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Does Fear Hold You Back?

If you think about it, how much of what we do in our daily lives is motivated by fear?

In an interview with Wyatt Mason for The New York Times in October 2014, Robinson talked about how the emotion of fear has infiltrated our culture like never before.

This June, as a grandfather clock rang the quarter-hour in her modest Iowa City living room, the American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, a woman of 70 who speaks in sentences that accumulate into polished paragraphs, made a confession: “I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny.’ ”

“ ‘So I shot him,’ ” I said.

“Exactly.”

“ ‘Can you blame me?’ ”

‘Exactly. Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”

She added how fear affects her life as well.

It was here that Robinson brought up fear: How it has come to keep us at bay from our best selves, the selves that could and should “do something.” In her case, that “something” has been writing. For Robinson, writing is not a craft; it is “testimony,” a bearing witness: an act that demands much of its maker, not least of which is the courage to reveal what one loves.

“A lot of people who actually believe in the sacredness of life, they write things that are horrible, desolating things, ” Robinson said. “Because, for some reason, this deeper belief doesn’t turn the world. . . . It comes down to fear; the fear of making self-revelation of the seriousness of ‘I sense a sacredness in things.’ ”

That’s strong. How many of our daily interactions are motivated by fear?

I’ve always struggled with truly believing I’m a “writer.” Even though I do it full time, and even though I write this blog every day, I often wonder, “Am I really good enough? Can I really call myself a ‘writer?'”

I’m beginning to think I like Marilynne Robinson more than her novels, at least Housekeeping. I’m struggling through it a bit.

Is fear reflected in your writing? How?

Read the full interview at The New York Times

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Am i good enough? Is certainly something I’ve felt. Fear of judgement. The approval we constantly look in others rather than in ourselves. Our society is certainly full of that. We must push ourselves beyond that as writers/artists.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 26, 2015
    • Exactly what I feel! I always fear being judged about my writing and the feeling that ‘am I good enough?’ keeps nagging me constantly.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 26, 2015
      • “The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping .”

        – Dale Carnegie –

        Liked by 1 person

        February 26, 2015
        • Jay Ong #

          But it’s easier said than done trying to stop ourselves fearing judgment or failure because as inherent social beings, we usually rely on the thoughts of other people rather than listening to our own. It’s so sad because I feel like we could all achieve something greater if we knew that we couldn’t fail, you know?

          Liked by 1 person

          March 2, 2015
          • Right. And how do you achieve that? By accepting that as human beings we all fail. Failure is part of life. If we accept this we can transcend it and go beyond the approval/disapproval syndrome. It’s not about “not failing”; It’s about failing and being ok with it. Other people’s judgement won’t matter anymore.

            Liked by 1 person

            March 4, 2015
      • “The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping .

        Like

        February 26, 2015
  2. Lucille #

    Smack-dab in the middle of Robinson’s collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, the one titled When I Was A Child addresses Housekeeping. It’s pretty deep stuff, but you might find it helpful.

    I think you might like Gilead, the one for which she received the Pulitzer, or her new book, Lila, more than Housekeeping. It depressed me that I share a name with one of the women.

    Like

    February 26, 2015
    • From what I’ve read, I think I’d like Gilead more too. Too bad it’s not on the list.

      Like

      February 26, 2015
  3. Maybe it is fear that motivates my writing. Fear that if I don’t write what I write nobody else will. Fear that not writing means I have passed this way and left nothing of myself that says “I was here, damnit.”

    Liked by 1 person

    February 26, 2015
  4. Stephen McDaniel #

    I’m about Robinson’s age, but I don’t see more fear now than in years past. I see changes in what we fear, and I perceive that the increasing connectedness of the world gives us more things to fear more often. I think we lose a little bit of our individuality with all that connectivity, and began to think of ourselves as just a dot in the herd. But anyone who writes and wants to do it well goes through a bucketful of doubt every week – its the nature of the beast. If you are trying to reveal some deep well of truth from in yourself, I don’t know how you can ever judge if you’ve succeeded. If you are writing to communicate, or to tell a story, your readers will soon let you know if you’re succeeding.

    Like

    February 26, 2015
  5. Don t let Fear hold you back!!

    Like

    February 26, 2015
  6. Muito obrigada pelo post!!

    Like

    February 26, 2015
  7. Fear does hold me back, less now then it used to. Fear of the unknown and fear of failing I’d say are my two most common fears.

    Like

    February 26, 2015
  8. I definitely have a little bit of Impostor Syndrome. I tend to not try things because I don’t think there’s any point—”I won’t get the job/promotion anyway, so why apply?” “Why should I even bother blogging, no one is going to read it”…etc. etc. Sometimes I think it’s almost preemptive sour grapes; I reject myself before anyone even has the chance to reject me, and I tell myself it wouldn’t have been as good as I thought anyway.

    I think creative endeavors are probably a lot more vulnerable to fear, as well. Things like business and finance might be more high-pressure, and subject to a certain kind of fear, but surely nothing like the fear that, despite trying your hardest, you’re not making the world more beautiful the way you set out to. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    February 26, 2015
  9. My fear is reflected in how brave I am at getting my writing out there. The older I get, the less fear I have. The clock is ticking.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 26, 2015
  10. Very interesting line of thoughts. I wonder where self analysis ends and fear begins?

    Like

    February 26, 2015
  11. She is a profound thinker and it shows in every word that she puts on the page. I have read all of her fiction (Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila). There are times I am forced to reread passages for their sheer beauty and grace, then there are moments I am clueless, not unlike her protagonists, lost to the puzzle and pain of existence and the meaning of it all, and the sorrow of happiness. Gilead, though, remains very dear to me heart.

    My favourite quote: “It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.”

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  12. My fear is usually one of “doing it wrong”. It’s not so much that I fear negative judgment, but that the negative judgments will be just. Much of the creative work I’ve done lately has been in translation, and I’m less concerned with hearing my prose is weak–I know that–than with discovering that I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented what the author is trying to say. It paralyzes me.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  13. Reblogged this on GarateFoto.

    Like

    March 2, 2015
  14. If I did put a label on why I’m not writing it would be laziness. At this stage of life, I can’t really think of much that I truly fear. I know for certain that I don’t care how other people might judge anything I write as I intend my writings to be just for me. It would be nice if other people liked what I wrote, but that’s not a requirement for anything that I put out into the world.

    Can you tell I’m not trying to write a potentially sell-able book? That’s always subject to change, of course!

    Like

    March 3, 2015

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