Fear is a big part of the horror genre. It’s the point, really.
What it shouldn’t be a big part of is writing. Unfortunately, I think it’s a really big part of a lot of writers’ experiences. It’s a part of mine.
Writer’s block, in my opinion, is 98% fear.
What if I never finish? What if it’s not good enough? What if it is good and I have all these new responsibilities and attention? What if I can’t pay my bills? What if I get rich and creepy distant cousins start coming around looking for “loans”? You may not be aware of these questions and worries, but I think they are there for most of us.
I get scared a lot about some of these things and even more. It seems silly to be afraid of success, but it’s probably the one I fear the most. The money wouldn’t be a problem. I’m pretty sure I have no creepy cousins hiding anywhere.
It also seems rather egotistical to fear success.
When it comes to the horror genre, there are three main things that the protagonists and other characters fear:
- fear of physical pain
- fear of death
- fear of emotional pain
- fear of loss of self or control
Being a writer doesn’t include fear of physical pain, unless we’re talking about carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain from staring at the glaring white of a Word file for too long.
Few people actually die from writing.
Emotional pain? Oh yeah. This is a biggie really. Despair, crumbling self-esteem, anxiety, depression, shame, resentment, etc.
Loss of self or control over your own destiny? This is where fear of success comes in, I think. Suddenly you have an agent/publisher/editor telling you how to change what you created, what you should create next and how to do it better. They want you to do book signings, lecture tours, commercials for your favorite hairspray.
In the end, whatever fear you have either stops you from writing or has to be burned out of you like some monster in an old barn.
Joseph Campbell (author of myths and history) said, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” That’s really what writing is about. Even through the despair and depression, even though you may end up behind a folding table in an independent bookshop hoping someone shows up, you have to find the joy in writing.
Keep finding it. Keep writing, and the fear won’t stand a chance.