Terror Points the Way to Writing Fiction

What the Future Looks Like From Here

Is it providentially imprudent to begin a fiction career at my fifth decade?

Terror points the way to writing fiction. The path is now before me. And I’m terrified to take those first steps.

I know I’m inching ever so much more closely to the thing I fear most, writing fiction. Writing nonfiction comes to me without much effort. Fiction, on the other hand, is for pros. I say it is for pros because it is something I little practice in and even less confidence.

b/w photo of my future

But writing fiction is what I want to do. This desire is a good one for me, a true, authentic desire, because I am utterly terrified. In fiction everything is hatched from a single brain, and while it need not be true, it must at least be plausible. Nonfiction must be true, even if the facts are utterly improbable. I understand how, and have confidence in my ability, to add words over the structure of historical facts.

I have little confidence in my ability to write fiction. What I have over the last few days for a new project is so maudlin I am astonished I have begun at this place. But it is where I am at, and the way through to expert or better or less maudlin is one word at a time surrounded by copious amounts of reading. Mastery takes a very long time.

Time is a commodity that for me shrinks. At some near future point I shall have less time before than behind me. Today is a day I dearly wish I had begun writing in earnest at 20 instead of 48. yet having just written those words I see how silly I am acting. Tomorrow I will again sit down and write some fiction and some nonfiction, whether I feel terrified or not.

Reading is an extraordinarily helpful teaching tool. But I must remind myself that what appears on the page in a published book has seen many drafts (at least I hope so!). All writers wrote poorly. Probably most still do. It’s the rewriting that makes it all work. And rewriting some more. And allowing the imagination to grow and trusting one’s instincts: not this metaphor, that one; present tense, not past.

I am terrified at learning something new and at having reached the limit of current skill set and interest. I’ve written myself into a corner, and it isn’t enough to write myself out. I must write a whole new addition to my current room.

Today, despite terror and some pretty ridiculous angst, I have already begun.∗