The Unknown Versus the Ticking Clock: Using One Fear to Overcome Another


I’m there again. At the cliff’s edge. Paralyzed.

Because I do not outline or plan my novels before I draft them, I come to this place fairly often when I am writing. I race through my story until I no longer know what’s next, and then I skid to a halt, panting. I lean forward, looking over the cliff’s edge, into the blackness below my feet. Faced with the great unknown, I struggle not to panic.

I hate the unknown. It’s so closely related to uncertainty and change. I like to be comfortable, and it’s hard to relax when you don’t know what’s coming. Fear that I won’t be able to continue writing, that the abyss is the end of the line rather than a temporary darkness, paralyzes me and I procrastinate, doing anything to avoid writing. (Well, almost anything. Nothing except guests can get me to clean the house.)

It’s easy to put my dreams in the back seat, to make them wait, especially when I’m scared.

The only fear bigger than my fear of the unknown is the fear that I will not write the books that are in me. I have at least three books I want to see to completion and no drafts completed. I have to keep moving, keep working, keep writing, or they will never be done.

Every day, I get closer to dying, whether I write or not. That’s the thing. Death is the ultimate deadline. I only have the time I have.

I can use my fear that I won’t have enough time to help me get past my fear of the unknown. I’m racing the clock. I ask myself, “Did I write today?” The answer needs to be “yes” as often as possible, or my fear that I won’t have enough time will become a reality.

I take a deep breath. I remind myself that discipline is just remembering what I really want. And then I turn my mind to the writing at hand and stare down the unknown until I start to see the light in the darkness. I will discover the next pieces of my story and move into certainty, possibly even inspiration, as long as I keep writing.

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