”Blank page, open laptop and notebook, quiet surroundings. And fear.
You want to know about my writing process? It starts there – especially the fear.
I’ve listened to podcasts and Instagram Live interviews from so many authors who are on their book launch press tours in the time of COVID. (Soaking in the wisdom of those that have gone before me has been a MOOD during this time, but that’s another article.) Once you hear an author give their talk a few times, you begin to know the stories by heart. One author talks about meeting her soulmate with specific routine phrases. Another promises that she’s vulnerable, and shared the same stories multiple times. I’m always hoping the interviewer will ask a question that shakes them from the rote answers that they’ve practiced, and it often never happens.
Thinking about why authors don’t often go to a deeper, more vulnerable place when talking about their book and life’s work, one might chalk it up to a lack of passion or originality. However, that doesn’t square up to me. Why would someone who pours their heart and soul into hundreds of pages by sitting alone for hours on end lack originality? Now that I’m embarking again on my own writing projects, I get it.
It takes so much energy to bring yourself past the fear or being rejected in order to write the first few words on a page. That energy is not just physical – the emotional and often spiritual effort it takes to work past the fear is paramount.
If you want to be seen, you have to walk through the fear of being seen. Sound complicated? Let’s break it down.
What would happen if people saw the real you? Not the you that you present on Instagram with polished graphics and selfies with bright smiles. Not the one where you mutter “I’m fine” on the phone when you’re aching inside. What if you said what you thought, even though it would know it would piss off your parents or partner? What would you say if you knew it might put your family in danger?
Because, for those who put their ideas and thoughts out into the world, that fear is real and those questions run through their heads. Fear is often wrapped up in the starting line of any great idea and work. You know, those great ideas that won’t let you sleep until you write it down.
In fact, that fear is even more real for Black and brown authors, as people are more likely to receive physical threats than I am because of my own white privilege.
The choice: overcoming fear and questioning your own safety or embracing silence? What would you choose?
The paradox isn’t new. In order to be seen fully, you’ll encounter fear and work through the entangled mess of your own emotions and history. We’ve all experienced this conundrum throughout our lives in a myriad of ways. Fear and insecurity – and sometimes anxiety – is what awaits us at the end of the high-dive as we take a leap of vulnerability. Often, we just need one nudge to get us to jump so that we have the courage to work through the entanglement of our personal and professional worth and value in fear, striving, and more.
I’ve often been asked how ideas come to me about what to share. Tons of questions on how to bust past the blank page and put something somewhat worthwhile into the world. I wish I could say that it was something incredibly enlightened, but it’s really a deep ache for the ideas. I’m often woken up by ideas for articles that I can’t let go of. The moment those ideas hit the page, fear creeps in to question whether my insight and words are worthwhile or novel enough to share. Fear also asks if I’m going to upset anyone by sharing what I believe. This is the push and pull of being your true, authentic self.
Writing is synonymous with breathing. It is channeling the energy out of my head and heart so that I don’t keep it inside and burst. I believe we all are working through the process of figuring out how to move past our fear of being seen. We just have different ways of coping.
So I understand bestselling authors who give the same answers in every single interview. They’ve already done the heavy lifting to work past the fear and muster the courage to write the book or construct the movement. They’re pushing past the fear into authenticity in a way that works for them. My challenge is that, when I reach their same acclaim, that I’ll choose the route that feels authentic and vulnerable for me and continually push past fear.
For now, I’ll start with this blank page, this cup of coffee, and this dream. And the ache of ideas that deserve to see daylight.