Overcoming the fear of writing is at the heart of creativity. Many highly creative people write of this and as a creative myself, I know it to be true. But, writing has other sources of fear, and I think social media adds to that, because one way or the other, our writing makes its presence felt there.
There are many sources of fear for a writer. Fear of the critic. Fear of being sued. Fear of unintentionally hurting someone. Fear of appearing narcissistic, selfish, self-absorbed, callous, angry, sad, hurt...fear of creating an image that is not our own or that we have no control over. The well is full of fear, every droplet different for every writer.
Writing brings out all kinds of fear in us. For some of us, it is actually easier to write than speak. For others who are natural storytellers, it can be the reverse. But it doesn't matter who I have talked to, without exception, everyone who writes with the intention of sharing it, feels fear. And social media can expose those fears, create fans or open ourselves up to criticism. It can reveal our good side and our shadows. Writing is powerful.
All of these fears are valid. I've been known to pursue furiously justice, for all the right reasons. But with that, comes risk. And at times, that risk stops us writing, stops us having a voice, and sends would-be authors crawling under the nearest book, parking their pens safely out of reach.
There are many critics who contribute to the fear (usually because they are experiencing their own world of it too). Have you ever stuck your head out of the trenches on social media to have someone thump you from a great height? And then, they justify their words with, "That is just my opinion"? Ah, the little word just when paired with my opinion. Otherwise translated as, "Shut up unless you agree with me"!
These are armchair critics, people you will most likely have never seen before. They judge your intentions, ability, errors, flow, content...pretty much anything they can, and this can send creativity packing. It stops us having an opinion while simultaneously creating the opportunity to have any opinion - the spectrum is as wide as your fear or confidence allows.
They can also be our best teachers.
Recently, I became angry at speeding, helmet-less, shirtless, screaming, yelling roadsters in my tiny lane staying at a local hostel. I took to social media and for the main part, hundreds agreed. They felt my anger, agreed with the nonsense of what I was experiencing and validated my concerns.
But the target of my attack (well, the owner of the hostel, so strictly not the target, but I did get that point) didn't quite feel the same way. While he did not take to social media, he did type a poisonous attack, personally dragging muck into it. It left me gutted. My husband got home to find me barely speaking, holding my phone, tears held back, heart thumping, my soul flapping on the floor.
That was quite a hit. From 'knowing' I was right, to being kicked in the guts. All because of words. But not just words. Public words.
And, it was quite a lesson for me, an unsurprising one, when you are trying to crawl out of being smashed from a great height.
The key here is that my intentions were partially misplaced. Not fully, as I hold strong opinions about how we should all be responsible when in control of a speeding, 100+ kilo weapon. But they were misplaced because I took to social media with anger, with a desire to line "them" (the riders) all up and give them a good, severe talking to. And the writer in me wanted validation. I wanted support, to feel I had justification in using my words in this manner.
The penny dropped. I realised I owed an apology. I had used a stage while anger surged and had broken a cardinal writer's sin. Never write for validation, write to make a difference.
By the same token, the private words, also sent in anger, perpetuated the spiral that was rapidly getting out of control. Now, all this is from someone who is pretty aware, always admits when she was wrong and tries very hard to take personal responsibility. What I was missing recently, was marrying those values with my writing.
The result could have been days or weeks or months of silence. Instead, I took pen to paper. I apologised. I offered 100% acceptance for the way I handled it. I have no idea yet how it will be taken, but it no longer matters. I could have held anger in my mind, penned more futile letters in my mind, and continued to justify my position to someone who didn't care and couldn't hear. And in doing so, I would have let my fear, the real penny at the bottom of the well, to fester, and stop me from writing.
It's quite complex, isn't it, when we stop and think about why we don't write! If we get over our self-judgement, we know that we will have to face that of others. The two are intertwined, no doubt, but how do you get over it and just write? And what to do if you write from a place of ego (anger or other strong emotion) instead of connection?
Wow. Words matter. They really do matter that much.
Integrity is a good place to start. If you write with a sense of self, purpose and authenticity, does it really matter what others think? Is it the truth? If it is, why are you writing it? Is it vengeful? (If so, stop right now.) Or is it to expose an underbelly, share an experience to help others, try to right wrongs, and leave some sort of legacy, whether for yourself or others?
Of course, I am talking about factual writing here, and many of you want to write about your story. Within those stories, we can risk treading on toes, leaving something there for a future adult that we did not intend to, and many other potential problems.
But when we are writing, we need to take a good hard look at our personality behind it. I saw an ugly on mine last week. And as part of the journey, have taken care of that.
Writing exists to help us explore. We will make mistakes. We will fail. We will be ineffective.
But we also will share our higher purpose. We will connect. And we can make a difference, with our words.
The fear will also be there and will turn up before, during or after. Sometimes, words will flow. Others, you will have voices in your head, judging and pulling it apart. Other times, fear will be so strong you will park it. Or, your sense of knowing will know that these are not the words to share, not now, perhaps not ever.
Once we accept that fear accompanies the exploration of our highest gift and purpose, writing, and the responsibility that comes with owning our work, we can also accept growth. We can claim the inevitable lessons. And in so doing, become better writers. And hopefully, better humans than we were before we took our pen to paper.