I have spent most of my life afraid. People, bullies, teachers, matches, glass that might break, stairs, roads. To a greater or lesser extent, I have been scared of them all. And then there is talking on the telephone, eating contaminated food, forgetting to run an important errand (although that one diminished when I forgot to collect my wedding dress), accidentally swearing or a host of other things.
I’m less afraid these days.
All the fear, and much of the anxiety, goes into my writing. I have come to recognise that there is a dark place within that would take over my soul if I would let it, but somehow writing is my scouring pad. Little by little, I have been taking back the territory. When things happen to me, when I have been hurt, abandoned, excluded and left feeling despised – when the things I feared became a reality and I realised even adults can be bullied – it all went on the page.
As a writer, I can fear many things about my art. I can fear not being heard, or being misunderstood, or somehow “doing it wrong”. I can fear finishing, and not finishing, or trying the wrong thing, or missing my big break. I can fear that this project will distract me from the project I was always meant to write, that my life is getting in the way of me doing what I was always meant to do.
Some days, it feels as though if I’m not hung-up about something to do with my writing, I must be missing the point.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter if I’m not heard, or if I’m misunderstood, if I fail or if I succeed. In writing, and in life, the world continues to turn. Life goes on. I have failed at the things that I defined my success by. I face a reality every day that I named as being one of my great fears when I was younger. I have been made to feel as less than worthless by some of the people I thought would love and support me forever. And yet here I am.
There is something worse than your fear coming true. There’s letting your fear stop you.
(Except for snakes. I have no intention of attempting to address my issue with snakes.)