I have just agreed to do another scary thing. It’s a not-writing, presenting type thing and I’d love to do it, am glad to have been asked, AND it scares me.
Among the other scary things I have already agreed to do is to give a lecture at the end of February. My first-ever properly-in-a-university lecture – 90 mins on the Buddhist view of consciousness and, although I’ve been practicing my form of Buddhism for 25 years and I only need to speak about that and not the many and varied views of all forms of Buddhism (though there are, of course, plenty of joins as well) – it also really scares me. I’m not an academic, I don’t give 90 minute lectures to 150 undergraduates every day, and it’s not as if I’m speaking about my own work which I could do standing on my head for many hours at a time (which I also get nervous about). So I’m doing the prep and being scared and getting on with it regardless.
I’m also going away, for the full month of May, to be Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library. While this is brilliant opportunity, the first time I’ve ever gone away to write, I am, of course, nervous. I love my home, I love working from home, I love my wife and our life. I don’t much like being away from her … I might be lonely.
I’m beginning to work on the new idea for a new book.
I’ve agreed to dramaturg and potentially co-direct a piece with a woman I don’t know at all but we have some people and some values in common and we had a good meeting and that felt like a reason to say yes.
I’ve agreed to direct a friend’s new play – venue pending.
I’ve agreed to work with a group (some I know and some I don’t) on a multi-media show/play/installation/thing, because I like the people involved.
And there’s the play I’m writing.
And the film script.
And this new book idea that feels so different and big and …
Every single one of these things scare me.
I went to bed last night thinking I needed to get some good solid writing done today and that knowing that was a scary thing. What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t like what I’m writing? What if …?
And I noticed that the way I felt about sitting down at my desk to write today was very similar, though on a lower level, to the fear I get before something like a presenting gig, or going into a rehearsal room for the first (or fiftieth!) time, or agreeing to go somewhere a do a book event …
I realised I’ve been thinking of the things I do outside my home/my office as the scary things. And it’s true that getting up in front of ten or twenty or a thousand people is scary, no matter how often you’ve done it, or how skilled you are at it, there’s always the chance of making a fool of yourself and of that foolishness being witnessed, of letting down the people who are trusting you to make the event work.
BUT I’ve slowly become more aware that I get scared about writing too. I get scared when I have a new commission, worried I can’t do it. I get scared when I have a day’s writing time ahead of me that I won’t be able to do it. I get scared that the writing I do won’t match up to my dream of the writing I might do.
That is – I have become accustomed to the things that need me to show myself in the world as being the things I give care and attention to because being in the world is something I often find worrying or frightening. (Yes, I know, appearances to the contrary – the key word being appearances obv.) I now realise I feel the same about writing. A much lower level feeling, but it’s there all the same. The same nervousness I feel before going on stage for an impro gig, I feel before sitting down to write a new scene, a new page.
It’s ALL frightening/disturbing/nervous-making to me, on varying levels from hugely to just a little. And that awareness – noticing that this tension in my stomach when thinking about a piece of work is to do with fear, with nerves, with uncertainty – has also made me feel great about it.
Of course it’s frightening – any and all of these things I’ve mentioned, as well as many others – are frightening because they matter. It matters to me that I write the best I possibly can. It matters to me that I do the best job I can at an event.
And I’m glad it matters. I’m glad it feels as if what I do has meaning and I therefore have reason to worry about it.
Because if it didn’t matter* then I’d really have something to worry about.
*matter to me, whether it matters to anyone else is entirely up to them.