Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Sum of All Fears

by Julie Coulter Bellon

This may be a little embarrassing so I hope you’ll bear with me.

I want to talk today about fears. My daughter came home with an assignment to ask one of her parents about their fears. The first question was name five things you are afraid of. I thought for a moment then said, "spiders, fear of someone close to me dying, heights, and bridges." (Yeah, I know, the bridge thing is weird, but whenever I’m in a car traveling over a bridge all I can think of is the edge and how horrible it would be to go over said edge and crash and then watch helplessly as my car fills up with gurgling, bubbling, death-bringing water and soon I’m gasping for air in a small air pocket before I finally succumb and drown in the watery depths. Assuming I survived the crash that is. But I digress.)

You may have noticed that is only four fears. I thought a lot about the fifth fear. My neighbor is afraid of birds and sat in a grocery store parking lot once for quite some time because a seagull was walking around and she felt frozen to her seat. She said that she’s terrified a bird will attack her (probably because that happened to her once). I’m not afraid of birds per se. I’m afraid one of them will crash into my window because of that old family myth that if a bird crashes into your window someone in your family is going to die. My son is afraid of the monsters in his closet. Thankfully he mostly just needs Mommy or Daddy to come and check out the closet, pronounce it monster-free, and then he is able to go back to sleep and so are we. I’m not afraid of monsters, but when I was a kid we had basement stairs that had a space where someone could reach through and grab your foot as you were going up. Scared the bejeebers out of me in the dark, dank basement, so I always ran up those things.

But then it hit me. My fifth fear.

No, it’s not snakes, Rob’s ridicule, or falling down stairs.

It’s a blank page. My writer’s mind is afraid of a blank page.

Have you ever sat in front of a computer screen, with the prompt flashing, silently mocking you that you’re not writing anything? So you reach out your hands to the keyboard, get into position, but nothing comes to mind and you realize your brain is a blank page too. You break into a cold sweat, suddenly reaching for an idea---any idea—like the dream you had last night or the back of the cereal box you ate out of this morning, just needing to write something?

That is my fear. That someday I will sit down at the computer and my ideas will have dried up like a tomato in the Sahara. All that will be left of me are little tomato guts, all shriveled and curled, only held together by a thin, mummified skin---a little red spot in the sand of life, lost forever, because I will have no more stories left in me and the screen will stay blank.

The second question in the quiz was how do you overcome your fears? I overcome my fear of spiders by getting a large shoe and killing any spiders that come into my home. Better yet, if one of my older boys are home, I get them to do it for me. I try to overcome my fear of someone close to me dying by finding comfort in my knowledge that if it did happen, I know where they would be, that there is a purpose and I have the gospel to find comfort and strength in, as well as many friends and family. I have worked hard to overcome my fear of heights and bridges, but I it’s a process as I still avoid them as much as possible.

As for the blank page, I overcome that fear by writing something every day. Even if it’s just a small scene, or a page in my journal, I try to write something every day. I also try to be very aware of what is going on around me—in my personal life, in the country, and in the world. Thoughts, ideas, and inspiration come so easily when I’ve taken the time to notice the little things. For instance, just this week I saw a woman who had just been cut off in traffic and how her eyes narrowed so slightly as she shot daggers at the car in front of her and how she lifted her hand as it twitched just above the horn, obviously debating whether to honk at him or not. Or perhaps you were like me and shook your head when you read about the father in China who bound his ten year old daughter’s hands and feet and watched her swim for three hours in a freezing Chinese river in order to "help" her achieve her dream of swimming across the English Channel. Wouldn’t that make a great opening for a spy novel with the upcoming Beijing Olympics? I got several ideas myself.

The last question on the quiz was where does fear come from? I don’t really know. I mean, I kind of know, but have a hard time explaining it. My answer was life experience because I think we have things happen to us that are upsetting and can set a stage for residual feelings and make us fearful. Perhaps we lack knowledge or trust and that makes us fearful. Whatever it is, it’s up to us to overcome it.

I was told once that an effective way to get rid of fear is to voice it and take away its power. Maybe now that I’ve told all of you my fear it will be gone. Blank screen–be gone. Spiders–be gone. Bridges, heights, and fear of death–Be gone.

All right, so it’s not quite that simple. But I’m working on it.


At 10/04/2007 4:38 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

What an insightful, thought-provoking blog, Julie!

I can't help you on the blank screen screens are all as blank as my mind. (Did I ever tell you that the only reason I use ellipses is because I read somewhere that they drive Rob crazy? True story.) But I can free you from one phobia!

My mother feeds dozens (possibly hundreds or thousands) of birds on a daily basis. Much of the front of our house is glass. If somebody died every time a bird crashed into one of my windows there would be nobody left alive in the county, let alone in my immediate family. Rest easy. That myth is definitely busted! (You're welcome.)

I'm afraid of water. Really. I don't even like to drink the nasty stuff. I'd almost rather die myself than do baptisms for the dead...

Ah, ellipses. What ELSE do you fear, Rob?

At 10/04/2007 4:43 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

PS - Before sixteen bird lovers write in to tell me to put stickers on the windows, let me assure you that I have tried that. I have tried everything short of painting them black. Once, in utter desperation, I took window chalk and wrote: THIS IS NOT SKY YOU DUMB BIRDS. IT IS GLASS. HARD GLASS. DO NOT CHALLENGE IT. YOU WILL NOT WIN.

...and yet the Kamikaze Birds of Death continue to come...

At 10/04/2007 7:56 PM, Blogger wom said...

Nice way of writting, and thinking. Almost like a Journal entry. It was fun to read, I caught myself smiling. :)

At 10/05/2007 11:45 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

My theory is that our fears are connected to things that also bring us the most joy--we fear death because we love our family so much, we fear the blank page because of how much of our identity and fulfillment comes from writing.

And I hate bridges, too, but not because I fear I'll fall off them. I worry that they'll collapse right as I'm getting to the middle. Or that an overpass will crumble just as I go under it.

Not to add to you own fear or anything . . .

(There's some ellipses just to bug Rob. Thanks for the tip, Kerry!)

At 10/05/2007 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerry, thanks for trying to allay my bird fears.

Annette, that was just cruel because now I'll imagine collapsing bridges! ;)

Wom, I'm glad I made you smile.

Thanks for all your comments.



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