Scared to write

Remember that post I did in Januarythe one about (not) being afraid? I was going to do a whole bunch of things that terrified me.

Risk rejection.

Risk failure.

Risk ridicule.

Yeah, well, I'm bloody well scared shitless now, because in one fell swoop, I went and did something that risks all three, all at once.

You know what I did?

I sent out a tweet a week ago: "I need some accountability/support/SOMETHING to get my writing going. Any suggestions, #hamont? Writing groups? Classes?"

Right away, I got responses. Trevor Cole (the author of one of my all-time favourite magazine profiles, "Being Stuart McLean Isn't Always So Darn Funny," among many other things) wrote and said I should get in touch with local novelist Amanda Leduc. Then she wrote and invited me to a booky/write-y/literary get-together she was having. Then I got a message from Lisa Pijuan-Nomura, a creativity coach, visual artist and new Hamiltonian, offering to chat.

I gratefully said yes to all these wonderful, wonderful opportunities.

And then I burst into tears.

Let me explain.

I've wanted to be a writer as long as I knew there were words.

Correction: I've been a writer as long as I knew there were words. I have poorly spelled, messily printed stories about horses named Henrietta, rambling, random typewritten sketches, essays, poems, articles, a body of work from j-skool that won a couple of awards.

I have websites and blog posts and tweets to my credit. I actually write for a living, if you count corporate blog posts about energy efficiency and sleep health as "real writing."

And a lot of people don't. I don't.

Right or wrong, I don't feel like a real writer.

I haven't written a novel. I don't get published in magazines. I haven't seen my name on a byline since Ryerson j-rad days.

I took a safe, non-threatening copywriting job with the excuse that I needed to pay the bills, and a freelance career was just too precarious. Who'd want to give up a steady paycheque in return for fleeting glory, anyway?

Truth is, I was scared. I am scared.

Scared to try and fail.

If I try, and I failcan't stick to it, can't sustain the energy it takes to sit down and write again and again and again, what am I left with?

Half-formed ideas flopping around on my desk, armless and legless. The knowledge that I couldn't bring them to birth.

I'm paralyzingly terrified to find out that this wee writing dream I've held so carefully, tucked away and safe my entire life, might turn out to be just too fragile if I take it out, if I let it look around, if I let it breathe, just a little.

Am I willing to risk killing my dream?

And then Langston Hughes popped into my head:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

All right, I get it. I won't say that I'm not still PETRIFIED, but deferment is no longer an option.

Be (not) afraid.


  1. and yet, here it is...writing. Writing Writing Writing...all over this blog!

    So perhaps you're not a FAMOUS writer. Because if that's the real issue, you need to come to terms with it and start honestly taking the risks that will give you that reward.

    There's nothing wrong with wanting that, but it is a rather daunting goal and THAT'S what you need to prepare yourself psychologically for... for the idea that failing to achieve a goal (once, or twice or 20 times) does not make you a failure. That you're likely not going to be an overnight success. But that if you keep working toward it you will achieve some level of the success your are looking for, or hey, maybe all of it and more!

    And you need to appreciate that it's OK to WANT it. It's not egotistical. It's not avarice.In fact it's an absolute necessity.

    So if that's what you want, shout it from the rooftops! (and do it...)

  2. You know, I'm not all that desperate to be famous--although, hell, that would be fine. I do, however, want to be PUBLISHED. It's the same set of risks, and I think I may finally be ready to "man up" (heh) and take them...

    1. I used to work as an editor at OUP. If you need a proofread or something, lemme know. I will help you get that elusive publishing deal.


    2. Steph, you're awesome. I love having you in my corner!

  3. hey there sara!
    Just saw this now.
    It's funny as i was just going to tell you that you should go to Amanda's literary gathering! I was supposed to go, but my dad ended up in emergency! Such a small world.

    But what i really wanted to say is way to be brave. And way to step into the fear.

    I admire your honesty, and strength. All great things.

    be wonderful well, and i hope to talk soon!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. So, so, so happy to talk today. I feel energized and hopeful...

    2. Oh, and the next LitLunch is at my place on April 21 1:00. I'll email you details--hope you can make it!


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