To meet me, you wouldn’t know it, but fear drives me. It is an ever present ache in my daily life. The kids, health, work, politics, natural disasters, the kids again. I forge ahead, try to use my bravado to stare it down, but it remains a steady presence. So, it should come as no surprise that a trip to the dentist requires a good deal of strength on my part. Usually after I cancel a couple of appointments, I arrive late, shaky and anxious. Thankfully my dentist is a patient, compassionate man who talks me through cleanings. So when I recently had extreme pain in my lower molars and could not stop crying, and my dentist told me I needed a root canal and would need to visit the endontist to perform it, my distress level hit an all-time high. I cried in the car on my way to the endontist, I cried in front of the receptionist and by the time I reached the chair…well, you can imagine. Through the tears I told both the assistant and the dentist of my fear. They nodded sympathetically, turned on some classical music, turned on the nitrous oxide and turned down the lights. As the gas took effect, I calmed and laughed at myself for being so overdramatic. This wasn’t so bad—Face Your Fears! Don’t Let Fear Immobilize You! Be a Woman! Weren’t these the lines I always fed my kids? With the help of the gas, I was a living, breathing example of bravery in action. But when the drilling began, I reared back, turned my head away. She patiently readjusted me until I wiggled away once more. Finally, I found if I opened wider, she worked faster and more efficiently. And before I knew it, she was done and the pain had completely disappeared.
Writing is pretty much the same. I fear it. I begin each new project enthusiastically. Eager to delve into the inner lives of my characters. But, so often, once the research is completed and the idea loosely sketched, I sit down to write and the fear begins. Is this really the direction I want to go? Is there a better way to tell this story? Has this story already been told? And, of course, will anyone really want to read this? I force myself in the chair each day, praying to the writing gods that I can find words that are good and strong, and authentic. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not. But when I really dig deep, push myself to write just a little bit more, find just the right word or phrase, tap into the heart of each character, let myself go and open wide, it gets easier. I do wish I could have come to this epiphany without the help of excruciating pain, but it has helped in recognizing that for me, the best work is done in the darkest hours. Good to know before I schedule my next cleaning.