A Million Reasons I Shouldn’t Write This – and One Reason I Should

Photo Credit: 123RF
Photo Credit: 123RF

There are about a million reasons I shouldn’t write this post, a million reasons I don’t want to write this post.

For one, I’m exhausted.

And my coffee supply is running low.

Also, I have actual paying writing work that I should be doing.

Did I mention I’m exhausted?

Oh, and I’m in the middle of a really good book and want to get back to reading.

It’s late. Like almost-tomorrow late.

And yes, I’m exhausted.

But the real reason I don’t want to write this?

It isn’t because I’m almost out of coffee or because I have other work to do or because I am bone-crushingly exhausted.

It’s because I’m scared. I’m scared to write, to think too much, to feel too much.

I’m scared. Hide-in-a-closet scared.

I’ve been talking to a good friend about writing a lot lately. She is not a writer by trade, so it is somewhat rare – and refreshing – to talk about writing with her. Put it out there; get the ideas down, she told me she read somewhere. Sort things out later; sort them out along the way.

Or hide in the closet, I want to add.

But if there is one thing that I know to be true about writing – and life, for that matter – it is that you must be bravely authentic. You must be willing to be exposed, gutted, and flooded over and over again. You must be risky and brazen and bold. You must be in a perpetual state of reaching out and letting go and holding on. (Okay, so that’s really more like a dozen things, but you get the point.) Writing – and life – is best enjoyed when approached in a wide open kind of way.

The trouble is, I haven’t been writing in a wide open kind of way lately. And since it’s sometimes hard for me to know what I think or feel before I’ve written it, I’m not sure if I’ve been living in a wide open kind of way lately either. Well, at least not as wide open as I’d like to be.

I’ve been stuck and scared, playing it safe. I’m paralyzed by the What Comes Next dilemma now that my book is out in the world. I’m terrified that this, right here, might be the pinnacle of my writing career instead of the début. I scared of letting people down and losing readers. I’m tired of feeling like I’m on the outside looking in. And my head hurts from banging it against a wall of never-ending-have-no-answer questions, like should I focus more on marketing or try to get some speaking gigs? Should I blog more or should I – gasp! – start writing another book?

I’ve been stuck and scared, playing it safe. And I’ve been hiding.

For some people, hiding might mean inaction, avoidance, or sitting on the couch and binge watching Scandal.

For me, hiding means busyness.

If I stay busy with this thing – the safe thing – then I don’t have to face down that Big Scary Thing. If I busy myself with laundry and cleaning and work projects, I won’t have to actually sit down and write the next book. If I busy myself with writing listicles and about run-of-the-mill parenting conundrums, I won’t have to actually write about the hard things. If I stay busy writing about what everyone else is writing about, I won’t have to actually write about the things that I want to write about.

Because as much as I want to be bravely authentic, as much as I want to be exposed and gutted and flooded, risky and brazen and bold, in a perpetual state of reaching out and letting go and holding on – holy shit! – is writing (and living!) in a wide open kind of way scary. Like hide in a closet scary. Like sleep with the light on scary. Like a baseball bat next to the bed scary. Like I’ll-just-write-about-safe-stuff scary.

It’s terrifying to write about the things that I have a hard enough time thinking and feeling, much less trying to put those thoughts and feelings into some kind of coherent structure to be read and reviewed and evaluated. It’s hard enough to bear witness to my friend’s pain as she faces down cancer (or as I call it, Fucking Cancer), much less write about it. It’s hard enough to make it through a Big Long Exhausting Day without (excessively) yelling at the kids, much less write about the way that absolutely everyone – my parents, my kids, me – seems to be growing up and away too quickly. So I write about this or that, I make plans and write to-do lists. I stay busy. I hide.

Because I’m too scared to write about how my first thought in the morning is how long until bedtime, followed closely by God, what a pathetic way to start the day. I’m too scared to write about the way I sometimes still count calories in my head. I’m too scared to write about God and my doubts and how every Sunday when I sit in church I cry.  I’m too scared to write about the white hot envy I feel when read all of these really great writers like Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed and Anne Lamott, or about how when I find a new writer online I sometimes get so incredibly mad at them for being so incredibly good.

I’m scared to write about how I’m not sure what to write about.

But I suppose, eventually, we all reach a breaking point. At some point, we put our hands in the air and say Enough! At some point, the hiding becomes too big a burden and the wide-open-way feels just a little bit lighter.

Because in addition to that one-but-not-really-one-thing I said I’ve learned about writing and life, I have also learned this: As soon as you face down that Big Scary Thing that you were hiding from all that time, suddenly – poof! – it becomes a whole lot less scary.

Put it out there, my dear friend recommends. Sort it out along the way.

Well, I’m putting it out there. (Kind of.) I’m sorting it out. (Definitely.)

I have no advice, no words of wisdom. This is just me, writing about the things that I’m scared to write about without actually writing about them. Not yet, at least. But I’m sorting it out. I’m putting something out there. I’m acknowledging my intentions to be bravely authentic, to let myself be exposed and gutted and flooded, to be risky and brazen and bold, to live in a perpetual state of reaching out and letting go and holding on, to live in a wide open kind of way.

I mean, we only have this one life; isn’t a wide open, scared-but-doing-it-anyway the only way to live?

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10 Comments

  • I cry in church every time I go too. Being brave and authentic can be terribly exhausting. But I feel like it’s the only way to really help anyone move forward, ya know?

    And as for what comes next – it always takes care of itself, doesn’t it? Like you think it won’t. But life twists and turns and then you’re at the next step 🙂
    Molly recently posted…The Hunt for Love (when you never really lost it)My Profile

  • THIS –> “I’m too scared to write about the way I sometimes still count calories in my head. I’m too scared to write about God and my doubts and how every Sunday when I sit in church I cry. I’m too scared to write about the white hot envy I feel when read all of these really great writers like Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed and Anne Lamott, or about how when I find a new writer online I sometimes get so incredibly mad at them for being so incredibly good.”

    I feel these same things every single day. Props to you for doing what scares you and opening the door to vulnerability. I admire your intentions to be bravely authentic. That takes a lot of courage, and it is inspiring to read.

    Thanks for this great post!
    Clare recently posted…What They Don’t Tell You About GriefMy Profile

  • Yes, yes, yes. Writing your way past fear, writing for writing’s sake, writing to figure it all out. Letting ourselves be vulnerable on the page and with each other–to all of this, I say YES. And yet…it’s not easy, is it? Throughout this post, I felt like you were reading my mind. Your struggles and hesitations and your intention in the face of it all–they are mine too. And your last line really hit home: “…we only have this one life.” Exactly.

    With you in this. You can do it. xo
    Dina recently posted…where the road takes usMy Profile

  • I read this on my phone the day you posted, and I just re=read it now that I’m on my computer. I will admit that I don’t have a big scary thing to write about, and sometimes that makes me feel like an inferior writer. Or maybe I have many little things that I shouldn’t write, and I won’t realize that until I start writing. That probably doesn’t make any sense. But I do understand “scared but doing it anyway” – whether it’s writing or anything else in life. And you’re doing it.
    Dana recently posted…Ordinary LoveMy Profile

  • Christine: I think we all struggle with keeping our writing authentic, but also swallowing fear as the words unravel on the page. What are we revealing? And in the revealing, are we hiding too? So much of this post resonated with me. No words of wisdom, but this one piece of advice: Just keep writing. It is worth it. xo

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