Monday, May 2, 2016

Fear: The Writer's Merit Badge

  If you were looking for a one-word definition of fear for use in a dramatic argument, which is to say a story, or as a point of logic in an essay, chances are strong you'd choose dread. 

The You, in the essay, or your surrogate character in a story, would accept that definition, even though dread doesn't pack the emotional wallop.  I dread the thought. Nice enough, but lacking some of the physical effects fear can work on you or the psyche of a character.

You can dread a forthcoming event, dread the forthcoming results of some test, trial, or performance, but chances are you could fall asleep in the face of your dread while fear itself could keep you from sleep or from being absorbed in the things you are so frequently absorbed in when you are nor fearful.

Look at it this way:  Fear is a commanding presence, one that can take you away from music, reading, writing, a remarkable meal, and the proper enjoyment of friends.Once you've experienced fear in the immediate moment or the dread of the effect yet to come, you've earned your way up the ladder of appreciation at being able to become so caught up in some other emotion or state of mind. 

Thanks to fear, you understand how commanding a presence it is when you are in effect merged with your focus on your other project at hand.These merged states are the ones you've become attached to, starting with the times of childhood when you were merged with nothing so much more exciting than putting on a sock, where a parent would find you, as though in a catatonic state. Then, you were merged with the wonder of everything, Sirens calling you to the thrill of the world and your youth. 

Later, you were able to become merged with something you were writing, a symptom that grew until you found times where you were merged with the work you were trying to compose. Then you came to understand the fear of the thing you were merged into being of no greater importance than you, putting on your sock.

Fear has that distracting effect, on humans and on the characters they create. And yet, fear is one of the most useful implements in the writer's tool kit and a vital force to have for a human. This is not merely to recognize fear as an early warning system alarm, slipping the note under the door to tell us we are in some serious fucking danger, rather to remind us how fortunate we are to have any presence of it in our life.

To some degree, you're afraid of at least one thing every day, even if that fear is a reminder you might be late for an appointment, a meeting, a class, or a deadline. This last, deadline, is of splendid relevance in its direct association with performance. 

Deadline means a promised time to have a project, such as a story, ready to hand over to a publisher, or a speech or lecture close enough in hand to be presented to an audience or to a lens, which will capture enough of you for later projection to an intended audience.

Your life, and the lives of your characters, would become hollow misery if neither you nor they suffered fear at any level. The result would be an overwhelming projection of confidence, perhaps even arrogance, two qualities you recognize as symptoms leading to humor inherent in such individuals. 

For all he was well conceived and presented, the character of Sherlock Holmes provides us a splendid example of a nearly fearless individual. Holmes's nearest imagined fear is the one of boredom.

A step or two beyond your role as a person who on occasion is subject to fear, there lurks the you as a person who wishes to spend as much time as possible in a writing mode or, beyond that, in a reading mode, much less in a regular person role. 

This is because you have a higher degree of control than you have as a regular person, even though you bring fear right along with you in the sense that when you look at your work the subsequent day to having done it, you will find one major flaw or a series of small, irritating ones, in either case giving you cause to fear there is no way out of the conundrum into which you have worked yourself, nor indeed is there sufficient questioning and presence to suggest any degree of relevance or merit.


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