The First Time I Gave into My Writing Fears
Five years ago, I took a small step toward my dream of becoming a writer.
One evening, while doing online research, I came across the Long Ridge Writers Group website. Intrigued by what I read, I requested information about their writing program. In less than a week, I received a packet that included an aptitude test.
The packet arrived at a difficult time: my husband was dying of cancer. Two months earlier, I had taken a leave of absence from work to be with Jim in the last months of his life.
One of the ways I coped with this painful reality was to write. I created a CaringBridge site to keep family and friends updated about Jim’s health. I also used it to write about our experiences. Ever the historian, I wanted a written record of our remaining months together.
That writing, along with seeing a therapist, helped me get through the toughest period of my life. It also had the unexpected effect of rekindling my love of writing. A love I had repressed for years.
Sure, I had plenty of experience writing: academic writing, business writing. Lots of everyday, practical writing that came from the mind.
But I had done very little creative writing. The kind of writing that came from the heart.
I soon realized my soul was starved for it. I yearned to do more meaningful, authentic writing that connected with readers on an emotional level.
This growing desire reflected where I was in my life. During those rough last months, as I was letting go of Jim and of the life we shared, my heart was being broken open. I was being broken open. For the first time in years, I was living from the heart.
And I longed to write from the heart.
When the packet arrived, I looked at it thoughtfully, wondering if it was the beginning of something special.
I didn’t have much time to think about it, though. I had more pressing needs. Jim’s latest MRI came back with bad news.
I set the packet on the kitchen table where it stayed for over a week.
Eventually, I picked it up, reviewed the materials, and slowly completed the writing test. I worked on it in the evenings, while Jim dozed in the chair next to me. The chemotherapy made him drowsy; he was usually asleep by eight.
I sent in the test in early April. A month later, two weeks before Jim died, I got the results. By then I had forgotten about it. Hospice had been called in.
I remember smiling and thinking to myself “cool” when I read that I had passed the test. I briefly reviewed the enrollment materials, then put them away for another time.
In the weeks after Jim died, I enrolled in the course. It was a small step toward my new life, even as I was grieving the loss of my husband.
Within a couple of months though, I realized I wasn’t in a good place emotionally to work on the assignments and meet the deadlines. Yet I didn’t want to give it up. So I requested a six months leave of absence.
I don’t regret taking the leave of absence. It was what I truly needed at the time.
However, when the six months were up, rather than return to the course, or take another short break, I talked myself out of it.
I told myself: if I really wanted to be a writer, I needed to focus on more practical writing – to make money. Later, I could return to more meaningful writing.
I told myself: I would return to it – one day.
As important as writing was to me, I chose the easy way out: I gave into my fears. I used concern about finances as an excuse to turn away from the writing I really wanted to do.
I allowed my fears, and other people’s opinions, which reinforced my fears, to carry more weight than my inner voice. What I knew in my heart was right for me.
I withdrew from the course. And, in doing so, I denied the writer in me.
It would take me another two years – two years of an internal tug-of-war between my desire to write and my resistance to it – before I was ready to try again.
The blog essay, Another New Beginning, represented just that: another new beginning in my writing journey.
The decision to drop the course marked the beginning of my journey to becoming a writer.
No, I take that back. I was already a writer. It was part of who I was. I just didn’t understand that. I thought of being a writer in strictly professional terms. It was something I had to become, hence the need to take a course.
My decision to withdraw from the class marked the beginning of a long, tough, inner journey of acknowledging the writer in me.
Accepting her. Honoring her. And embracing her.
Now I know in my soul: I am a writer.
Back then, a big part of me – my fears – resisted and fought against that part of myself. Truth be told: I was scared to embrace the writer in me. I was scared to follow my heart. To take the leap. To do what I longed to do.
Today, my writing fears are still here. Still trying their best to keep me from writing.
What’s changed is my attitude toward them.
It’s taken me five years to understand – to really internalize – that fear, and the resistance that comes with it, is a part of the creative process. That it’s natural, that it’s normal, that it’s okay.
And that it never actually goes away.
It’s taken me that long to learn that being the writer I want to be means facing my fears, accepting them, and working through them. Not fighting them or running away from them.
It also means that I need to keep writing – no matter what.
Years of fighting and I can tell you: the pain and discomfort of not writing is 100 times worse than the fear of actually sitting down and writing.
When fear raises its ugly head, it doesn’t take me long to remember how unbearable it is to not write. Nor does it take long for me to get my butt in the chair.
I don’t deny: there are days when I still struggle.
But now I accept that the fear is just there, a part of the process. Not something to beat myself up about. I have learned – and I continue to learn – not to give it so much power.
To simply let it be.
And to show up every day and honor my soul’s need to write.
* Photo credit: Image from Flickr by Korona4Reel