Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to Write Scared

In my undergraduate days I hung out with other students who questioned the value of book-learning over direct experience. There's a lot to be said for direct experience, and one of the direct experiences I had was getting stoned.

This happened several times.

One night I was visiting a friend at her apartment off campus, where we enjoyed some of the latest imports, and it was time for me to get back to my dorm, some ten miles away. We went out to her car. I headed toward the passenger door but she stopped me, pushed her keys into my hand, and said, "You drive."

"Oh, I'm too stoned."

"Elizabeth. You've got to learn to drive stoned."

Although these days I'm known for prudent judgment and a strong sense of social responsibility, in those days I was not.

"Well, how do I learn to drive stoned?" I inquired.

"By driving stoned."


"You just have to believe you can do it."

At the moment, the logic was pure and powerful. So I got behind the wheel, believing I could drive perfectly well stoned, including the part of the route that went past the state police post. In fact I drove back to campus perfectly well.

I took from that experience an important lesson, and it was this: An impairment need not be an impediment.

Needless to say, I don't advocate driving under the influence of anything but caffeine. But this lesson relates to much in life, especially writing.

You've Got a Book in You

Fear comes to all writers sometimes: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of mediocrity. Fear makes you tighten up. Tightness is no good. Therefore, it's a fact that the state of fear is an impairment. But it need not be an impediment.

The cool, fantastic reality is that we don't have to vanquish fear in order to write with zest and freedom. If you're too scared to write, just write a little bit and see how you feel.

Understand that the way to consistent output in writing is to be able to write under any emotional load. And there is no trick or technique to doing it.

Every day, simply act on your writing goals, no matter how good you've gotten at inventing obstacles for yourself, like anxiety. Welcome cold fear, let it rush to you, fangs foaming.

Then go about your writing.

Surprisingly, your fear will snuggle up close to you while you write. It will get warm.

What's fear but another friend, anyway?

Breaking news p.s.:
I'll be presenting two sessions at Writer's Digest Conference West,
Sept 27 - 29 in Los Angeles.  Early registration before July 19 is $50
off the full price.
Sessions by me:
"How to Write a Dynamite Mystery or Thriller That SELLS"
and "Quit Your Day Job - Seriously!"
More on this soon. 

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  1. This is awesome. Not to mention excellent, practical advice (the writing part, I mean). Part of my route back in the day went past the State Police Post was just what we did. Have to say, I never would have made this connection about how an impairment need not be an impediment on my own!

    1. Accidentalstepmom! So good to see you here! I remember our correspondence about one of my articles in WD a while back. Very glad you found value in this, and how cool that your route involved the State Police as well...


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