Bad Advice Wednesday: Fight Through the Fear

categories: Cocktail Hour


ropeAs I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m teaching a graduate class this spring called “Just Write,” the idea being to clear away clutter and get down to the business of actually writing.


Last week, during our first class, I mentioned the “Christmas morning feeling” that early morning feeling writers sometimes get, when they go to sleep early thinking about the next day’s work and wake up excited to get to it. (I think I plagiarized, or half-plagiarized, that phrase from Donald Hall’s great book, Life Work.)


Well, suffice it to say, not every morning is Christmas morning. Over the last week I have woken up with a feeling not of excitement but dread. I suppose I could pin actual reasons on that feeling (an operation on my leg, anxiety about my forthcoming book) but it feels more free-floating than that. That creepy something-bad-is-going-to-happen uneasiness. Or, to put it more simply: fear.

I still go about my morning routine, stretch my back, feed the animals, boil tea, make coffee, and the rest. But I don’t quite sprint up to the computer as if it’s a present to open. I’m a little scared of turning on the machine, really. I worry that I don’t have the energy to deal with the bad that is coming or to make the things that I need to make. I think too much.

But generally, thanks to years of habit and, more importantly, the knowledge that if I let the fear paralyze me I will be on the fast road to depression, I start to type. Not always, and certainly not always well. But enough so that often enough that activity, combined with the magical alchemy of caffeine, becomes the self-made rope by which I climb out of the abyss.

I write this out from very recent personal experience. From this morning in fact. Two hours ago I was sitting here quaking, if not on the outside than in. The first strand of the rope was woven out of yesterday’s post on Wallace Stegner and largeness. This is the next strand. And now that I have some momentum I think that I will turn to an environmental post about something I saw while down in the Gulf a couple of weeks ago. Three strands will make for a pretty good morning, a way to pull myself up.

Though no guarantee that the fear won’t be back tomorrow.

(Sorry: that last line is not very pep-talky.)

  1. Tommy writes:

    Three strands a pretty good rope doest make. One hand over the other, not knowing where you’re going (but you’re going!), DON’T look back, don’t look down.

  2. Bill Fowler writes:

    Always enjoy reading this…

  3. Brad Rassler writes:

    No schadenfreude coming from these quarters, but as I’m sitting here alone, working in fits and starts, and wearing a Mile 22 pain face, it’s helpful to know that even the veterans occasionally lose their mojo. Klister conditions.

  4. Thanh writes:

    Thanks for this post David, just when I need it most. Sometimes I’m thankful for the routine/habit that pulls me away from the fear, or even just the inertia…