The Fear You Feel at the Bottom of a Cliff

The pits of the internet must be paved with defunct, discarded, forgotten blogs. Some of them are probably awful — livejournal entries of teenage angst, or first attempts by non-writers to be writers — and some are probably brilliant, but they’re all there together. I imagine them lying in a sort of cluttered heap, all these miscellaneous ramblings and writings echoing on and on with no one to see or listen to them.

Whenever I leave my blog for too long — which is really more the normal state of things than otherwise — I always start asking myself why I think I want to blog in the first place. It’s not because I have any particular thing to say. If anything, it’s because I wish I did have a particular thing to say, and sitting here trying to say it might bring some much-needed clarity to the matter.

The blogs I like the best are the ones that aren’t afraid of getting personal. And of course I try to do the same, with one major difference: I am at least a little afraid of getting personal. It’s not the details that matter, but the threat of letting slip a little too much. It’s the same fear that we all share, that makes it so hard to show any of our work to anyone: fear of rejection, not of the piece itself but of ourselves. Every time I start a new blog post the same thing always happens: I get about halfway or two-thirds of the way done and the idea shrinks suddenly, squeezed to tiny insignificance by my own fears. I’ve got to stop doing that, both here and elsewhere in my writing. I should try to be braver.

That reminds me of a post I saw a little while ago, by Kat Howard. It’s titled “A manifesto to myself” and it says what I’m saying here (or trying to say here) in a lot fewer words.

Scare yourself. If you’re not afraid of what you’re doing, pick a different project.

I think I’ve known for a while now that I do my best writing when there’s that edge of fear running alongside, propelling me almost — not fear in the sense of horror (though sometimes there’s that) but the fear that comes when you’re on the cusp of a difficult transition or change. The fear before the plunge. The fear you feel at the bottom of a cliff, neck craned to look up. Am I going there? And sometimes the answer is yes. Lately, though, the answer has been yes only to a point, at which point I flail (creatively and sometimes literally) and stew around and then give up. I stop. In fact the problem I have now, the problem I’ve been having for a while, is that I haven’t finished anything in so long I’ve forgotten how to do it. And it’s mostly (or at least partly) because I’ve given in to the fear instead of letting it propel me forward.

So I’m going to try to stop doing that, obviously. I’m going to remind myself that fear is often an indicator that I’m on the right track, and I’m not going to let it stop me. In fact I’ll try to revel in it — easy enough to do at the beginning, but harder and harder as the pages pile up behind me, messy and unedited and disastrously imperfect. Still, I’ll relearn how to push through, how to finish things. I’ll start with this blog post, because the small steps matter. When I finish and press Publish, I’ll have this one minor victory behind me, this one moment when I didn’t let my silly fears lock me in silence.

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2 thoughts on “The Fear You Feel at the Bottom of a Cliff

  1. I love that manifesto. Like a lot. (I must be following it right now because I’m scared to death, lol.) You’re such a talented writer, Lura. Your post drew me in and carried me along, and I felt it every step of the way. And I know exactly how you feel; I do the same thing sometimes. When I recognize that I’m doing it, I’ll try to finish one small thing, like a flash fiction or short story, just to prove to myself that I can before I move on to tackle the big things. I hope you continue to push through!

    1. Lura Slowinski

      It’s definitely an excellent manifesto; I’ve bookmarked it for days when I need that reminder. And I like your idea of focusing on a small thing just to remind yourself you can finish. I guess that’s what I did with this post, but I should definitely keep it in mind for future.

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