Writing through Fear
by Laurel Garver
Conventional wisdom says fear is something we must combat as writers. It steals our joy, robs us of creativity, yada, yada, yada. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as neurotic as the next person banging away at a keyboard, with hefty baggage aplenty that Dr. Freud would love to unpack.
However, I happen to think that combating fear is counterproductive.
Why? Fear is one of the deepest, most primal urges we have as humans. It is a core motivator, the inverse of most desires, and therefore, key for understanding and creating the stakes of any story.
Fear is something we shouldn’t try to send packing, but rather stalk, study, and seek to deeply understand. If you spend your days chasing it away, you might find yourself at a loss for anything important to say.
Instead, consider the things you fear as grist for the mill, fodder for your hungry imagination. Ask yourself, why does this scare me? what history does it return me to? what possible futures do I believe it will lead to? The best antagonists you will write are born the moment you look under your bed and stare your own personal boogeyman right in the face.
Fear is also a potent source of material for poems. Poetry seeks to distill experience into brief, intense verbal happenings, and nothing is more immediately intense than fear. My strongest work has captured moments when fear is first glimpsed, recognized, understood, or courageously faced, be the feared thing vindictive chickens, air travel, a parent’s mental illness, powerlessness over cycles of poverty, or my own frailties.
Know your fears. Write them. You will always have a story to tell.
Laurel Garver (@LaurelGarver on Twitter) is the author of the novel NEVER GONE, and MUDDY-FINGERED MIDNIGHTS, a new poetry collection about creative life, our capacity to wound and heal, and the unlikely places we find love, beauty, and grace. Learn more about her books at http://laurelgarver.blogspot.com/2012/0