Something people ask me about a lot: Am I going to write in the book about facing my fear of writing the book?
The answer is, probably not. That would be getting a bit too meta for me. But I do want to talk about it a bit here, because the FEAR IS REAL. With every story or writing project I tackle, there are two versions of the thing. The first is the image I have in my head, when I’m starting out: the ideal, perfect, imagined text. Then there’s the second version, the flawed reality, the one that I wrestle with until my deadline, adding and deleting, moving things around, trying to force the draft closer to that imagined version #1.
When I got my book deal, I was thrilled and excited for approximately 30 seconds. Then the fear and dread set in. Now, I realized, I would have to create version #2 of the fear book I’d been writing in my head for two years. That was terrifying.
I responded with, well, avoidance (a term that’s going to come up a fair bit in the book). I procrastinated. I worked on other projects. I read unrelated books, re-arranged the books on my bookshelves, hung new art on the walls of my apartment - anything to avoid putting words on the page and being forced to see how inadequate they were in comparison to version #1.
But while avoidance can sometimes be a practical coping mechanism for some phobias (at least in the short term), it’s not a great way to handle the best professional opportunity / greatest professional challenge of your career. So I had to stop hiding and start typing. Now, at the suggestion of a writer pal, I’m working on strict but modest and achievable weekly word counts, and trying not to second-guess myself too much as I go. As much as possible, I’m leaving the assessment and revision and self-criticism (and angst and self-flagellation and and and) for later in the process. Right now, the plan is just to get the words down.
I’m taking the next three days off for Christmas (and will, of course, be watching Kevin McAllister face his fears in Home Alone, as I do every year) but then I’ll be back at it.
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Happy New Year!
ps: Oh, and a reading recommendation. The very first book I read, back when I started thinking about this project in 2016, was Laurence Gonzales’ Deep Survival
, a long look at the dynamics that influence who survives in a disaster or other high-risk situation. Here’s a line that stayed with me from early in the book:
“After years of working at it, flying upside down, flying jets and helicopters, and having a few ‘confidence builders,’ I got to the point where nearly every flight was almost pure joy. I say almost because, even today, there is the residual anxiety before each flight, the knot in the stomach, that tells me I’m not a fool, that I know I’m taking a calculated risk in pitting my skill and control against a complex, tightly coupled, unstable system with a lot of energy in it. I’ll always be the tiny jockey on a half-ton of hair-trigger muscle. Fear puts me in my place. It gives me the humility to see things as they are.”