I’m afraid of spiders and rats and snakes. I’m afraid of the dark. I panic in tight spaces. I’d like to have 1/8th of Lisbeth Salandar's gumption. If I’d been buried alive in dirt, I’d have died of a heart attack before I could choke out, “Get lost, worm.”
I’m also afraid of irons, but that’s a long, boring story. No one would want to read a book with me as the main character. But Lisbeth Salandar? Whatever she’s up to next, I’ll read about it.
Our favorite fictional characters have quirks and flaws and fears. To write a memorable character, we must throw her into a most feared situation and watch as she claws her way out or adapts.
But it’s not only mud and snakes we dread. Fear of failure looms over many of us. Fear of getting our work torn apart when we read our first chapter at critique group, of querying our first agent, of sending a requested full manuscript. Or, my personal favorite, fear of speaking in front of a crowd.
In January, we What Women Write ladies will present our first formal workshop. We were asked to host one of the monthly Writers’ Guild of Texas programs and speak about our blog: how we conceived the idea, came up with the name, schedule blog posts, and what advice we would give to others who might want to do something similar. Luckily I can defer mostly to my five more eloquent partners, but I will have a short piece. (I’ll of course need to conquer this for my first author talk or book signing. Or maybe just pop a Xanax.) Lisbeth Salandar no doubt has this Gandhi quote as a screensaver: “There would be nothing to frighten you if you refused to be afraid.”
When my son was a toddler, we took parenting classes. One of the ways we learned to motivate a fearful child was to point out strengths in other areas or difficult situations they’ve overcome. So I tried this on myself: “Anyone who has been interviewed on camera at an NBA Basketball game can…” No wait, I choked and that interview never aired. Try again. “Anyone who has chatted with Emma Thompson…” No wait, I choked there too, and mentioned something silly like I was a writer. “You and everyone else,” she must have been thinking.
Okay, how about this? “Anyone who has spoken to a conference room full of scary investors, intimidating tax accountants, and menacing attorneys can surely speak in front of a group of harmless writers.” Now we’re getting somewhere. My fear level just cut in half. You writers don’t scare me.