In Ireland, we have this thing called ‘The Fear’.
It’s not quite the same as the Hunter S Thomson ‘Fear’, but it’s similar. Drugs can be an aggravating factor in the Irish ‘Fear’. But mostly it is anxiety resulting from a night of drinking. Of course, it isn’t exclusive to Ireland. People experience it anywhere in the world that alcohol is consumed, except over here, we’ve given it a title.
The Fear tends to strike hardest on a Sunday afternoon, as the realisation dawns on you that you’re due in work the next day and will be required to do stuff. Stuff that requires actual thinking.
You lie in bed: mouth like the Sahara, head thumping, stomach lurching, sweating like a morbidly obese man in a hot-tub. You attempt to piece your memories of the events of the previous night together. Try to fill in the gaps. The weight of a horrible, nameless shame bearing down upon you, cementing that awful certainty that you said or did or something terrible. Of course you did. And that many people witnessed your downfall. Most likely, they filmed it on their phones. Whatever you did, it’s definitely on YouTube. Probably going viral on Twitter right now.
Perhaps you split your skirt/trousers attempting an overambitious dance-move and had to slink off in shame, covering your arse with your handbag/jacket.
Perhaps you got over-amorous with a stranger in a public place.
Perhaps you said some shitty things to a person you care about.
Whatever it was, you know for a fact you went too far.
Way too far this time.
The Fear will convince you that you are a worthless human, you have a tendency to make terrible life choices, and it’s best that you remove yourself from normal society. That way you can’t do any more damage.
You only have three options:
- Fake your own death, move to Colombia and start a drug empire. You are such a complete degenerate, this should be no problem for you. Or,
- Find some spot in the wilderness and live on your wits and instincts, in total isolation. You’ve watched a couple of episodes of Bear Grylls: Born Survivor. You’ll be grand. Or,
- Find religion, join a religious order and live a cloistered life forevermore. Only Jesus can save you now.
I’m currently preparing a pros and cons list for each of the above options. The strange thing is, that The Fear that I’m feeling isn’t alcohol or drug induced. It’s writing-induced. Editing-induced, to be precise. I’m neck-deep in my final draft and I’m in a loop of negative thinking. I’ve missed two deadlines because I’m afraid of being finished.
I don’t think I’m alone in my thought processes. I’m sure you have felt the same way, or will at some point.
The fear that:
You’ve come too far to turn back.
You’ve invested too much time (ergo, money) in this novel.
You’ve TOLD people that you’re writing a book for fuck’s sake- and so you have to produce something. And you’re so close to the end. You can’t give up, walk away, can you?
But your book is terrible. Isn’t it? It’s awful! It should never see the light of day.
It is the worst book ever written in the history of books.
You should destroy it with fire immediately.
You begin to have nightmares that your book has been published and is being badly received.
You imagine that your readers’ reactions will range from: outrage that you could even consider publishing such a literary abomination, through to disgust, through to pity and amusement that you ever thought it might be a success.
These thoughts enter your head so you begin to shrink away from your book. You begin to fear it. It is like something that has crawled blackly from the deepest depths of your nightmares. Like that young-one in The Ring.
And it is part of you.
And that scares you the most.
That you will never be able to hide from it if you finish it. If you put it out there.
I read an excellent piece recently that said that it isn’t procrastination but perfectionism that is the writer’s biggest enemy. I’d love to link to it but I stupidly didn’t save it and I can’t find it anywhere. I think that this pretty much hits the nail on the head. Writers want to produce something beyond reproach. Something perfect. And the longer you delay, the longer you can put off the day you have to face the criticism, because there will be plenty.
I know that ‘perfect’ is an impossible standard to meet, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get close. How can I know when my novel is as close to perfect as I can get it?
How will I get over this massive speedbump in my path?
I don’t know yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do.