Writing and Fear

August 17, 2013. I use writing as a form of salve for my still raw eight-month-old grief. Months before, I impulsively registered for my first writing workshop, a day-long intimate gathering in author Tara Mohr's San Francisco living room, and I’m on the early morning direct flight from PDX to SFO. I don’t know how real writers think, or how they prepare. I pull the blank robin’s egg blue journal from my bag and choose an orange pen from the rainbow of options neatly tucked inside a case. I open to page 3. The paper feels soft, almost silky. I don’t want to sully the creamy, unlined pages. I stare out the window and search for a sense of how to start. 

“As the sun rises into morning position, the ridges below my airplane transform from sleepy snakes into backbones of sleeping giants and iguana-like dragons. The now illuminated curve of the mountains like muscles on a lizard stalking prey; I expect her to raise her head and return my stare.” These two sentences are the sum total product of a nearly two hour flight. 

I collect my suitcase and hail a cab for the 45-minute trip, staring at the city in the dawn light for the duration. The taxi delivers me to the steep street in front of the address of my destination. I hesitate as I feel sweat bubble out of the skin on my back. I’m not a writer! He could drive me instead to the hotel I booked for tonight. 

Luckily, the driver doesn’t notice or care about my anxiety. He has my suitcase out of the trunk and on the sidewalk, propped to prevent a runaway, and he opens my door. His anxiety comes from the fact that he is far away from his next fare and he makes no effort to disguise impatience. 

I swing my leg off of the seat and place one foot on the ground. I breathe through one more hesitation and then I’m walking up the hill, waiting for the start time to arrive. I marvel at the hidden details of the homes. A third story flower garden blooms on the balcony of one. An ombre of chocolate, mocha, and cream covers the front of another. 

I see another woman arrive and I walk down the hill to the stairs leading to the retreat. I retrieve my suitcase from the spot I stashed it haul it up with me to then knock on the door. Tara’s kind eyes and welcoming voice greet me and my hesitation melts away. 

Later, I’m sharing a couch, sitting, writing furiously. Tara is describing the component parts of our artistic selves: creator; editor; agent; self. I don’t draw, ever, but I draw the image I have in my head of each. I watch sass, power, strength, and joy flow from my sky blue pen.

She directs us to write from each perspective to the others, using our non-dominant hands to trick our brains into relaxing. I learn my Editor is the guard. She keeps me safe and she doesn’t like risk. She wants the Agent to slow down and the Artist to be careful. My Artist is a dreamer and is more likely to daydream a story than to let one flow from my fingers. She reminds the Agent and the Editor she does not like pressure. My Agent is ambitious. Impatient. Frustrated with the Artist's pace and with the Editor's reluctance. They are all part of me. 

March 4, 2015 The Oregon House of Representatives meets for a marathon debate about a policy near and dear to me. I sit in the gallery, above the floor where the electeds agitate, and work on creating a website. Listening to the debate allows me to work without a barrage of mental negativity. I feel pride as I figure out how to use the tools. I play with the format and think about how to structure my new space. Hours later, the bill passes. I speak to my old boss, the one for whom I originally advocated on the issue. I pack my computer and call it a day. 

March 5th, March 6th, March 7th, March 8th, March 9th, March 10th, March 11th, I don’t write a word. I almost forget about my plan as I marinate in a dark haze of gloom. 

March 12th, I cry for help. I admit I can't do it alone. I reach out to a trusted resource and find time to talk. I take myself out to dinner. I savor flavors of spring. I wait for my appointment.  

I explain my deep sense of disappointment, my longing and sadness and inexplicable feeling of hopelessness. She queries me about the source and I struggle to identify a cause. 

Out of nowhere, I think to show her this new work-in-progress website. She remembers my vision from the last time we spoke: words, photos, and white space. Everything shifts as I realize the source of the gloom: my Editor is waging a war. "What do you have to say that hasn't already been said? You've gone far enough with this wanting to be a writer urge; no need to put yourself out there unless you find commercial success as some point in the future. Who would want to read your stuff, anyway?" It dawns on me that thoughts like these have been cycling through my subconscious relentlessly.

My mood shifts. I smile a small smile. I tell her my theory. I close my eyes and think about each of my parts. I ask my Artist to get to work, I ask my Agent to proceed with the project, and I assure my Editor if the world truly does end when I make this public, I can always shut it down. Relief speeds through my body. I’ll actually sleep tonight. 

It is Friday the 13th. 13 is my lucky number. I’m grinning as I type these words because of course I’m preparing to leap on a lucky day. My Editor, Agent, and Artist have my back. And now, I press save & publish.