Sunday, March 06, 2011

Facing Fear

Fear can serve as a writer’s greatest enemy.

It can keep you from beginning a new project or prevent you from probing your heart too deeply.

It can create a wall past which you’re unable--or unwilling--to go, and your view of the world will be diminished as a result.

But fear can also serve as a writer’s greatest ally.

It can alert you to the very subjects and themes that might serve as foundation stones for your stories.

The trick to using fear as an ally is to notice when you begin to feel afraid.

Rather than allowing it to stifle you, let fear open you to new views.

If you’re afraid of the dark or reluctant to talk about a particular subject, begin to notice the subtle shifts in your emotions when you enter a dark room or are invited to join a conversation. Try to stay present in that moment. Try to analyze the emotion and understand what’s causing the fear to rise in your gut.

If you notice that you’re afraid when you step into a dark room–or simply when you imagine yourself stepping into a dark room–you can use that fear as a catalyst for exploration in your writing.

If you notice that you shy away from a certain person, or that you’d prefer hiding in the back of the room rather than standing in front of a large audience, you may have found the material that will provide you with the very stuff of which good writing is made.

On the other hand, if you let fear paralyze you, you allow it to become your enemy, and you lose your chance to move past it, to use it to open a door into a new way of viewing yourself and the world.

The subjects and themes that we select to write about are not accidental. They are direct outgrowths of our personalities.

How we choose our themes and subjects (or how they choose us) may prove to be a mystery beyond our understanding.

But facing our fear to explore these subjects and themes will help us better understand what we need to write about... and, in the end, enrich our stories, as well as our lives.

How do you move past fear? What are some of the strategies that you’ve developed to keep fear from paralyzing you and leaving you motionless, stuck, unable to move past it?

Write when you get a chance and let us know.

For more information on facing fear, visit:

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