Last week I talked about my TV addiction and how it’s a distraction from my fear of writing. I decided to do an experiment and see what happened when TV was removed from the equation.
At first I was just kind of bored. But the silence was ringing in my ears and the house was creaking and making ghostly noises. Fear settled over me. Before long, I was crying.
Without TV and social media and books, there’s nothing to distract you from all the things you use them to distract yourself from. You’re confronted by your shit and forced to deal with it.
I was lonely. I’d always loved living alone. What had changed? Nothing. The truth is I’d never really liked living alone. That’s just something I said in an effort to convince myself. Women who are alone in books and movies are always portrayed as lonely, missing something. They’re on a constant search for a man. Is that true? People talk about clichés with disdain but they’re clichés because they’re mostly true. Is that what I was? I didn’t know. But I realized all at once I was ready to socialize again. About time too. It’s been 4 months since my relationship ended.
I quit crying long enough to finish a story I started two months ago. Immediately I decided I didn’t like it all that much. That’s why it’d taken me so long to finish. It started out promising enough but I got off course. The original point of the story was that there’s nothing wrong with being different and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This evolved into thinking for yourself and learning to stand up for what’s right no matter how many people are against you. I was trying to cram two points into one story which pulled it in different directions. Solution? Write two different stories, one to make each point, and see which you like the best.
But there’s something still not right here. What is it? And the old writing fear popped up. It leered at me, relishing my panic. It’s not right because I suck and I’m not really meant to be a writer. I should just turn the TV back on and forget it.
I was sorely tempted but resisted. Why? Because fear can be more than an impediment. It can be a propellant. I realized you can only give up so many times before it becomes permanent. There’s no do over for life, no second chance. I had to sort this out. So I asked the big question all writers should ask from time to time: What do you want to write?
I know the answer but not how to describe it because it’s mostly just a feeling. You know the feeling? When you come across a picture or idea that resonates deep within you, so deep it feels like it’s always been there? It’s part of you, in a way. Sometimes it feels more like a memory than a new idea.
For example, I saw a picture the other day of a girl in a flowy, chiffon gown standing in the woods in the middle of the night. A crescent moon hangs huge and bright in front of her. She’s reaching out to touch it as the wind blows her dress around her. I don’t know why but that picture resonates with me. I can feel the wind in my hair and see the light of that impossible moon in front of me. I know that’s not a memory. I’ve never wandered out to the woods in the night or owned a chiffon dress. And how many times have you seen a moon hanging just inches from the ground? But it gives me that feeling. Over and over I get that same feeling, triggered by similar things. It’s fleeting and always gone before I pin it down. But it’s to do with nature and magic and adventure. So why am I not writing that kind of story?
The fear tried to tell me again that it’s because I suck but that’s not true. It’s because I haven’t done it yet. I have to get these other stories out of the way first. I have to work my way up to it. You try and try again until you get it right. That’s all there is to it. No big mystery or secret. And now I know to follow that feeling because it will lead me in the right direction.
Did I get more writing done without TV? Yes, but only marginally. I didn’t churn out a novel. More importantly, I faced my fear. TV wasn’t the problem, I was. Now I know that I’m strong enough and brave enough to sit in the silence and face my own thoughts.
The key to getting over fear so you can write is to let yourself be consumed by it. You’ll realize it’s not that bad and you’ll find your way to the other side. That’s where the good stories live and the brave writers dwell.