After (very thankfully) a lot of years on the planet I’ve only quite recently come to know and understand a part of myself that was a mystery. It’s about fear, and I really never noticed how fearful people are. A small comment here, a nervous tic there, a fully loaded seat of the pants on that roller coaster you really thought you wanted to go on, and etc. For people like us, who have so many of the luxuries existence can offer, we have so many fears, foibles, anxieties, and near-misses on the seat-of-the-pants-filling side of things.
When it occurred to me how much of my life was controlled by secret fears I began wondering how I ever got this far, and then it hit me, just like people who know me would like to do if they thought they could get away with it.
I do the thing that scares me, and sometimes it’s with a level of reckless abandon that’s breathtaking in it’s depth of stupidity, it’s breadth of boneheaded experiences, and it’s height of growth.
Here’s an example. I get vertigo. Yep, if I stand on a chair I get dizzy. If I’m in a tall building I can’t go within 3 metres / 10 feet of the window – because everyone knows if I do that the whole building will collapse and I’ll fall 3,000,000 stories and be covered in the rubble of the whole building but, somehow, miraculously not die until I feel a rescue dog sniffing my butt in the lower car park, conveniently located 800 metres / 2,400 feet below street level.
How have I dealt with this unreasonable fear, I hear you avoid asking? Simple. I catch planes. I’ve flown all over the place. While you were busy eating dead pigs and turkeys on Christmas Day, I was flying out of England in a plane that was struck by lightning. True. I learned abseiling, sort of. I had 4 lessons and then asked the instructor if I could forward rappel – go over the cliff facing forward. He very rightly said no. I very stupidly ran to the edge and went swan diving into the sweet by-and-by. He somewhat less than politely invited me not to come back for my fifth lesson. I borrowed a friend’s hang glider and crash-landed on a beach, massively spraining both ankles and wrenching my right knee so badly it still gives me shit 30 years later. And after all that angst and all that pain I still get dizzy standing on a chair. So now, I just don’t stand on chairs and I’m good to go.
There’s a lesson in all this, so pull up a
chair hang glider and listen to Uncle PD. All that shit above. It’s true, except for the dog-sniffing-butt-in-a-collapsed-building part. Was it necessary? No. Has it fixed the problem? No. Was it worth it? Hell yes! See, if I’d have let my fear of heights determine who I could be, I’d never have lived in other countries and visited even more, because, y’know, oceans and shit. There are just so many experiences, some of them defining, that would never have happened. I’d still be me, but I’d be a very different version of me, and I think not a better one.
So, writers and bloggers, I’m especially looking at you. The fear never goes away, at least it hasn’t for me. You know why? Too many ‘minds’. One mind on what I’m writing. Another on if I’m writing it as I want it, as I see it. Another on whether it’ll be good enough. Another on grammar, progression, buy-in, and etc. Another on whether I’ll get flayed and trolled if I publish it here or elsewhere. Another if it’s successful and people find out I’m not the me they want me to be. Too many ‘minds’. Too much noise. All that fear.
Fuck it. Me and my writing are going abseiling, forward rappelling, and if I don’t get the fifth lesson well, fuck that, too. The fear of falling does not outweigh the love of writing, and if it does I’ll just learn to deal with writer’s vertigo, because if the choice comes down to being safe by never writing another word, or being up Shit Creek with a swarm of angry paddles all aiming at my arse, then sitting down is overrated anyway.
What brought all this on, I hear you not asking? Well, I just recently met a couple of writers I admire. Ada in particular liked ‘Stay with me’, which is my version of what passes for a love story. But you know what? It isn’t. It’s a tragedy. The story, not the writing. Okay, the writing, too, although personally I’d describe that as a travesty. The thing is, it’s the only way I can think of about writing a love story without getting all bodice-rippingly Mills & Boonish. There has to be a better way. I’m going to find it, which means I’m going to have to invent it for myself, because there aren’t any guideposts inside me.
In the grand scheme of things being scared of writing a love story rates just a few hundred fathoms lower than whale shit, but to me it feels close and real. So I’m going to do it. And I’m going to keep doing it until I produce something authentic, something that doesn’t hide behind the cop-out of “I’m a guy. We don’t know shit about this stuff.”
I know who I am. Writing some gooey shit that isn’t filled or backdropped by pain and anguish and suffering will, I think, help me become more of who I’m becoming.
Go do the thing that scares you, and do it well. Your future self will thank you, once it stops calling you a total moron.