Fear


I’ve written about fear before I think, even if only on twitter.

Fear drives me to the kettle n hundred times a day.

Fear leads me to write poetry instead of my novel. That’s quite a productive use of fear. But it doesn’t get my novel written.

I read a piece by AL Kennedy the other day about how she decided early on to write as well as she could, to give it everything.

The thought of this makes me feel a bit sick (and in fairness to me seems nearly to have killed AL Kennedy).

When I run I constantly worry about trying my hardest and having nothing left, burning out, being unable to continue. I need to keep a little something in reserve for my own security, for peace of mind.

Of course I worry then that the little piece that I leave in reserve is the best bit, the bit that will make the difference between being placed and being an also-ran, between people wanting to read my work and them not wanting to read my work.

Not that I worry that much about people wanting to read my work. I do have a sense of how a reader might respond to what I write. I try not to bore myself or the imaginary (implied?) reader who is reading over my shoulder. But really I want to write something which I think coheres, which hangs together in a satisfying way. It’s quite a modest ambition, but still looks like Everest from where I’m sitting.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder whether it is fear that keeps me moving at snail’s pace. Maybe I’m just a snail.

I tried to write part of my novel quickly to a deadline which Christmas threatened to eat the other day and it wasn’t good.  Full of errors and things that I didn’t really feel.

Perhaps my work has to be mulched and bedded down a bit on a few dozen furrowed-brow walks when I think to myself I must get on with my novel and I wonder how the protagonist will deal with X or Y.

And I do really like tea.

When you see me advertising my first collection of poetry, you’ll know the fear has won.

[A note on social media. One depressing thing. People are using the ‘like’ function on WordPress blogs to promote their businesses. So now when I see that someone has ‘liked’ my post I don’t know whether they do in fact like it or whether they just want me to buy one of their pictures or whatever. The ‘liking’ and commenting has always had a quasi-reciprocal string attached to it. But it used to be just other bloggers trying to raise their profiles by commenting or ‘liking’, which was sort of innocent as there was only the most indirect or gentle financial link (authors hoping to turn clickers into book-buyers mainly).

One fantastic thing. I’ve started following the poet @George_Szirtes on twitter and he is producing a series of intensely enjoyable and literary tweets about the Doctor and Langoustine. It’s a fantastic use of the medium as it’s non-narrative. Narrative suffers in the maelstrom which is twitter because you won’t generally see every tweet from any particular author. Szirtes seems to understand this and it doesn’t matter if you miss one or ten or twenty of the tweets but they are somehow cumulative, so the more you read the more enjoyable they become. In my view it’s the first self-consciously literary use of twitter that exploits the medium in an intelligent and sophisticated way.]

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Posted in Writing
7 comments on “Fear
  1. Simon Robinson says:

    I remember that in the film ‘French Film’ the protagonist’s soon-to-be-‘former’ girlfriend describes him (in a moment of ire) as a ‘failed novelist’. His next companion corrects this jibe, saying he’s merely a ‘frightened’ one.

    Fear, I agree, is just a normal state for some writers, especially those novices, like myself, who would like to produce really good pieces and so take the time to mature their output.

  2. Cathy, I believe that in most cases, you have to go at the pace that your unconscious needs to go at. I’m sure you know ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande (surely the first writing how-to manual published 1934!)

    I find that if your unconscious is engaged in a story, it is chugging away at it on a low level, no matter what else you are doing. Brande considers this mysterious part of the mind as almost separate and one’s duty as a writer is
    not to inhibit it too much with the analytical part of the mind and most importantly not to bore it.

    I think that writers these days are just about suffocated by detailed, analytical, how-to manuals/blogs/courses, and one is constantly fearful that one has transgressed against some writing guru’s 15 point list.

    First you have to free yourself up and to hell with everyone else, only then should you let loose the inner critic.

    Mind you, please bear in mind, I speak as the original ‘failed writer’.

    I too follow George Szirtes and love his ongoing dialogue and have been enjoying your interactions with him too!

    • Cathy Dreyer says:

      Thanks Nan, yes I know of the Brande book and I really must read it. The thing about not hurrying your subconscious is something I have had a very strong instinct about so it’s good to know that there are other, more experienced, voices backing me up on that one.

      I don’t think you’re a failed writer, for what that’s worth. I also, if I may say, don’t think it’s good to describe yourself like that, unless you have really abandoned all ambition of writing/publishing.You might start to believe it.

      George Szirtes is great isn’t he? Quite a weird feeling that you’ve been following our conversation. Twitter’s so strange like that. Even as I cyber-stalk someone’s timeline I still think no one will bother reading mine!

      In recent months twitter has lost its shiny shiny happy a bit for my taste. It’s started to take on some of the less beguiling attributes of real life in some ways, and no, I don’t want to elaborate on that. So it’s a relief to have a new voice making something interesting and creative.

      Thank you very much for such an interesting comment xxx

  3. Viv says:

    Fear is normal. Honestly. I spend much of my days consumed by a form of it. My greatest fear at present is about being invisible, fading to nothing but a distant voice, like poor Echo while Narcissus gazes lovingly at himself.
    Keep on keeping on, that’s the way.
    When I turned 40 mmmffffmm years ago, I made a resolution that I would do things that scared me. I’ve done things that have made me wish for Tena Lady shares. But I have regretted none of them, not even the life modelling. Only regret there is not asking for some of the sketches.
    Courage, mon brave!

  4. Cathy Dreyer says:

    Thanks Viv. Life modelling. I envy you that experience. I wouldn’t have the nerve. Cathy xxx

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