I’ll be speaking tonight at The Writers’ Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA on the subject of Fearless Writing. (If you’re in the neighborhood, the event is from 7:00 – 8:00; a splendid time is guaranteed for all.) The title is a bit misleading, however, because writing doesn’t really begin until I have forgotten to be afraid. The question is: Can I forget on purpose, or must I wait until I have somehow managed to distract myself with the bright lights of an interesting story? I write this column in part because I have come to understand that with practice it is quite possible to forget fear on purpose. But practice I must. The moment my attention drifts even one step into the maze of what other people might think about what I have written, I am lost and afraid. It is an easy enough mistake to make. I write to communicate with other people. Other people’s imaginations are the final destinations for everything I write. Why not think about it?
Because I do not actually care what other people think of what I have written. I am only afraid that what I think of what I have written matters less than what other people think about it. It feels a little selfish not to care what other people think about my writing, narcissistic even. Yet it remains the only way to write something worth sharing with anyone else.
After all, what better gift is there to give someone than the knowledge that they are complete as they are? And how might I share this gift unless I receive it first myself? This is how I practice forgetting to be afraid, by returning my attention again and again and again to the gift I wish to share and away from how I dream it will be received. No dream can live without my attention; they soon become nothing more than exits passed on the highway on my journey home.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.