What I Would Write If I Wasn’t Afraid

25 Aug

Woman writing in notebook

Writing is scary.

I have a compulsion to be nice, an obsession with people liking me. I’m afraid of hurting people in my writing. I often find myself trying to take care of and protect them, with my words. Or I just don’t write those stories.

These are some things I’m afraid of, in my writing:

I’m afraid of hurting my family. I’m afraid of hurting my exes. Of hurting their girlfriends and wives, their ex-girlfriends and ex-wives. I’m afraid of hurting men who have hurt me. I’m afraid co-workers or bosses will read some personal detail about me that will make me  uncomfortable, squirm at the water cooler, look down in the cafeteria. That they’ll read something that will adversely affect my review, even though I don’t get reviewed at my job. I’m afraid that an imagined future employer will Google me and decide not to hire me, because I’m a flawed human being who struggles, and my flaws and struggles are Google-able. I’m afraid I’ll hurt friends, acquaintances, people I don’t like, and people I can’t stand.

But recently, I’ve been asking myself, What would I write if I wasn’t afraid? And the answer is: A lot. The countless stories that are crouching in corners, I’d write them if I didn’t have to navigate my fears, take care of this person, protect that one.

If I wasn’t afraid, I wouldn’t try to hurt people with my writing. I wouldn’t write in ways that criticized and blamed. I’d just…tell the truth. I’d be who I am and tell my stories, honestly and openly, vulnerable, flawed, and struggling. I’d write some things that would make people want to come closer, and other things that would make them want to look away. I’d take ownership of my life and my experiences. I wouldn’t try to take care of everyone else. I wouldn’t apologize, and I wouldn’t hide. I’d write it all. If I wasn’t afraid.

And recently, I’ve been thinking, I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of? What would you write if you weren’t afraid?

8 Responses to “What I Would Write If I Wasn’t Afraid”

  1. Shirls September 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    This post is so spot-on for me. I seem to be putting the brakes on all the time and wanting to play nice. But if I wasn’t afraid everyone would know what a horrible, sarcastic, ranting person I am. Though probably no-one would read it anyway.

  2. Michael September 8, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I’ve written some of it. Some I’m not ready to write. I have my reasons just like you probably have yours.

    While I think that the darkness can be written about, hypothetically, without malice towards ourselves or those that have done unto us, there would still be collateral damage. I’m skittish of that, the hurting of those who have nothing to do with my scars but are intrinsically connected to those who have everything to do with them.

    So I pick my battles. I don’t need to shine public light on everything. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Not as much as we seem to think, but sometimes. That line in the sand can and should be way farther out into the inter-tidal zone than we’re taught to believe it should be. I think that there’s a place for lines but, when we draw them, our feet , knees, waist, hands should be wet already. That far out at least.

  3. Fear of Writing September 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Brave post, you wonderful wild woman. One thing I would write if I wasn’t afraid would be this post :~)

    If I wasn’t afraid I would also write about my spiritual life.

    The times when I’ve written about people who hurt me or made me angry, I put them into fictional characters. Not the entire person, just some (or one) of their qualities.

    The ironic thing is, sometimes when I’ve created ENTIRELY fictional characters, friends or people I knew would read it and say, “This was about me, wasn’t it?” When they were actually the LAST thing on my mind! So there’s another reason not to let that fear stop us – because people will see what they want to see, even when it’s nothing to do with them.

    Good luck finding ways that feel right to you. And hugs for this post! You said it for (probably) all of us. I’ve had writers even say to me that they can’t write what they need to write until after X dies.

  4. Jennifer Garam September 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    @Shirls – Thanks for your comment!
    @Michael and Milli – Great to “see” you and so happy to pick up the wild conversation where we left off!

  5. j September 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    I LOVE this post. I’m sorry I took so long to get here. I think about this often, especially with regard to nonfiction. I share your fears of hurting people, especially family. I absolutely believe we need to write what we need to write, that we need to tell our truths as bravely and as nakedly as we can, that in our stories – the real ones and the ones we make up, we are connected.

    And I’m still working on translating that cellular belief to my writing. Maybe it’s a process, Jen. We get brave over time. xo

  6. Floretta November 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Jennifer you remind me so much of myself. Although I am not a writer I have always wanted to be. But how can you be a genuine writer if you are always so concerned about hurting people. I think the greatest writers are those that just write and if the shoe fits wear it. For instance, Anderson Cooper and Soledad they are the best journalist ever. But I’ve read your work as well and you are good too.

  7. M December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    This is exactly how I feel – and beautifully written, too.


  1. What I Would Write If I Wasn’t Afraid | Fear of Writing - September 13, 2011

    […] see a post on another writer’s blog that I just have to have. I was reading this post over on One Writeous Chick and it felt so perfect for our FoW readers, I asked my friend Jen if I could republish it here. She […]

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