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Block | Stage Fright

At some point it is entirely possible you will experience the same paralyzing terror that faced me when I finally saw finishing (one of) my book(s) as a reality. Everything was lined up, all I had to do was write it. And I knew exactly what happened.

The minute I saw the finish line I wanted to turn around and bolt in the other direction. If I finished at some point that meant I might be published. (After the rigmarole of editing, revisions, and the multitude of other potential hurdles.) Seeing my book in print would mean this secret story I’ve been laboring over for years would suddenly become public.

I would be exposed.

A new roadblock appeared. I was stopped dead in my tracks with a variety of writer’s block I didn’t know existed. The fear of letting go.

After hiding under the covers for several days I finally found a solution, one surprisingly closer to me than I expected. And it was so much like another irrational reaction that I could draw a close parallel and recover from what was the equivalent of premature stage fright.

The clue was in my traveling habits. Yes everyone talks about a career in the arts as being a journey, blah blah blah I'm talking not about the tired analogy. Instead it's stranger than you think. And it just may hold the key to unlocking your frozen mind.

You see, I love to take trips. I have no fear of planes and can generally occupy myself enough for short hops not to feel bored or weighed down. I’m even perfectly okay sitting in those long rows of seats by the gate waiting for a delayed flight to arrive so I can leave.

I've been dropped of at airports early, I've had flights canceled on a rainy days, planes were empty, or full or noisy, or held up by a drunk being escorted off-board by security (I'm not kidding). Whether it's standing in a queue to be put on the next flight or trying to pretend the person next to me isn't telling me a story about a bomb (Again not kidding), I feel perfectly fine.

It’s the security line I hate. It has nothing to do with TSA. I flew in and out of Denver and San Jose on a very regular basis and had always been met with good manners and pleasant dispositions. (I do avoid SFO however.)

I don’t mind the silliness of taking off my shoes, I’m perfectly okay with plucking a quart size bag of liquids from my purse.

It’s taking out my laptop and putting it in a bin to be shoved through to the other side that I can’t stand.

For a brief moment I’ve lost control over my most precious thing. Yes I have a time capsule and two back up drives, yes everything is backed up four ways (I'm not kidding), yes my computer would be covered by house insurance.

But all of my writing, the good and the bad is on my laptop. Everything from my days of teenage drivel to the hundreds of pages of plots that went no where and characters that didn’t fit. Stuff I plan to take with me to the grave.

Of course I password protect everything including sleep-mode. The most likely course of action of a thief would be to reformat my drive and start from a blank slate. My Data would be destroyed and my fail safes would prove themselves useful. But given what I have on my computer it is natural that I’m deeply emotionally attached to it.

Every time I put it through a scanner I dread the thought of someone other than me picking it up. What if they could break in and get the data?

Why would they want to?

They wouldn’t.

It’s an illogical fear of having something I love removed from my hands.

As soon as I’m through I’m at peace with the world, I have my computer and everything else is out of my control. I can just relax, wait for the early bird queue and enjoy priority boarding.

What does this have to do with premature stage fright?

According to a friend of mine, letting go of your art is much the same. The build up, the tension, the trauma of every step it takes to put your work on display disappears as soon as the nails are hammered into the wall.

She is a watercolourist. A good one. And she waited fifty years to go public. Every time a show or a cafe takes her work the pain flares up again. The anguish and feeling of being exposed is just as strong. But the release once it’s done is again immediate.

You don’t continue to feel naked. It’s done and over and you move on to the next project without really thinking about it. Whether people like it or not is totally out of your control. You’re free.

That knowledge, that slip of comfort, is enough to put my fingers to the keys when I fear the end result. Yes you suffer every step of the release, but the pain does not continue. I can stop anguishing over the fear of being exposed and get on with writing the damn thing.

Or several I suppose.


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