint on the canvas or the singing the songs. If you’re fearful about what people are going to think, your creativity might be stifled. In every situation, you can choose fear or love–and choosing love is the path to creativity.

    Thanks for commenting!

  9. Jennifer Conner

    I’m usually such a lurker on writing sites, but you hit on something that’s so true I had to comment. My nagging anxiety meter has been off of the chart for the last week with every word I tap out or, worse, every word that actually gets printed. I’m not sure how to combat it, truthfully, but I keep showing up every day and trying again. That’s a start, right?

  10. Rachel Cotterill

    Every so often, with everything I do, I wonder whether I’m doing it well enough to make it worth doing at all… then eventually I just get on with it! After all it happens in enough different spheres that I know it wouldn’t help to do something else instead 🙂

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