As a feature writer and blogger, I’ve written articles and posts about many things under the sun, but I have never publicly written about my fears. Of course, my journal pages are peppered with entries about the fears I’ve had to face through the decades, but those pages are meant for my eyes only. I haven’t been able to use those experiences in my writing life.
In an article that was published in the New York Times, journalist and author Sarah Jio writes about how she uses fear as a writing prompt:
“Here’s the thing: Everyone tells you to write what you know. It’s the tried-and-true advice every writer hears at some point in her career. But to take my writing to a deeper level, I’ve found that a better practice is to simply write what frightens you, haunts you, even.”
“I now keep a sign on the bulletin board in my office that reads: “Write What Scares You.” I’ve learned that tapping into the hard stuff — whether it’s the fear of loss or a boogeyman lurking in childhood memories — is what ultimately gives a story the power to leap off the page and grab you by the collar.”
Not so appealing, I must admit, but a challenge worth considering. And it’s nice to know that we can use our childhood memories of shadows and scary events as fodder for articles, blog posts – and who knows, maybe even a book.
In Writing and Fear, Jio shares a childhood memory that is still vivid in her mind. “The truth is,” writes Jio, “I owe much of my understanding of suspense and fear on the page to one single terrifying experience in 1990.”
As an emotion that is stored in the body, fear is potentially paralyzing. To be able to use it to prompt us to create a story, a painting, or a poem, would certainly bring healing. And if only for that, it would be worth our while to dig into our memory banks and allow our fears to prompt us to write.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile