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I Eat Fear: My Writing

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I took the #38 Write class last month. The topic was Eat Fear. I wanted to share with you my writing submission. I also wanted to share with you the feedback I received from Kristin who created #38 Write. She gave me permission to publish the email she sent me and so you will find it here, right below my writing submission. What do you think? Do you have anything to add to her critique? What would you do to improve this piece of writing?

Another part of the class was to write a letter to someone about my BIGGEST fear. I chose to write to Jim. Kristin has published my letter on her website, so if you would like to read about my biggest fear you can click on the link at the bottom of this page and read that too. I’ll give you a hint, it has a little to do with death.

My Writing Submission:

My fear humiliates me with its inconsequential nature. It laughs at me as I endure the anxiety, self-flagellation, procrastination and inevitable submission. Nothing this small should induce this kind of fear. I imagine conquering fear, but I know it will inevitably return the first chance it gets. Fear haunts me. Just like a sad song I can’t get out of my head.

I must make a choice. I fear making decisions. I fear conflict.


I must choose one relationship over another. Person A demands I choose and person B shrugs helplessly. I suffer from sleeplessness, headaches and uncooperative bowels. I can’t make a choice. I’m scared to. I strangle myself with fear. I lug it around. I roll it around in my soul like a rock I am hoping to turn into a pearl. It becomes a hurdle so high I lose all hope of scaling it. I debate what to do. I discuss it with my husband. I complain about having to choose. I put off doing it. I cry.

For two weeks now I have gone through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. My grief is not for the loss of a friend, but for the loss of harmony and peace. These people are not life-long friends, but I wish harmony was. I despise conflict. I have never met either friend in person. I know them from the Internet. Still, I agonize over this choice. My fear of conflict, the inevitable fall-out, the second-guessing, and the not being liked is overwhelming. It picks at me like a hungry bird. It embarrasses me.

I am a grown woman.

This should not be bothering me so much. I worry anyway. What if I am ostracized from my blogging community? What happens when I do the right thing versus the popular thing? What if I lose everything I have worked so hard to obtain?

Finally, I get up the courage and open all of my social media pages. I begin to unfollow. I feel relief. I’ve chosen to keep the person I know has done nothing wrong. I’ve chosen to be unpopular. I’ve chosen to let the chips fall and to maintain my integrity.

Then, nothing happens. Nobody notices. Nobody cares. Like most of my fears, this one exists primarily in my imagination. I have exaggerated my self-importance. The entire experience embarrasses me.

The Feedback From Kristin:

When a writer sets off into an essay, one of her important tasks is to reveal a “universal” of whatever personal, unique experience she is sharing…that common, shared element to which readers can relate. If there’s not an indirect but vital connection for a reader, often the reader will lose interest and walk away. In this piece, you reveal the universal quite well, as most of us have been faced with a similar choice at one point or another in our lives. I imagine a lot of head-nodding by writers in the #38Write group as they read this piece in the Dropbox folder, as well as many silent “Oh, I’ve been in THAT position before.”

One of the things that makes this piece compelling is the way you describe your reaction to this fear over and over again, in the same that you experience the fear. Do you know what I mean? You obsess on the page, as in the following:

I suffer from sleeplessness, headaches and uncooperative bowls. I can’t make a choice. I’m scared to. I strangle myself with fear. I lug it around. I roll it around in my soul like a rock I am hoping to turn into a pearl. It becomes a hurdle so high I lose all hope of scaling it. I debate what to do. I discuss it with my husband. I complain about having to choose. I put off doing it. I cry.

If I were going to move you into a rewrite, I’d encourage you to heighten this even more, to add (yes, really) even a bit more drama. For example, “I discuss it with my husband” is a little calmer, flatter, and more reasoned than your other responses. Is “discuss” the right verb? See yourself talking to your husband about it. Let the reader “see” you, too.

I’d also encourage you to explain the dilemma more directly up front. I’m not quite sure, until the very end, what the problem is. You don’t have to explain in depth—that might cause the piece to lose its lovely momentum—but you do want to give enough up front so that readers know exactly what you’re talking about.

I so enjoyed reading this, Lillian. Your voice is there, on the page, gloriously so.

Brilliant line: “I roll it around in my soul like a rock I am hoping to turn into a pearl.”

Thanks for participating in #38Write | I EAT FEAR!


Read my letter (and others) about my BIGGEST fear here: I Eat Fear / Pieces from Writers Around The World.

I would like to take this moment to encourage anyone looking for a little help with their writing to sign up for #38Write this month. The topic is: Crush. It only costs $38.00. You get feedback on your writing from Kristin, the instructor. You can also choose to put your work into a drop box folder for other students to critique your work. People participate in creating Pinterest boards and discussing the topic on Twitter as well. If you are looking to join a writing community this might be a great place for you to meet people who will both support and challenge you with your writing. Read more about the Crush workshop or sign up for it here: #38Write / Crush. The online workshop begins February 23, 2013.

* I paid to take the class and found it to be useful and helpful and wanted to share my experience with you. I was not compensated in any way to write this. I just thought you might find my experience interesting.


11 thoughts on “I Eat Fear: My Writing”

    1. Thank you, Ginger Kay! I was a little nervous posting this because it is pretty personal, but I think if you want to be a writer it is sometimes good to get feedback. I know feedback can be a little uncomfortable to receive. I am hoping people will see it’s not that bad and maybe feel more confident about seeking out some feedback when they need it.

  1. I understand this fear; it can be paralyzing. I had a similar situation last spring and I had to go for it because if I didn’t, it would have eaten me up. This is where the concept of social media bleeds too much into the rest of our bricks and mortar life when it really, honest to God, has no authority. The public has a short attention span and it has occurred to me that people are so busy self-promoting them and their own craft that after a while, the more they complain about someone else, the more traction they are robbing of themselves. This is a oxymoronic dog-eat-dog place, the internet: they say our digital footprint lasts forever, but then I find that there’s so much going on, that people really don’t have time or the energy or the bandwidth to remember. … unless they are reminded.

    Too often we hear, “let it go,” “move on…” “brush it off,” or any number of insensitive comments. Sometimes, in order to release the feelings, we need to feel the feelings.

    My husband has a quote at the signature at the end of all his emails and I refer to it mentally as often as possible during moments like the one you shared do delicately with us: “I have known a great many troubles, fortunately none of them ever happened” by Mark Twain.

    1. That quote is so true. So often it’s not what we fear that get’s us, but something else that comes out of left field. Something we never even thought about!

      When I read my piece I still feel embarrassed by my fear. I think posting it here will hopefully give me and others some much needed perspective. I know other people have these experiences too. Social media can be a very strange place to forge relationships. I also wanted to share what the writing workshop was like more than I feared the exposure. I think that often helps me get past a fear too: wanting something more than something else scares me.

  2. It sounds like the workshop paid off! And now I want to know all the whole backstory like a gossipy old twit. Fine. I’ll let it go. For now. But we WILL head out for drinks someday and I’ll get it out of you. I’m good like that. (;

    1. I would tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Just kidding, sometimes I like to pretend I am James Bond. The story is just boring enough to make you cry, but I will happily tell it to you. Of course, you might want to start drinking early so I seem more interesting.

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