Fear is a primal attribute of humans. Without it we’d all be dead or worse. We fear the divine, we fear nature, we fear other humans. It’s normal. Show me a person who fears nothing and I’ll show you a fraud.
Fear drives us as humans. It forces us to act or react to different stimuli. Think about it. If we feared nothing how easier would it be to die doing something stupid? It’s ok to have a healthy amount of trepidation when it comes to dangerous situations. Standing on a cliff looking towards the ground below would be exhilarating and create a sense of fear because one small step for man, one giant splat on the ground. If approached without fear, it’s more likely that person will do something stupid and become one with the ground.
Fear motivates us to action. It drives us forward. It forces us to face difficult situations and create ways to escape or conquer it. Fear isn’t the enemy. Fear isn’t weakness. It’s the catalyst to doing something greater.
Consider losing one’s job and the fear of going broke looming over you. At that moment, motivated out of fear, you will do anything to generate an income because being broke sucks. Creative types might give in to their passions and write that book or create that sculpture they’ve always wanted to do in order to sell and generate an income while doing something they’re crazy excited about. Others might seek employment in a field they’ve always wanted to be in but were afraid to leave their current job to try. Lacking money and fearing what could happen leads that person to new and greater things.
Some fear is irrational or based on irrational thoughts and that can get debilitating. I worked for eight years in fast food and I developed an irrational fear of natural gas. The grills and fryers ran on natural gas and I swear I could always smell a faint odor of it in the kitchen. I developed a fear that one day we’d blow up from a gas build-up. Of course we never did but that didn’t stop my mind from considering the possibility. To this day I hate lighting pilot lights and wince when I have to. The only appliance in my home that runs on gas is my hot water heater and I don’t have to light that pilot light often at all.
Some people fear spiders or snakes or clowns. Spiders and snakes are understandable. They can be dangerous creatures and it’s best to avoid some of them. Clowns…well I’m not sure what to say about that. Maybe we’ve had too many creepy ones in stories and movies to make them feel comfortable anymore. They don’t bother me but I know many people afraid of them.
As a writer who dwells with fears and incorporates a fair amount if it in my writing, does that mean I have no fears? Not at all. Other than my irrational gas fear, I’m freaked out by haunted houses. They scare the crap out of me. I’m always worried that a crazed person uses it as cover for their murderous intentions and I don’t want to be their victim. It’s irrational but true.
Now to write about these things, I’m all about that. I enjoy exploring fears of all kinds and how people react to them. I enjoy forcing my characters to experience something terrible and watch as they react to the situation. Maybe it’s cathartic for me. Maybe it’s knowing the experience isn’t real and no one will actually be hurt.
Whatever my motivation, in the end I only hope to offer a compelling story the reader will enjoy. If you get scared, that’s a bonus.
So what are your fears? What scares you and makes you turn on the light? Let’s see how many odd fears we can discover!