The fear of writing

Lately, I’ve been obsessing about my writing. Or rather, I’ve been obsessing over the lack of it. When you’re 30 and feeling particularly introspective, the occasional blog post/story fragment/poem just doesn’t count anymore. I’m finding it hard to shake off the feeling that I’m not doing enough. And each day, it gets even harder to convince myself that I still can.

I often wonder if I would be a better writer if I had formal instruction. I’ve never been in a writing class or workshop before, nor have I ever had a mentor. I have this idea that if only I could get into a writing program—even just one—the words will automatically fall into place. Then, the stories in my head will start making sense, and I can finally tell them the way they were meant to be told. I will be unstoppered and revealed and delivered. Then, I will write.

I’ve never come across the right opportunities, however; not with my dreary connection to literary circles that I’m not even sure exist in my little world. Whether I got into writing too late, or I’m just completely inept at networking, I don’t know. The fact is I’ve been at this on my own for a while, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

When I first recognized that I had some sort of writing ability, I wrote fanatically and constantly. The words came all too easily back then. It was natural, like breathing and just . . . being. I wrote in half a dozen blogs back in a time when blogging was still real, honest-to-goodness journaling. There was no cohesion, no obvious end in sight. But man, did I write.

Fast forward to the here and now. I have been using the ennui of married life as an excuse for not writing. Where there was once drama and vitriol, there is only routine. (And I believe nobody wants to read about routine.) This is a lie. After all, married life comes with its own brand of drama. I have since traveled to three European cities alone and owned a vibrator; I have learned French and nearly ended my marriage—I am barely scratching the surface here. Indeed, there is plenty of material for me to work with, thank you very much. And yet I find myself stumped whenever I try to extract a story or a scene from these experiences. I find myself hesitant to write what I really and truly know. And no matter how much I try to convince myself that it’s not because I’m embarrassed about certain details, or that I want to save face, I know this much is true. Somewhere along the way, I have developed an aversion to people getting a glimpse of the ugly, dirty bits of my life, and it’s holding me back.

I used to cringe at the person I used to be, whenever I read my old blogs and journals. I was young; I had no filter. Most of the time, I was embarrassingly callous and brazen. But now that I’ve thought about it, that was the beauty of it. My prose was nowhere near perfect, of course. But I was fearless, passionate, and edgy. I was aggressive and opinionated enough to rub more than a few people the wrong way. I was honest, and because of that honesty, people responded to what I wrote (one way or the other) and my prose ended up being the best that it has ever been.

And so I found myself wondering: when I did I become so afraid to write? Why did I start caring about what people thought? How did I become so self-conscious and uninspired?

What the hell happened to me?

I guess the answers to these questions do not really matter in the long run. What matters is that I need to find the strength and courage to snap out of the fear and the boredom and the desperate desire for approval in order to just write. I need to come out of my shell; maybe then opportunities will not be so elusive. It is an idea that I find simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. But I was brave and unafraid once. Perhaps I can be again.

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