On Fear, Writing, and Life
Three stories up. Unforgiving concrete below. My heart was hammering in my throat as I swung my leg over the balustrade of the balcony, and I froze, suddenly and acutely aware that dying was a possibility if I messed this up.
But I had to get out of the house. Everything I wanted was out of the house. I simply couldn’t stay in the house any longer.
Climbing from my balcony to my next door neighbour’s balcony was the only way out, since there was a party in the street below and many guests had parked their motorbikes and were sitting at tables right outside my front door. I didn’t know how long the party was going to continue. Eyeing the celebrations below me, I wondered how traumatic it might be for the guests if a phalang (foreigner) suddenly crashed their party—literally.
I changed my mind and retreated to my bedroom twice before I finally swung safely over the balustrade across to my neighbour’s balcony.
It turned out to be an easy feat. No death-defying leaps or genuinely dangerous acrobatics necessary. I was jubilant. I hadn’t died. I’d conquered my fear. I was free.
I’ve noticed this pattern of desire and fear when it comes to my writing, too—in fact, with quite a few things in my life.
I desire something—I simply want to write; I actually have a brilliant idea for a story or a blog; I want to get to know someone; I want to pursue a challenge at work; I want to make a difference in the world; I want (insert desire here).
Then fear rises, and often I retreat some, assaulted by doubts and twisted speculation that keep me frozen in place. I have nothing meaningful to say as a writer. My “brilliant” idea has been done before by better writers than I. That interesting, attractive person will reject me. I’m going to screw up that work challenge; the kids will hate me; my colleagues will be disappointed in me; I won't really make a difference; I will be a failure.
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" Vincent van Gogh
"I wondered about the explorers who'd sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams." Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care
I am learning not to listen to whatever lies fear tries to whisper into my soul. Some risks are worth taking, and dreams deeply written on the heart are worth pursuing.
So I write again. And I strive to live.