Beginner’s Ball: Fear of Falling

hidingFear is an emotional response to threats and danger. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain. Psychologists John B. Watson, Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear is one of a small set of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joy, sadness, and anger. Fear should be distinguished from the related emotional state of anxiety, which typically occurs without any external threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. Worth noting is that fear always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable.

New things are often scary.

We are afraid to venture from our safe places, afraid to fall, afraid to fail, and in some cases, afraid to succeed.  Our reaction to that fear, whether it’s fight or flight, in a lot of ways stems from our upbringing.  I come from a family that fostered a habit of exploration, at least a little bit.  While no one crouched beside me, encouraging my six year old self to go explore, no one discouraged me either.  I spent my youth scaling trees, exploring random paths, and otherwise going places that in retrospect I’m certain would have given my mom fits.

I don’t climb trees any more.  If there’s one thing growing up has taught me is a healthy respect for gravity.  But I do explore random paths and I’m certain that my mom would at least raise an eyebrow at the things I do.

But, even scarier than trees and unknown paths are the depths of our imagination.  And sharing what our imagination creates can be downright paralyzing.  I didn’t originally plan to do my Beginner’s Ball post on fear.  I actually had planned to delve into perception a bit more.  But lately it seems I hear the words “fear”, “frightened”, and “scared” from all quarters.  And on other fronts, I’ve encountered the dark specters my own mind can conjure recently, and that, too, has seen me whisper, “I’m scared.”

Being an artist of any sort is a daunting prospect.  Of course, we’re specifically discussing being a writer.  And as such, pen name or no, you have to build a persona that has thick skin to deal with critics, you have to let rejections roll off your back, and you have brave the waters again and again.  I’m so new to this process that I haven’t had those really sink in yet.  I’m sharing my writing, but haven’t been through the submission and rejection process yet.  I will, and soon, though, I’m sure.

So.  We’re all afraid of falling.  What do you do to conquer that?  How do you work through the fears that plague the writing process?  Do you find yourself afraid to write something in particular?  A subject, theme, specific story lingering in the back of your mind?  How do you brave them, the trials your own mind sets before you?  If something specific haunts you, or has haunted you, have you come up with a plan of attack, or, if successful, how did you do it?

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10 Comments

  1. Wow, it’s really quiet. I know I’ve been busy all day with a friend. But I’ve been thinking about this.

    I don’t think I’ve managed to conquer my fear – it’s still with me, it’s just that more often than not I work past it. I learned that what scares me is often what I need to go towards. Go to the fear.

    Fears plague the writing process? Hahaha – never! Oops, you probably wanted the truth. I find that the fear hijacks the writing sometimes. I’ll end up typing in circles – if I type at all. And forget sitting down with a pen and paper then, that’s even harder. But I just keep not giving up.

    Yes, there are lots of things that I’m afraid to write. I hoping that one day soon I won’t be. I don’t know how and I have no plan (other than amorphous ideas in my head).

    Well, it’s after midnight and I better try to get some sleep. I’ll come back tomorrow or the next day – hopefully there will be more answers then.

  2. I dipped my toes in and out of writing for years. I made submissions and got rejections in writing and in a few other creative areas off and on through the 80’s and 90’s.

    Through most of this, I wrote erotica, but didn’t submit much of it. Almost none, truth be known.

    All in all, I didn’t experience any success until the last four years. What changed at that time was:

    1. A commitment to writing.
    2. Embracing erotica

    And in that order.

    When I committed to writing, I did a number of stories, mostly without erotic content and tried my hand at several markets. I didn’t fare so well. It was when I submitted one of my erotic stories (which my wife had advised in an early draft that I was holding back) and got accepted that I began to truly express myself, and wrote what I was inspired to write.

    It was after this that I found my way to being published.

    Perhaps it is the long timeline, the early exposure to rejections and adapting to them, and the fact that I kept my erotic work safely under lock and key until I was in my mid forties that has made me relatively comfortable in where I am.

    Maybe it’s a bit like learning to play guitar. The first time you pick one up, the fingers of your fretting hand are going to hurt pretty quickly. You stop, come back, stop, come back, and so on, until you build up calluses. If you try too hard, too early, you’re more likely to stop entirely. Then, as you play, you deal with issues of not being able to play like Eric Clapton.

    Okay, I’ve babbled enough. Suffice it to say, I feel the worst thing you can do is push too hard, too fast. There is a lot to absorb if you’re going to be a writer, and especially one of erotica. My time line was ridiculously long, and I don’t advise that, but I do advise working in short, attainable goals. Don’t try to take it all on at once.

  3. Robin, I find that I don’t fear the actual writing process – I can sit down and write almost anytime. But I do find fears plaguing me when I finish something ~ “Is this even worth proofreading?” “Can I let someone else read this?” and so on and so forth. I struggle with my own “writer’s self esteem”. I think that’s part of why I post so much to my blog…hoping for the feedback!

    Craig, you made some really good points. It is possible to push too hard too fast in all aspects of life, though I hadn’t thought of writing as being one of them. And perhaps the pushing too far too fast also plays into the personal side of things when a partner or spouse is being exposed to erotica. That brings the non-writer vs writer, apples and oranges, thing back into the discussion I think! 😉

    Thank you both so much for commenting, I really appreciate it!

  4. Hello Scarlett, I’m new (I followed Erobintica’s breadcrumb trail).

    That was an interesting post. I’ve thought often about trying to write erotica, although I’ve never really got stuck into it properly. I had a go at some writing exercises a few months back, but I had things going on at the time that overwhelmed everything else in my life and I couldn’t stick with it.

    I think part of never really having a proper go is because it is a bit scary – trying to express myself in writing like that.

    And Craig makes some good points. Maybe I was partly getting overwhelmed by not knowing where to start, and feeling I had to do too much too soon. And as a (lapsed) guitarist, that analogy seems like a good way of looking at it!

    • ste, thanks for stopping in! Fear definitely is a really good way of keeping ourselves from pursuing things, that’s for certain.

      It took a friend’s nudge to accept a challenge, then finding AT’s 250 word challenges to get me writing again, and I’m so glad I did. Now I just need to get past my other fears! You’ll have to let us knowwhen you take the plunge 😀 ~SG

  5. Everyone likes to be accepted, not rejected. I can’t think of a single writer, or artist in any genre that hasn’t been through a number of rejections before feeling the sweetness of acceptance.

    What makes the really great ones stand out? I think it’s their ability to take a risk of not being accepted, but instead having the deep satisfaction of pushing past self-emposed boundaries and those fears that are attached.

    I say this as if it’s something I’ve mastered, but I haven’t. It still smacks hard when a piece I write isn’t accepted, but I keep on writing and I keep on trying new things – because it’s what I do. I keep pushing up against those boundaries; trying to create work that sings to me – andy hey, if it sings to others, like editors, publishers and readers, that’s surely a nice bonus.

    Great topic here, Scarlett.

  6. Yes, I followed some of Alison Tyler’s 250 word contests too, though I was reading & voting rather than writing! (I remember reading ‘Night at the Opera’ and ‘My Siren’, by the way, and I really liked them). Maybe little projects like that would be a good thing to try when the urge takes me!

  7. Hi Scarlett and all – great topic!

    Wow – fears with regard to writing. We run with a very auspicious pack of writers here, so I guess in the beginning, I worried about the quality of my writing in comparison. But, everyone is so very nice and encouraging – that fear is diminishing. If you play a sport or an instrument, the best way to learn is to play with folks better than yourself. I think it really helps to surround yourself with good examples and good mentors.

    As for fear about writing about particular topics/ideas – my fears are usually that I don’t know enough, that I’m not qualified to write about certain things. My personal experience has been rather limited and rather vanilla, so there are some things – some of Alison’s contests, for example – that I just don’t feel I can do. I like that I get to use my imagination for some of the topics, but sometimes I just feel I need more research! 😉

    I’m sometimes concerned about how my work will be perceived – by friends, family, intimates. There are people with a liberal perspective on sexuality and on creativity, who understand the difference between fiction and reality. But, there are those who can’t make that distinction, who think that if you write about, you must have done it or want to do it, and who are judgemental about whatever “it” might be. I’ve had my suitability as a parent questioned because of what I write, and that has been very hurtful. It has been a scary realization that someone would feel that way – it’s just not rational to me. But, lately, I’m determined just to write what I feel I need to write – – and to remind myself that everyone else’s insecurities are not necessarily my problem!

    What else? As far as the writing process, I just fear that I don’t have enough time. I had some momentum going a while ago, but life got in the way. I need to get back to a better routine. I greatly admire people like Craig, who really seems to make writing time a major priority. I need to start getting up even earlier in the morning!

    Thanks, Scarlett, for joining us in hosting Beginner’s Ball! This is an interesting discussion – I know I’ll think about it some more.

  8. Thank you everyone for stopping in!

    Six of SixElaborates.com added to the discussion as well, and I have to quote here.

    “I don’t write for others – the process of submitting a work and having it revised is less important to me. But the fear is always there, I won’t deny that. The idea, that I’ve tried to stick to, is to write for yourself (this, of course, works great when you are your worst critic). Have the obsession to write, to get those ideas/memories/stories out of your head and onto the page. Give them life. Stare at them in the eyes, and use the words (as banal or rough as they may be) to pin them down to the page. Make them real, tangible.”

    This hit the nail on the head and drove it home for me. I DO write for myself. Or, rather, I do most of the time. Some of my best works are those(I think). As soon as my writing becomes forced, the quality takes a nosedive.

    There’s nothing I enjoy more than the moment of vertigo when inspiration seizes me. My scalp tingles, my eyes glaze, and my fingers itch for some method of conveyance. I hang for a split second, my mind in frantic motion, my body frozen, and it’s almost orgasmic.

    It’s also somewhat intimidating, and after that moment of “OH!” I will find myself afraid I will never succeed at translating what’s in my head to paper. I think that might be the first fear I need to stare in the face.

    Thank you again, to everyone, for joining in the discussion! ~ SG

  9. back – I thought of something today – that I think one of the things that’s been hindering my writing of late is that I was focusing on writing FOR something rather than just writing what I wanted to. I was trying to control it too much and obviously that doesn’t work with me. So, I think I’m just going to start writing all sorts of random things and then maybe farther down the line I’ll have enough work that when calls come, I can just pick something out. I think my fear – of what I was writing or trying to write to make it fit – caused me to not let go and let the writing happen. We’ll see.


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