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Fear and the Art of Writing

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Fear HeaderTo dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.

-Soren Kierkegaard

I have been thinking quite a bit about fear lately. The reason? I’ve been scared to death! I’m working on a TREEbook at the request of my publisher. It’s a new technology—an app for reading an e-book. The story will branch (by imbedded codes reacting to the reader’s habits) so readers can experience a wider scope of the character arcs and storylines. The technology is being developed as the first TREEbooks are just now being written. When asked, although the whole process terrified me, I jumped in. Now that I am one-third of the way through writing and working my story into a schematic for programmers (I can’t even believe I typed that last phrase!) I am so glad, despite the clench in my gut, I forged ahead and agreed to do it. Why? For creativity, fear can be good.

I’ll say it again. For creativity, fear can be good—as long as you don’t let it keep you from doing what is vital for a creative life, which is creating. Think about it. When you paint, write, craft or do any type of art, you move forward into the unknown with very little idea of where you will end up. This journey means embracing fear and using it to take you where no one has gone before (I know, my inner Trekkie is showing). But seriously, that is what writing and creativity is all about.

Embrace fear and stretch beyond your limits. Open your mind to new possibilities. If you are afraid of something because you aren’t sure about how you can possibly do it or what it will end up encompassing, by saying yes you are agreeing to a trip into unknown territory. That is precisely where creativity dwells and where you will connect to yours. You will grow and learn as an artist and person. Isn’t that a place you want to be?

When I finish my TREEbook, I’ll return to writing my “traditional” book, one put aside for my adventure. I already have new ideas that will enrich my story and characters. Working with such an unfamiliar process has added new avenues to my writing process. New doors have opened inside me. At another level in my writing, I will be a better writer, no matter what comes of this strange, newfangled TREEbook thing. And that alone is worth the time and energy invested.

Think of places in your life where something is taking your attention, something that is important but that you haven’t considered yet. Of going some place that scares you. A project that feels too big or too unknown. Take a deep breath and choose it. Forge ahead! The most amazing things will follow.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion,” available online and in bookstores everywhere. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, “Between the Lines.” She writes from a log home in the woods of southwestern Wisconsin that she shares with her husband and three cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.

 

  1. Barry Chessick says:

    Kathy, inspiring thoughts.

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