I had lunch with another writer the other day. I rarely do that. I usually eat leftovers from last night’s meal straight from the Tupperware, often standing at the refrigerator, at around 10:30 a.m. because I have already run out of things to write.
But on this day, I put on some presentable clothes and moseyed to my local Italian place for a bona fide writers’ lunch. And felt like a player as I swirled my sparkling water in my glass and gazed with wonder at all the other people sitting at a café in the middle of the day. The waiter approached and my eyes grew big at the gigantic pizza placed before me: an ode to tender grilled chicken, brilliantly green pesto, creamy and sweet goat’s cheese…
But I digress.
My friend arrived and we were having a great writerly chat. You know, So what you working on? How’s it all going? What’s your writing schedule…when my writer friend divulged that he was frustrated with how slow his script was going.
There is no flow to it, I can’t seem to get traction, he said.
So we talked Syd Field’s turning points. McKee’s theory of gaps and antagonism. The value of trying to get up early enough so that your critic self is still asleep.
Then there was a pause.
Yeah, he said. I got all that. I don’t think it’s that.
And that’s when the F-word came up. Fear.
Fear of failure? But this guy is a professional. He knows his first draft is going to be bad. In fact it’s no doubt going to suck. But the important thing is just to get it down. To forget the next steps. To write as if it will never be edited or produced. First things first…
He shook his head. Yeah, I know that too.
There was another silence. Longer this time.
This fear is harder to navigate around, to manage. It is the fear of disclosure.
To say what you really think, in a way that will disclose who you really are.
It takes guts. It’s not talked up much these days on agent or editor blogs. More often, writers are encouraged to come up with a great idea and then to tuck in before anyone else comes up with it. And yes, our job is to entertain, or at least honor the reader, by making the experience of reading our text as satisfying as possible.
But guts are what connects writers to readers. Another aspect of our job is to say what hasn’t been said before because no one has had the guts to say it.
So writing is less about design and more about bravery.
We need to dig deep. And reveal so much that we are embarrassed. So embarrassed that if we leave the house we panic, terrified that we’ll suddenly get run over and we will have left our day’s work laid out for all to see.
Oh, the horror.
But it’s that kind of fear, that fear of disclosure, which I would say means you’re on to something. That you are ready to write something worthwhile.
So go for it.
I beseech you.
Write, cringe, and write again.
photo by Matzehielscher (flickr)