Writing and Fear

What if an aspect of your creative work scares or upsets you? Should you change that part of the painting, or modify that design element in your performance, or stop exploring what that character is doing in your novel?

A.M. Homes

The novel The End of Alice by A.M. Homes is “a tale told by a pedophile in his twenty-third year in a maximum security prison. He is intelligent; he is witty; he is profoundly dangerous.

“Beyond the reality of his stark cell and the violent perversion of the other inmates lies his imagination, which he turns to his past, to an ‘accident’ with a little girl named Alice, and now to the erotic life of a nineteen-year-old suburban co-ed who draws him into a flirtatious epistolary exchange.”

[Summary from her site amhomesbooks.com]

Homes admits in an interview that it is “a profoundly disturbing book. It’s a serious book, an upsetting book…

“Writing fiction, to me, means being inside other people’s heads. But this head was so completely unfamiliar and dark…”

“It was really, really hard. I remember feeling awful by the end of it. I was depressed and sad. I went into a bookstore to do some research, looking up stabbings and forensic reports, the details of these sorts of things, and I remember standing in the bookstore, literally crying.”

She adds, “I once jokingly told someone that every book is like a relationship. They’re four or five years long – that’s not so bad. They’re serious. They demand a lot of attention. But I remember thinking that I wanted to have one with someone who’s not so crazy and peculiar and demanding.”

[From interview “A. M. Homes Is a Big Fat Liar” by Dave Weich, Powells.com]

In an Elle magazine interview [Crimes of the Heart, by Randall Kenan], she responded to a question about people describing the novel as shocking:

“It scared me sometimes when I was writing it; at times I had to stop—I frightened myself. I don’t know that shock’s such a bad thing… but I thought intellectually and artistically that this was the most ambitious book I’d tried.”

Another title of hers is The Mistress’s Daughter: A Memoir

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Mark MatousekMark Matousek comments about anxiety and writing:

“While the vast majority of writers, both amateur and professional, struggle with anxiety over their work, too little is understood about this occupational hazard.

“Many experience the common fears of not knowing where to start, how to structure their time, how to become comfortable with solitude, and not give up on their vision. Writers worry about not finding the right words to say exactly what they mean, how to deal with criticism, and how to put their work into the world.  

“The blank page, which Hemingway called ‘the white bull,’ threatens to charge them and leave them helpless in the fight to bring their writing into the world.”

Mark Matousek is an author, teacher, and speaker. His comments are about his Writing Through Fear six-week course “for writers of all levels determined to free themselves of the fear of writing and discover their authentic writer’s voice.”

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Dennis Palumbo, a writer and therapist specializing in creative issues, addresses the question of whether or not to back away from strong feelings:

“If I, the writer, get out of my own way – that is, put my ‘stuff’ aside so I can write – what’s left to write about? My stuff is the raw material of my writing.

Janet Fitch“In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and just say it: There is nothing but stuff. Which is great, because that means I’ll never run out of raw material. As long as I’m a human being, I have an inexhaustible supply.”

Janet Fitch teaches a graduate fiction seminar in the University of Southern California, and is author of White Oleander and Paint it Black.

She notes, “Depression, suffering and anger are all part of being human. Even though it’s painful to go through these things, for the writer, it’s essential.”

From post: Our Stuff is the Raw Material of Writing.

Dennis Palumbo is author of Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within.

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Here are more writer’s comments on some of the fears we may come up against:

“I have general feeling of anxiety when I sit down and open up that blank page.”

“I feel like I can’t keep excitement in my stories.”

“I keep asking myself is this good enough.”

“I’m judging myself.”

Christine Kloser quote“I feel like I’m missing the mark.”

“I don’t think have anything new or valuable to share, although I know my experience has been profound.” …

These quotes are from a free ebook by Transformational Book Coach Christine Kloser. She comments:

“Sometimes what you write will make you cry and a few of you – there was more than just a handful, write in about how you have this fear of the emotions that the writing brings up.

“You’re writing about perhaps some clearing some things that had happened in the past that were really painful to go through and the releasing of them on the page for the purpose of serving your reader through those same, narrow paths.”

She advises writers to:

“Take a deep breath. You asked for this. You asked to discover how to put an end to the blank page and how to face it with confidence, clarity and courage. This exercise here is going to help…”

From How to Face the Blank Page with Confidence, Clarity and Courage – free ebook by Christine Kloser.

Find out about her many other resources at www.christinekloser.com.

Also, see more Programs for Authors and Writer Entrepreneurs.

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How about you? Do you relate to any of the fears above? How do you deal with fear?


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