Firstly apologies for the lack of posts recently. I am engaged in the delicious torture that is NaNoWriMo – where one foolishly agrees to attempt to write a WHOLE novel of fifty thousand words in one month. Tis my very first attempt at a novel so wish me luck! At this point I have ten thousand words to go and less than a week! What drives me? Well mainly FEAR. Firstly fear of failure seems to be doing the trick, but maybe, just maybe I am doing it to face those fears. To conquer them. Maybe, just maybe, I can write a good novel…
So it’s fitting that I present to you a guest post that ruminates on this very subject by the deliciously dark REN WAROM:
Tremendously tall Simon requested I write something dark and terrible for my guest post on his blog. So I bent the not very considerable powers of my mind to hunting up a suitably dark and terrible topic. There was a great deal of black smoke. Fire alarms went off in a ten-mile radius. I may have required minor damping down. But all that’s in the past now…
And lo, I have one. Possibly the darkest and most terrible of them all, because not only is it invisible, all pervasive and utterly subjective, it is something we are all slaves to, something we all battle. A mutual foe. A deadly assassin. The thing I speak of my friends, is fear. Oh yes… that nasty little gremlin that lurks within the frontal lobe whispering sweet nothings of doom to the subconscious, placing the plastic explosive of doubt into the soft matter of confidence.
See, I picked up Dune to re-read very recently, and it sparked many thoughts of how one faces fear and drives it out so it can never again darken the door of ambition. How did Dune do this? Simple. It contains my favourite mantra against fear, from the code of the Bene Gesserit. A mantra we encounter when Paul is to face the box with the Gom Jabber against his neck. It’s possibly the finest mantra against fear ever created and it reads as follows (and I’m sure I’m just repeating something everyone knows but it’s so beautiful I couldn’t refrain):
‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain,’
Not only is it narrative poetry, it hits directly on the nub of what fear is, an invader, an interloper, seeking to tear down the walls of our self-belief, our assurance, and bury us in the rubble of defeat. It’s the invading alien that seeks to stop us in our tracks, hold us back, prevent us from growing. It’s the flight not the fight. But often, we’re running away from nothing but shadows.
But what if no one likes me? What if I can’t do this? What if I try and I’m actually not that good? These words, and many more like them, are the tools of fear. The quakes that rock the ground beneath your feet, that weaken the strength beneath your resolve. Fear is why so many of us stop before we ever really even start. Which, when you really think about it, is daft. The shadows may grow large and terrible but, in essence, shadows is all they are. Figments of the gremlin’s powers, wisps, illusions.
They are like the desert oasis reversed. With the lush verdant waterhole being your confidence and the fear as illusions of barren, life-stealing desert. They rise up not to give us hope but to drive hope from us. Make us think that all there is, for miles, is that desert, and that we were fools to think anything otherwise.
As a writer, it’s kind of appropriate to be talking about fear at this time of year, when NaNoWriMo is in full force. It being a giant, heaving mass of bison charging straight at the voice of fear to drive it from the internal prairie (I apologise for that metaphor profusely). It says ‘what the hell if you can’t?’ ‘who cares if no one likes it?’ ‘who cares if it’s not that good?’ ‘Just go DO it.’
That’s the purest essence of facing your fear. Permitting it to pass over you and through you as you just sit down and let the words come, forgetting such notions as ‘can’t’ and ‘failure’. Let’s shove some concrete boots on them and drown them in the Wrimo. Let’s raise pens or fingers and conquer. Let us, in fact, pour the waters of triumph on the gremlin and nuke his arse with a thousand volts of up yours accomplishment.
That’s how it starts, the fight, seeing that gremlin melt to pile of green goo, seeing the lush waterhole of confidence reappear and realising that you’ve been duped by fear. Now don’t think that’s the end of it all. Oh no. You’ll have to do it over and over again if you want to turn that mass of undirected words into a published novel, or make that film career happen, or run that marathon, or begin that baking business, or just get out there more amongst people and live a little.
But if every time you face that gremlin head on, clutching in the one hand your hose of triumph and in the other your thousand volts of up yours accomplishment, then you’ll find that each battle becomes easier and easier. It’s like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Until one day, you look that Gremlin in the eye… and it turns into a cute, singing Mogwai.
And that, my friends, is the day you stop using the hose. And er… stop fearing too. Yeah. Because I totally had a point here. Suck on that fear. Yeah. Suck it.
Ren is a writer of the strange, dark and bizarre. She’s also a certified Pirate-Nun, mum of three spawn and slave to several cats. You can find her stories in The City of Hell anthology and the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual coming this December and in the ofAlteredStates and Machine of Death anthologies coming in 2012. You can check out her blog, including her weird serial ‘The Umwelt’ here: http://renwaromsumwelt.wordpress.com/ or you can stalk her on twitter: @RenWarom
© 2011 Ren Warom & Simon Poore