Buttercup (referring to the Fire Swamp): “We’ll never survive.”
Wesley: “Nonsense. You’ve only saying that because no one ever has.”
~The Princess Bride
Someone asked me yesterday where I am with the book I am working on. It was a polite question, meant only to show interest in my progress. I have been dreading this question because, well, the truth is that I am nowhere with the book I am working on because I haven’t really started it. Wait. That’s not totally true. I have two ideas fleshed out and a couple chapters in each story attempt. I also have another story idea that I really kind of like, but it is still flipping over and over in my brain like a rock in a tumbler until I decide it’s shiny enough for me to write. So, I guess I have started writing. I simply haven’t made any real progress on an actual book.
A couple days ago I began analyzing my situation to determine what is causing my writing paralysis. Originally I blamed it on a lack of time. I used my blog as an excuse. Well, I’ve been off my blog more or less for over a month now and I haven’t added one lousy, stinking word to any of my started stories. Not one. I haven’t worked on a character sketch or written an outline. Aside from giving a couple hours’ worth of mental massage to my stories, I haven’t done a thing. I don’t suppose I can blame my blog for my lack of progress anymore. I have time now that the boys are back in school. As I documented the other day, I’ve had enough time to clean out my pantry, hand wash the floors, and dust baseboards. All those housecleaning maneuvers are clearly nothing but the actions of a desperate woman. I’m uncomfortable enough with the idea of having to write something creative that I cleaned out my pantry. I hadn’t done that job properly once in the ten years we’ve been in this house. Interesting that I should decide now is the time to remedy that situation.
Tonight, though, during a conversation with my sister it hit me. I was able to admit what is at the root of my procrastination. It’s fear. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it. I’m afraid that if I do finish it that it still won’t be worth reading. I’m concerned that perhaps my putting myself forth as a writer was a mistake because if I do this and I’m not successful then I won’t even be able to claim that I am a writer. And, I only just got up the nerve to admit that I’m a writer a little less than a year ago. What if I’m a sham?
I’m a smart gal. I know there are no guarantees. I know that the best things in life come when you take a risk. I know that life is a growth proposition and to make forward progress you actually have to move. I know all these things. So, what the hell is my problem? Why am I being such a scaredy cat? And, how do I get beyond my fear? How do I make it through the Fire Swamp when I don’t see any way to survive?
I’d love to believe I could face the Fire Swamp the way that Wesley did, with optimism, blind faith, and complete confidence that it would all simply somehow work out. But, I don’t work that way, which is what has gotten me into this predicament in the first place. Rather than taking Wesley’s approach, like Inigo Montoya, I think I need to go back to the beginning. I need to make mini-goals that aren’t as scary as the goal of writing an actual book. Perhaps, first I will write a paragraph and see how that goes. Maybe I can do that every day for a week and then gradually, over time, I will find that fiction writing isn’t really as terrifying as I’m imagining? I nearly stalled out on my 80-page Master’s thesis due to this same type of writer’s paralysis, but I survived that Fire Swamp so I’m fairly certain I can negotiate this one. I have to stop telling myself I can’t. There are no flame spurts, lightning sand, or R.O.U.S. here, anyway, so that means my chances of survival are pretty good.