“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

― Frank Herbert, Dune

In any creative endeavor, fear is often the main obstacle to overcome. Even for someone who – as in my case – has been writing for years, I still find myself daunted by a clean, white page. It’s like standing on a cliff overlooking dark water. I know I can jump in…I’ve done it hundreds of times. But I’m still hesitant, unsure, anxious.

Sometimes it isn’t the first line or paragraph that gets me. I may already have that written out in my head. But once I get that on the page I have to take the next step into the unknown. Where is the story going? What are my characters going to do? What’s next? These are the little fears that make me pause.

It’s gotten better over the years. The more I write, both in volume and frequency, the easier it is to face my fears. It doesn’t take me as long to realize that I’m hesitating and force myself to push through. But still, the fear never really goes away. It’s always there in the background, waiting to push on the brakes, to slow my progress. Knowing and understanding are good defenses. I know my fear, know that it exists, and I’m able to face it, to acknowledge it, and that gives me the strength to overcome it.

I know I shouldn’t hesitate when I see the blank page. I should embrace it, knowing that I’m about to fill it with scenes from my imagination. I know I should be excited, ready to tell a tale, weave a tapestry of words, but there’s that pause and I think about it.

And that’s really where the fear originates, in the mind. Creativity, for me, is about spontaneity. I don’t like to over think a creative endeavor. In fact, I find that I’m most creative when I don’t think about what I’m doing, when I let my instinct, my inner voice, take over and guide my hands. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing freehand or typing away at my keyboard, letting my mind run with an idea always provides better results that a well-thought and mapped out story. I’ve learned that too much thinking, too much planning, ruins a story. It saps the creativity out of it.

Besides, I’ve also found that letting my mind improvise takes me down unexpected paths, down alternate alleys that I hadn’t considered. I can remember sitting down to write one story with a basic premise in mind, a start, middle, and end. But I let myself go at the beginning, just following my main character as they followed the path I expected them to go down. What happened was that after a few paragraphs my character did something I hadn’t considered, and this led the story down another avenue. What I ended up with was a really good story, but not the story I had envisioned.

So it works out for me when I let go, don’t overthink, and in doing so, I can avoid fear. Fear, as I noted above, comes from the mind, from over thinking. Too much thinking brings up too many options, too many “what ifs”.

Fear can be an obstacle, but it doesn’t have to be. Fear in any form – fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of trying something new, fear of the blank page – can never be completely eliminated, but it can be recognized, accepted, and overcome.

RB


Storytelling, Part 1 Raymond Carver

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