When I was younger I used to have recurring dreams of a gorilla-suited man trying to break into our house. I’d run around and lock all the entrances, usually forgetting the glass patio door. When I did remember, the faulty latch wouldn’t hold. I’d freeze in fear as I stood face to face with the hairy gorilla-man. I can still hear and see him pounding on the glass as he reached for the handle. Suddenly I’d remember the stick we used to drop into the aluminum tray to secure the door, but I would never reach it before the gorilla broke in. Then I’d wake up, shaking in fear.
I recently attended a writer’s conference. The main speaker, author Susy Flory, addressed common writing fears. She never mentioned a gorilla, but she did say that E.B. White would often mail a manuscript only to run after the mailman and retrieve it because he feared it wasn’t perfect. She quoted White as saying, “I admire anyone who writes” and “I write in terror.” This from the man who gave us Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
Flory also related that Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear – mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” The crime writer Lawrence Block observed, “Fear and courage are like lightning and thunder. They start out at the same time, but the fear (lightning) travels faster and arrives sooner. If we wait long enough, the requisite courage will be along shortly.”
Some of my writing fears include, “What if no one likes what I write? What if my computer crashes? What if I run out of ideas? What if I get sick and can’t finish? What if people criticize me?” Then I realize that all of these things have already happened, and will probably continue to happen. I choose to write anyway. The gorilla still comes, but now I’ve got the stick.