I’m Afraid to Write

I want to be a writer. I have come to this realization as I approach my 30th birthday at the end of the month, and am writing down my seventh short story idea. Simultaneously, I have also realized that I am afraid to write, I mean really write. Like 10,000 words a day write. Like spending every moment not working or sleeping, writing. Why am I afraid to write? I’m not sure. Writing essays isn’t as daunting, but when it comes to writing fiction, I start to feel anxious. When I do sit down to work on one of my story ideas, I can only write for brief amounts of time, with frequent breaks. Committing myself to completing even a first draft of a short story frightens me. I think it’s because I feel that I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have an MFA in fiction, haven’t dreamed of being a writer since I was five, and even though I have probably read hundreds of book during my lifetime, I feel like I haven’t read enough of the “right” kinds of books, the classics of American literature, that teach you what good fiction looks like.

What if I dedicate all this time, and what I write turns out to be trash? Writing is hard, and I tend to postpone completing tasks that I find too difficult. I have so many ideas in my head that I want to put out into the world, but I feel almost immobilized by fear. And if I’m this immobilized by fear, then do I really want to be a writer? Is this what I should be trying to do with my life? What I have read often from writers is that they have to write or that the urge to write is so strong; I don’t feel that yet.

What am I going to do to overcome this fear of writing? Well, while writing this essay (see? I couldn’t even finish this without taking a break), I reread Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice is Wrong, by Daniel Jose Older. What I learned from his words is that I need to not feel shame for not writing everyday, and that I need to find my own writing rhythm. As I finish fleshing out this seventh short story idea, I think about what the first words will be.