On Growth

“Fear is the mind-killer.”

  • Frank Hebert, Dune

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. / Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. / It is our light, not our darkness / That most frightens us.”

  • Marianne Williamson, Our Deepest Fear


*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

When last we left off, I was reviewing my first book in the wake of having published my second, and it seemed as though I was entering a sort of writing renaissance for myself in which blog posts might become more frequent again.

That was October of last year.

So, you might ask, what happened to make me fall off the face of the Earth?

Well, I grew.

I have never written with the motive of doing so therapeutically—I don’t doubt that I have written therapeutically in the past, just without the intent to. However, today I see many of my friends and colleagues doing so, and I gotta say, perhaps that might be wise. So that’s where we are with today’s blog. Gonna get a little personal in here.

I’ve spent much of the last five years unemployed. To my own credit, I haven’t just been sitting on my hands the whole time—a few gigs here and there and a bit of continued education have dotted and beefed up the resume of my life. But I have never known stable, persistent work. There’re many reasons for this, and depending on who you ask in my vicinity, they’ll probably give you different ones. Some will point to my autism, which admittedly is not nearly as severe for me as it can be for others. Some will point to the general anxiety that is cripplingly prevalent on my father’s side of the family. Personally, I think the true cause lies somewhere in the middle, as I believe no one’s life is anything but complicated.

To put it bluntly, I have a crippling fear of commitment to the point of entrapment. It’s ironic, actually, because I think of myself as a very loyal person. But my fear stems from that loyalty itself trapping me into a fate I’d be unwilling to escape from. Could I see myself ever leaving a job I’m unsatisfied with, either merely to quit or to leave for a better one? Frankly, no, I can’t. And so, a fear of the unknown is created, a fear of the hypothetical eventuality of my possible employment that is frustratingly and, at times, overwhelmingly impedimental.

And, yet, I think I’m growing in spite of this fear all the same. It’s strange, and perhaps a little worrisome, as one of the themes in my books is the paralytic nature of fear. That I can be self-conscious of my own growth even in a suppressive environment of fear may unfortunately poke a hole in my books’ plans, or at least require further thought be put into the presentation of their plots.

In any case, I’ve begun to tackle and strike out at elements of my fear, albeit not the source mentioned above. I’ve long struggled with simple communication elements such as phone calls or emails (something some may attribute to autism) but more recently I’ve made significant strides in acquainting myself with both and, in effect, ‘getting used to them.’ I had always been hugely self-critical of both me as a person and my own accomplishments, thinking little of the things I’ve done—such as writing and publishing a book (or two), for instance—which has inhibited my motivation to submit applications for positions I may or may not be qualified for.

When I stopped adding to this blog last October, I was discussing how I was beginning to look for agented representation in the publishing world. That was a lie. I’ve long been looking for such representation, but as with job applications that I may or may not be fully equipped for, I’ve exhibited extreme reluctance to ever submit a single manuscript for representation to an agent for whom I may or may not be a perfect match. I’ve never once reached out to any agent. I do hope this changes soon.

I think it may.

Today’s world is one of profound horrors and struggles. War in Europe. Hunger in Northern Africa/Southwestern Asia. Environmental collapse and cosmically existential threats. It’s hard not to think about such things, and my rambling here probably doesn’t help. To some extent, these extremes put my own problems into perspective, but succumbing to the fear that surrounds these topics is just as paralytic and inhibitive as any other source of fear, mine included. Optimism and hope are the enemies of fear. Wield them. Grow with them in hand.

I think I’m beginning to, after many long years of not.

Well, that got a little emotional and almost preachy toward the end, huh? Maybe I can try to steer away from all that doom, gloom, and zealotry into something more mundane…like writing! That’s what this blog is for, anyways.

Growth in writing takes many forms. (Duh) Perhaps one’s grammar improves, perhaps their style becomes less monotonous and more enthralling. These improvements do come with time and practice, as most things do. The easiest ways to grow as a writer originate from criticisms of your work, some of which I talked about in my previous blog entry. But not all criticisms are inherently negative critiques; some come in the form of questions and curiosities, questions your readers are asking about your works that you may never have considered. I believe these to be the most valuable, and seeking them out—finding a reader dedicated and thoughtful enough to provide them—a paramount goal of an aspiring author.

“How does humanity even survive in this world?” was a question a close friend of mine asked of my novels, in which monsters and demons (there is a distinction!) prey upon mankind in a dark-fantasy narrative. I didn’t really have an answer at the time, and now that I think I have one, it remains a question I’ve come back to to make sure my answer still applies, even as the stakes and suspense of my world intensifies.

“What are the physics of Hell?” was a question I only recently found an answer for, after many years of pondering it. For clarity, the question asks of my fictitious plane of villainous demons, and not any biblical sort—you’d need a priest to begin to answer that one. But I look forward to finally incorporating my answer for my world in my future works, to further build upon and ground my fictional universe in a reality that seems ever more plausibly like our own. I find this hugely fun.

Sometimes your characters are the ‘friends’ that ask questions of your works (though I’d be cautious about befriending fictional entities) and oftentimes these are the most valuable, as it is your stream of consciousness beginning to find plotholes or areas for expansion within your world. One of my characters, in a scifi adventure I wrote a bit in high school and have since curtailed, once asked another what love was. I gave a bit of a lackluster answer at the time, but—obviously—the question stuck with me. And now, in the Crown of Thorns series, I’m writing a whole collection of novels within which finding a salient acceptance of love is a huge story beat.

Now, on account of writing this blogpost, I find myself questioning the nature and extent of fear, questioning whether my previous understanding of it is still valid. It may not be, and that’d be great to learn from!

There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to writing. If ever you’re asked one, give it due to consideration, and I can wholeheartedly promise you that you and your works will grow in turn.  

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