Recently, I was watching a documentary about Ron Sexsmith, a truly great Canadian singer-songwriter, when Bob Rock (another great Canadian music man) quoted this line. It resonated with me. Fear keeps us from doing some really great things. Doubt is a pair of concrete slippers.
Not too long ago, a member of my critiquing group suggested that we each write about something we normally avoided writing about. Something that made us uncomfortable. Nathaniel wondered if maybe by pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we'd open our writing up a little.
I'm game for that.
At first, I couldn't think of anything I generally avoided writing. Then it hit me. Violence. I'm one of those squeamish people who closes their eyes during fight scenes in movies. I'll skip entire paragraphs in books if they contain graphic scenes of violence. So they are definitely not something I write. A random punch or kick, I can handle. But an entire scene full of blood and aggression? Not me.
So that's what I made myself write. The scene started with someone holding an Exacto knife and ended in another person's death. Rather than skip the nasty bits, I set about describing the entire sequence of events. It was uncomfortable. It was hard because I didn't want to imagine the blow-by-blow action nor the main character's thoughts. But I did it.
I was genuinely surprised by my critiquing group's feedback. They enjoyed reading it and couldn't tell that I'd struggled with it. It flowed. The scene worked. They believed it. It was amazing to me that they couldn't tell how difficult it had been, how much I'd laboured over the paragraphs.
It felt good to know that I can stretch myself. I went into the exercise expecting nothing more than to get through it. And I came out of it realizing that my writing skills can carry me through the rough parts. Thanks, Nathaniel, for encouraging us each to grow.
* For those who haven't heard of Ron Sexsmith, here's a taste. This song is also about overcoming fear. A lesson for us all.