The Only Victory

Christopher Moore said that writer’s block is giving fear a name. Strange in a way, this distinction, for doesn’t fear already have a name, and isn’t that name Fear? Yes, but how effective would it be were it left so naked? Best to dress it up, give it a role and a title, and then it isn’t merely fear, some hobgoblin of an idea we can dismiss—now it is Something Real. Now fear is a person or a disease or worse yet a Fact, and so we must deconstruct it, disprove it, defeat it. And as soon as we attempt any of these, we have lost. You cannot disprove fear any more than you can prove love. But fear invites you to disprove it, requires it even, for in your struggle fear grows stronger, because the more you try and the more you fail to disprove fear the more real fear becomes. After all, why would you bother trying to disprove if it wasn’t real? Your very efforts prove its reality, and the more you struggle to answer a question that you alone asked, the further into the forest of this nightmare you wander.

When I look into this mirror we call writing, I see all of life reflected back at me. Nothing I have ever done in my life has ever filled me with so much fear or made me so happy. I wish sometimes, like a child alone in a dark house for the first time, that some wiser presence would come home and turn on all the lights for me. Yet if it were to be so, I would be no safer, for only time would separate me from the fear waiting to answer the call of my own thoughts.

Writing means so much to me precisely because I have so feared it. As it is nothing to love your brother but everything to love your enemy, so too is it true that you learn the most in the moment when you at last understand that the monster is you. Fear deserves no name but your own, for it was never more than an idea of yours in the first place, and what we call victory is actually surrender.

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