Linda Kulp Trout

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing and Fear

A few years ago, a friend wanted me to go snow tubing. My first response was, "I'm too old for that." Since he's close to my age, he wasn't buying it. I continued with every excuse I could think of: "I don't have the right clothes to wear, I have too much to do, I'll try it another time." I was afraid of failing, and he knew it. He wouldn't relent unitl I agreed to try tubing down a hill in our neighborhood.

Walking to the top of that hill, my mind was racing. What if I get hurt, what if I hurt someone else, and what will people watching me think? Tubing was not in my comfort zone, but my friend wouldn't let me back out. Then, suddenly there I was whooshing down the hill. Immersed in the experience, the fear was gone and I was actually enjoying myself.

It's the same way with writing, especially writing poetry. My poems come from my life and putting myself out there for everyone to see is scary. Fear blocks me from writing the truth. What if I cross the line and expose too much and look like a fool? What if I reveal something that hurts someone I love? What if I don't have anything worth saying? When fear takes over, I start censoring every word, and my poems feel artifical.. They don't mean anythigng to me or to anyone who reads them.

Even when I'm writing in my journal, I sometimes censor my thoughts, especially when I'm writing about a family member. But, mostly, my journal is the place I feel safe enough to write the truth, my truth. This is the place I can write without fear. This is the place I am free to immerse myself in whatever I happen to be writing. So, how can I transfer that fearlessness to the writing I want to share with others? Do professional writers ever experience this kind of fear, or have they learned to overcome it?

This week I've been thinking a lot about Lucille Clifton. Her poems came from her life experiences. I think she might understand what I'm feeling. She wrote about fear in her poem, "telling our stories."

telling our stories

the fox came every evening to my door,
asking for nothing. my fear
trapped me inside, hoping to drive her
away but she sat till morning, watching.

You can read the rest of the poem and a tribute to Lucille Clifton here.

How about you, have you ever experienced fear when you sit down to write? Do you have any tips for moving past the fear?

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