Fear and the Writer
*technical note: Yes, I know my blog is acting wonky — thank you for noticing :) I am hoping to get help to fix it later today*
The latest WIP is giving me fits. (And I won’t tell you which one…) The first draft was suspiciously easy to write, caused little drama in my daily life. It just unrolled, ten pages at a time, and now that I am revising it I can see what is wrong. The writing is safe, controlled, and dead. It skates along the surface of the story, a very difficult, heart-rending story. The emotion in it remains untouched.
And there’s the problem, right there. This book scares the daylights out of me. The themes in it have sent me to therapy in the past — and that is not hyperbole but simple everyday fact. I have nightmares about the things the main characters have nightmares about, in this book. This book cuts close to the bone.
I don’t know how you cope with mindbending fear, but my coping mechanism since my earliest days has been to shut down, get very, very calm, pretend the terrifying thing isn’t there at all. Skate along the illusion of serenity on the surface, whistle past the graveyard, and keep the primal terror locked up, hidden way down deep.
This is not a good coping mechanism for life or for writing. I have learned, alas, that I have to dive right into the fear, GO THERE, face it directly. I know other people write from other emotions (and that sounds like a great idea at the moment!). But I also know that writing must be honest, must stay close to its emotions, or it is too safe and remote from the reader.
Whatever terrifies me, whatever I’ve been desperately avoiding — that’s exactly what I have to write about. That’s the charge right there, that’s where the good stuff is hiding, all hidden and tied up. I have to let the monster loose.
I can’t tell you directly about what I’m writing about — that would take the charge out of the writing. Read my books (she said, with a mysterious smile on her face). But what scares you the most? If you are a writer, maybe that’s what you should be writing about, too.