In The Fear Of Writing

Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Budleigh Salterton, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

My dream is slipping away from me.  I thought I owned my dream, that I could do what it takes to fulfill my dream.  But now it is fading away.

Why? because I am full of fear.

My fear has paralyzed me like a deer frozen by the glare of headlights of the car heading straight for me.

What has happened?  The words used to flow, I felt free when I wrote, pure and alive.  I gained the confidence last year to start writing my first book. I’ve shared often and enough about why I feel I need to write this book, a memoir of a time kept alive only in my heart and mind.

Yet, as I bash away on my laptop in the telling of it another story emerges, weaving its way non-stop through the original storyline.  It doesn’t change the premise of my book but it brings up more than I bargained for.

In response to Charli’s excellent post: When the Wolves give Chase, we shared a running dialogue with Irene in her just as excellent follow-up post: Writing Tips: Starting the Flow during which I discovered what is known as ‘writing into truth’.

In other words, as we excavate deeper into our writing the more it ‘writes back’ to us, revealing hidden truths, telling its own story.

This is not always easy, but it now seems plainly obvious that in the telling of my story I must tell it all because if I don’t then I am writing fearfully.  And If I write with fear, then I am not writing at all.  In this way, I still own my story and it won’t run away from me leaving me stranded in a crumpled heap in its wake.

I wonder how many times a fisherman is struck down by fear when out at sea? Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Stephen King is famously quoted as saying:

 ‘…fear is at the root of most bad writing. . . . Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.’

Writing fearlessly is as liberating and as joyful as anything I’ve ever done.  Many of us know that incredible feeling when we’ve written something that we stand by, believe in as straight from our hearts, telling the true depth of that particular piece.  We gain confidence when we know that our work is well received and acknowledged as such. Pure validation.

But writing isn’t always so pretty.

quote-by-sarah-brentynBlogging gave me the confidence to recently submit six of my poems to a competition but none of them placed.  I know I’m not a literary poet, far from it, but I did at least try.  Did it knock me back?  Being totally honest, yes it did.  The rejection hurt.  Welcome to the world of writing, I hear you say!

There is no doubt, we have to be tough as writers.   Very tough.  We have to dig deep into that inner resolve to not give up, to keep going and not to become discouraged.  But stupidly, I allowed the disappointment to bring me down.

This is the thing though: I wrote those poems fearlessly.  They were written from a place of deep, abiding emotion, whether from grief, loss, despair or joy and love, written in the moment and shared here on my blog.  So I stand by them, good, bad or otherwise.

They are my creations and I have to believe in them.

Somebody must have enjoyed painting this creation... Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Somebody must have enjoyed painting this creation… Budleigh Salterton, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

But – and it’s a big but – our creations are meant to be shared, our stories are meant to be told.  I struggled with this mightily in the beginning of writing my memoir, plagued as I was with thoughts of:

‘What if nobody wants to read my book, what if it’s a load of rubbish and irrelevant and meaningless to everyone except me and maybe one or two family members?’ 

In the months since I started writing it, I’ve read and learnt a great deal about the memoir writing process thanks to some excellent memoir writers here in the blogosphere and I am eternally thankful for their support, input and encouragement.

Sometimes I want to sqeeze through the gap and head out to the open sea just to clear my thoughts... (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

I just want to squeeze through the middle of my crowded thoughts and escape to breathe in the freedom of the salt-pressed air…
Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

What speaks to me the loudest is this: it isn’t a case of how deep and dark the story is when told fearlessly and in truth, but that it’s written well and that it brings home a powerful message of redemption.

There has to be redemption. 

There also has to be a deep connection with the reader. As I progress through my story, I’m very aware I’m sharing a deeper, personal part of me than I’ve ever shared before and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.   As I battle for freedom from this dilemma, I can see how this has caused my recent writing fears to escalate as I’ve descended into a downward spiral of writing negativity which has all but paralysed me.

Writing can be a lonely and isolating business and our fears are magnified because of this.  For me, it is a constant battle to put these fears down and to carry on, well…fearlessly.

Won't you take a few moments and sit down next to me for a chat and a nice cup of tea? Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Won’t you take a few moments and sit down next to me for a chat and a nice cup of tea?
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

This presents me with a problem because lurking deep within my writing process is my bitter enemy, commonly known as ‘Self-Doubt’.  I am my own worse enemy.  Yet wasn’t it acclaimed author Marianne Williamson who wrote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure

I could so easily sabotage myself but if I do I’ll despise myself.  What about all that talk of better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all? Did that go flying out of the window?  Meaningless hot air?  No.  Absolutely not.

But I don’t want to fail.

Owning your dream means having your belief in yourself
outweigh your fears.’

How then can we stop fear from holding us back, preventing us from achieving our goals and ultimately our dreams?  Is it possible to fear rejection and success all at the same time?  I wonder how many times we are forced to question our motives in our writing, especially when writing memoir.

I had to smile wryly when I came across this quote by Frank Sinatra:

 ‘The best revenge is massive success.’

Come on, be honest.  I’m sure there are one or two people who come to mind that you’d just love to prove that to…

Sometimes I ask myself this: “Are all successful authors depressed alcoholics who love cats?”  Surely not.  I’m no Hemingway but darn that Black Dog. I do enjoy a drink when the occasion calls for it and I love my cats.  So there it is then, but how often have we sold ourselves short?  Mark Twain once said:

‘Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear,
not absence of fear.’

So courage it is then.  That’s what we need, and not only for ourselves: my fears and raging insecurities keep my poor hubby up many a night.   Before embarking on a writing career, a warning should be issued not to the writer but to the writer’s partner and family for those days when things are really bad:

  ‘Warning!! Writer at Work. Keep Out But Be There To Pick Up The Pieces At The End.’

There’s only one other way to have the ‘Victory’ as a writer and that is to keep writing, and I don’t mean to preach to the choir here, but we can’t afford to ‘Take It Easy’…

Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Take it Easy?  Not if we want the Victory! Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

So then, in the writing of this and sharing my fears with you, dear friends, perhaps I can now see that my dream isn’t slipping away after all.

Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Budleigh Salterton, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

And for that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri is a writer with work published in print magazines, anthologies and online. As a young British mum of three, she emigrated to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England's West Country, a full-time carer within her family. Her current WIP after completing her memoir is a psychological thriller.
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145 Responses to In The Fear Of Writing

  1. quirkybooks says:

    Hi Sherri, wow! This post blew me away. You are speaking incredibly openly and honestly. I have yet to finish the final formatting of my Break through the barriers of redundancy book. It’s a scary and exciting time.


    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Sandra for the read. Hope you liked the photos too but yes, when I wrote this I was really struggling to ‘draw my line in the sand’ – no pun intended, ha! – about my writing fears and the way I felt so ‘stuck’. Since putting it all down in this post I’ve felt so much freer again in my writing. It all takes time and I do wish you every success as you work to finalising your book. A lot of hard work, but yes, also very exciting 🙂


      • quirkybooks says:

        Thanks Sherri. The photos were great. I don’t visit Budleigh Salterton as a rule, so you probably know the area better than me. I am definitely a city girl. I emailed you my email address, hope you got it okay? My Blog Trainer UK business is already taking off with enquiries and potential bookings. I am teaching as well for another 3 weeks and have created a Facebook and Twitter course for recovery, for RLC, for next year. It’s all go, go, go.


        • Sherri says:

          Thanks for your email Sandra, I did get it, reply on the way…you are one busy lady! Sounds like things are really happening for you, wonderful! Have a great day 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • quirkybooks says:

            Hi Sherri, thank you for your email. Sorry to read about your painful mouth, I hope it heals very quickly. I am incredibly busy and things are starting to move for me in a big way. I have found a venue for my Blog Training for Business masterclasses, and I have been getting serious enquiries without even promoting/advertising as such. I just chat to people and tell them about what I do for the Recovery Learning Community; and about my blogging experience and teacher/trainer qualification. The room for my one to one masterclasses is ready to use, the room for a group is going to be renovated. It’s a very exciting and lack of sleep time for me. I have been going to bed at 3am for the last two days, and had to get up just after 7.30am for work in my day job.


Lovely to chat...

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