I’m teaching quite a bit this summer, and one of the things that writers always talk about is their fears. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of self-revelation. Fear of your sister realizing that awful character is her. Free-floating fears, too, that morph into whatever shape currently needed to keep the writer from taking whatever plunge is required just now.
I am a person who has always been afraid. My six year old self was so afraid of wrecked cars that it seemed I could hear a chorus of screams whenever we passed a junkyard. This caused a lot of trouble in my family because we had to pass a junkyard on the way to picking my father up from work, and I would be hysterical about it before we ever arrived. My father finally decided to address it by taking me to the junkyard and showing me there was nothing to worry about. I clearly remember being carried into the area, all those cars smashed and wrecked, crumpled bumpers and shattered windows, and all that violence.
But once I stopped sobbing, I noticed—huh–they weren’t screaming. They were just lying there, quiet and spent. There was a dog in the junkyard. He was black and friendly and he let me pet him. A few weeks later, I was walking home from school and suddenly came upon a parked car with a big dent in it. I stopped, poised to freak out, but I just looked at it and it didn’t scream. It was fine.
This might sound like the beginnings of a schizophrenic break, but the truth is, I had accidentally wrecked my mother’s car a couple of years before. We had come home from the grocery store, and my mother carried my baby sister and two bags of groceries into the house, and told me and my other sister to sit still and she’d be right back. Seizing the day, I scooted over and said, “Let’s drive!” and pushed down the emergency brake. The car was on a little slope, and it started rolling down the driveway and smashed into the side of the house. There wasn’t much damage. I mean, I don’t think so. I remember pulling the brake, but nothing after that. Neither of us were hurt.
Physically. [Read more…]