Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Writing Fearlessly" an Admirable Goal, but Probably a Myth

We're all works under construction
“Live fearlessly!” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Until you actually try living that way. Your common sense gets in the way—Well, I must be scared of some things, like driving too fast or stray dogs, right? Or you basically fear what living fearlessly might LOOK like: What will they think of me if I shake my ass in Zumba?

These kinds of debates have been playing themselves out in my head for the past year, as I’ve been working on my memoir. Can I "Write Fearlessly?" I felt great in the beginning. I’d discovered a way to work, a type of flexible outlining Brook Warner calls “scaffolding” that seemed to set me out in the right direction—yes, direction! I suddenly had one. Great! On to writing.

I knew the story. I mapped out the scenes. But, I suppose it is similar to the Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey—we both knew we were a bit out of our element, but until we run splat into obstacles, we didn’t know how scary it would be.

There are some scenes that I feel make sense to be in the book. They reflect my themes, they prepare the reader for a life lesson (I hope). But when it comes to writing them, I either a) delay writing the scene because I convince myself I’m not ready emotionally or b) write the scene, quickly, plowing through and possibly leaving out important details or c) write the scene, am happy with it as a writer; but as a person I start imagine sharing it with other people, including those who were part of my life and didn’t ask to be a character in a book.

So, what should I do?

What I’ve been doing sometimes looks like this. I will stop in a middle of a paragraph or even a sentence and think—I can never publish this, why do I keep going?

Maybe I finish the sentence. Maybe I leave the room.

But I keep coming back.


Maybe a touch. But more, this: I am putting the cart before the horse.

Did I forget about shitty first drafts?

Did I forget about writing as a journey? As a tool for finding out what I’m really thinking?

I began to share my memoir in my writing group (which includes all writing genres, not only memoir) to get a sense of, well, if it is “worthy.” Their support doesn’t take away my fear, though. Only I can do that. It’s not happening yet, but until it does, I’m going to plow through and make it to the end of this rough draft, at least.

If I stop now, it’s like Cheryl giving up at the hard part of the trail. She wouldn’t have discovered her strength or helped heal her wounds curled up in a little ball under a tree somewhere.
If I stop now, the Unfinished Memoir will blister against my brain for the rest of my life, and that is even more uncomfortable than whatever harsh lesson I may discover about myself by the time I finish draft one.

And I can help the pain of that by editing.

I’m going to go ahead and publish this post NOW, before I lose my nerve or even edit for clarity. It’s the literary equivalent of ass-shaking like nobody’s watching, I suppose. That is as fearless as my public writing will get today.

Happy Writing.

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