How to Face Fear in Writing
Recently, I went on a press trip to Arizona, visiting Phoenix and Mesa. Part of our tour was trying stand up paddleboarding with a company called No Snow. Stand up paddle boarding is paddling in water with an oar on a big surfboard. I must admit that I’m not the best at water sports and have terrible balance, so the idea of paddle boarding made me nervous. Everyone talked about their fear of falling into the water, including me. When it came time for me to get on the board, I took some deep breaths and about five minutes later, I fell backwards in the water, completely soaked. An instructor paddled over to me and gave me directions on how to get back on the board. Two minutes, I fell off again. Needless to say, I was embarrassed, but I had a choice—either quit or get back on the board and try again. I kicked back on and was able to stay afloat. I took some deep breaths and admitted that I could live in fear or just try my best.
As a writer, there are some big and little fears with every step of the creative process. For every piece I publish, there are several pitches that went nowhere. For every completed draft, there were the niggling fears that told me, “This won’t work.” Doubt and fear can either paralyze you or push you to get back on the board, so to speak.
I’ve succumbed to the fear. After graduating with my MFA at NYU, I sent my play to 11 NYC theaters and promptly got rejected by all of them. Instead of getting back on the board, I gave up. Rejection was a huge blow to my playwriting self-esteem. I stopped writing plays for a number of years, until I reached a point this year when I realized how much I missed theater. There were ideas brewing that begged to be turned into plays. So I picked myself up and admitted that I could live in fear for the rest of my writing career, or I could just try my best. I recently finished my first draft of a full-length play—something I haven’t done in years and it felt good. Yes, it needs work, but I tried my best and the next draft will be better.
I share this because I hope creative people who are reading this understand that trying your best and doing what you love is your only way to battle those fears. You are not your fears. You are meant to live a life you love, to quote Patricia Moreno (one of my favorite fitness instructors).
Get back on the board and keep on being creative.