When last when left out intrepid adventurer,
I was talking about writing process and how I was building writing skills over the passage of time without knowing it. At this point I think back over the years and I ask myself what is it that brought me here today. What have I learned that is giving me the courage to write. To take my journeyman efforts and share them, even when I know they are imperfect. I think it is time to talk about the fact that I am here for more reasons than a love of the written word.
A great deal of writing seems to deal with personal courage. A sense of internal honesty that allows a person to first write down those stories you have rattling around your head, and then to have the awe-inspiring arrogance to actually think someone, ANYONE would want to read them. There is a great scene from a movie of my yesteryear and I am going to guess a number of you have seen it; “The Never Ending Story”
Okay have you stopped laughing? Still making dick jokes about Falkor and all the rest? Yes, it was a child show loaded with camp and cheese like no other. That being said it has some redeeming story elements and it moved me very much as a kid, as intended. Now some of you are saying, “Jesus Christ Marimba, get to the point Seamus!” and you’re also wondering what scene I am talking about. A few of you, the ones with that gleam in your eyes know it.
The Southern Oracle. The ancient sooth saying statutes able to prognosticate the future. Sounds, great, sign me up, Do the Rangers beat the Yankees?
It is not so easy, you must face trials, one being the Magic mirror gate, where you must face your true self.
That scene right there encompass the fear I felt about writing and sharing it with others. Nothing you say, nothing you do, nothing you write conversationally, like a blog for instance is a truer mirror of who you are than your writing. What you put down on those pages and what you choose not put on those pages is direct line to your very inner self. That is scary. It is also amazing and interesting. In the short year I have written speculative fiction I have learned things about myself both positive and negative from the pages of my stories. Not so much by what I am saying, but what I never choose to say. The characters I choose and the things they seem to care about have been a harsh and honest reflection into myself.
So there you have it, the universal challenge we almost all face as writers is that we are putting our “soul mirror” up to the world and saying look right in. It is scary, it is real and I think it is something that causes many wonderful writers to die with a trunk full of stories that would have changed our lives if we could have gotten to them. So I am going to tell how I deal with fear and how I think it has allowed me to be a fearless writer, if not yet a good one. (P.S. – This is not false modesty, I really loathe the concept of congratulating myself on my writing, it is one of the few things in life I have had to fight for every step of the way. I am really proud Iam here, but I also refuse to think I have gotten anywhere yet.)
When I was 19 my father died of a massive heart attack. It killed him in his slumber, which from all accounts is how he wanted to go. If you want to hear this story at length ask me at a Con, have scotch, be willing to share your own.
The loss of my father at such a formative age left me with two inherited traits, Fear and Anger. Suffice to say I spent the next few years of my life focused on my own selfish needs, my pain which I identified with all too strongly and having a great time being utterly miserable and alone inside. I earned the nickname “Bane”, I drank too much, slept far too little and probably went a little crazy. I was in College at the time and spend a lot of time, gaming and taking a very heavy load of classes. I thought I was okay, I was living with a good friend whom we shall call “Muskrat”. He lost his father roughly the same year I did mine and we were both doing our slow burn through young male grief.
This lifestyle went on for a couple of years, game, drink, school when necessary, read, scream at the sky and shake my fist at the Gods. This kind of living wears a person thin and I could tell after a while that I was running out of hate. Which left me a gut full of fear and uncertainty.
I was drinking one night in the Fox & the Hound pub when I was introduced to someone who would change my life, Monty. Monty was a hemingwayesque man in his late 40s. I had known of him as a local and friend of a friend. I could tell you a novel of stories about him, and perhaps I will at some point but this conversation in particular was quite painful.
Our mutual friend brought me to his table to meet him and I swaggered over like I was John Wayne in biker leathers. We traded bravado for about half and hour when Monty said something that popped me right between the eyes.
“You know, you talk a good game but I can tell you are really unhappy and afraid. Do you like being afraid?”
I didn’t have the sense to lie, “No…” I said.
Monty pulled me in close, I could smell the whiskey on his breath, “Let me tell you a little secret about fear. You ready to hear it? Will you listen?” he asked.
I was uncomfortable at this point, I have space issues, I like to keep people either close enough for my comfort or too close for theirs. This was neither, I wanted it over
but I also wanted to hear what he was going to say, so I nodded.
Monty looked at me archly, “There is no way AROUND Fear, you can only go through it.” he said, pushing his finger too firmly into my chest.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? It could come off a fortune cookie at a cheap self-help seminar luncheon. All that aside it was an armor piercing missile for my ego.
Monty nodded, he could tell he sank my battleship, “Think about if and let me know if you want to talk about it.”
I nodded… I sure as hell did think about it. It changed my life.
That simple maxim became North on my compass, much like the recent movie “Yes Man” it also was the start of some amazing and occasionally hilarious adventures.
I embraced that I could not be my own man and live in fear, so I quit allowing my fear to rule me. No, I did not go completely off the rails and decide if I was afraid of flying I should jump off a bridge. I might however, go sky diving, if I was afraid of flying, which I am not. I did ask the girl I liked out, and then the girl after her and the next. I did on a lark drive all over this country with friends because we could. I did take on subjects that intimidated me. It later lead to jobs which were a total stretch for me and my career level. I did anything I felt like I needed to do. Public speaking? Sure. Run a convention? Why not. I did it because I realized this is life, this is the one, could be the only one I get. There was really nothing to fear, because we are all going to leave this world through the same door. It has become the central element of my success. Living fearless has become a natural thing for me and the kid who once was the quiet, shy, bookish introvert is now a senior director in a sales organization, living his dreams.
Why do I think this matters to writing? Because when I decided a year ago to start writing, I wrote. Not a little, a few nervous tentative steps. No, I wrote 136k manuscript, because it scared me. I was intimidated, so I gave myself permission to do it. I knew it might suck, and the first third of my manuscript did. It sucks a lot less now because it has been a work in progress.
No matter where you are in life, no matter who you are, your education, your career, whatever… you can start down the path now by giving yourself the permission to write. I make no promises to you about being good, being published, having sales, being beloved and famous. But you will hold in your hand, your words. Go face that gate of the magic mirror and look at yourself through your works. I think you will be better for it, and SHARE them with others.
When you get to the Southern Oracle I can tell you the answer those blue, Babylonian sphinxes will say, “There is no way around fear, only through it.”
Now be fearless