Fear and Openness


This morning in yoga, it occurred to me that being fearless is related to being open. Now, this might seem strange to you. Or it might have occurred to you years ago and I’m just now becoming enlightened. Either way, I’ll go ahead and explain because this is my new blog and I get to take up space like that.

I decided to revive and then move and rename this blog in honor of graduating with my MFA and (supposedly) having more time to do things such as blogging. I named the blog, as you see above as ‘a journey toward writing dangerously.’ During the January 2012 residency at VCFA, Libba Bray was our guest author (imagine how excited I was!). Inside my copy of Going Bovine, she wrote: Write dangerously. This, I think, was also the subject of her talk, though I can’t remember for sure. I remember that she spoke a lot about failure and overcoming fear. Most of it made us all laugh till our bellies hurt and all of it resonated with me.

The quote, as I understand it, originated with James Joyce and I found a segment of it on another blog The Coming of the Toads:

“The important thing is not what we write,” Joyce tells Arthur Power in Conversations with James Joyce, “but how we write, and in my opinion the modern writer must be an adventurer above all, willing to take every risk, and be prepared to founder in his effort if need be. In other words we must write dangerously” (95).

While many aspects of writing can be mastered (grammar and punctuation, by some people, I’m told), the art of writing a novel is not an exercise in a+b=c. And so there are aspects of writing that I will continue to work toward mastering. One of these is being fearless. I worry that I’m a bit careful in my writing (and probably my life) and I’d like to access that part of my creative mind that will allow me to take risks, to be an adventurer, to write dangerously. And what do you need to be adventurous? Why, bravery, of course.

And now we are back at the beginning, the promise of this post, if you will. While digesting my discomfort at experiencing a new yoga instructor, I realized how closed I was to experiencing something new. Further, I realized that it was fear that kept me closed. Granted, a small fear, but fear none the less. In this case, fear that I would not have a good yoga practice, that I would have wasted part of my Saturday morning.

And so, I plan to be more cognizant of places in my life where fear is keeping me from being open. I imagine that the more open I’m willing to be, the more dangerous my writing will become. How about you? Does fear keep you closed from new experiences in ways that surprise you?

4 responses to “Fear and Openness

  1. Excellent post! Like you, I think writing dangerously – and living openly, not closed by fear – is one of my challenges. What do you do to open yourself up, especially in moments when you feel fear closing yourself up? And how do you experience fear when you are writing (in the act, that is, not fear of adequacy of writing)? I think one way it is showing up in my writing is that I’m not risking getting sucked into my characters’ emotions.


  2. Heather — so good to hear from you! Thanks for commenting. Sometimes I’m aware of the fear while writing – particularly when it’s an uncomfortable scene and especially when my character will be hurt emotionally. Only recently I’m realizing that when I start checking my phone for new email or surfing the net, that’s also fear at work so I try to just stay in the moment rather than jump up and fold laundry, as fulfilling as laundry can be.


  3. I believe having a blog and putting your writing (and necessarily yourself) out there IS already brave. I know several people who write excellent stuff but don’t blog because they’re afraid others might not like it, and sadly enough, the world never gets even the chance to appreciate their ideas. Great post!


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