I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
— Frank Herbert, Dune
Fear is not unique to writers, but we do seem to spend a lot of time dwelling in its kingdom. Sometimes I think the only thing I spend more time doing than being afraid of some element of writing is trying not to be afraid. It’s a little bit insane.
Let’s talk about fear.
Fear is not the enemy. It doesn’t exist to stop you achieving greatness; it exists to make you consider whether your intended actions will lead to greatness or despair. Will jumping off a cliff make you a daredevil, or a particularly unappetising pancake? Fear is that little voice that stands with you at the edge of the precipice and says: “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
And yet much of our culture is based on the precept that fear is bad. The only thing worse in our society than being afraid is telling people that you’re afraid. People are literally afraid of being perceived as being afraid. This particularly applies to men, incidentally, who are conditioned by society to believe that admitting to emotions of any kind–particular fear–equates to “weakness”, but it’s true of anyone who prides themselves on their objectivity and rationality.
Is it just me, or is that a little messed up?
Fear is anxiety caused by the anticipation of an imagined future event or experience. It’s the answer to “what if”, when imagined by a pessimist. Or a novelist—after all, isn’t imagining “what if” and then “making it worse” essentially the job description of a writer?
Writers’ fear tends to manifest in one of a few ways.