Don’t Give Up Your Fears

by | Sep 10, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

“Don’t give up your feeeeears,” sang my 3-year old, Grace, to her baby sister. Did I hear that right? I had. She sang it over and over again. It seemed to be the only line of the song. 

I don’t know how deeply Grace meant these words, or even whether she thought about what she was saying, but there is a kind of appropriateness to this line (which is definitely now our family motto). Grace is fascinated by the scary, the spooky, the witchy. She loves Halloween and ghosts more every day. The floor, at our house, is nearly always lava. 

This is probably normal. I’m sure this is a pretty typical way of working through scary thoughts, the unknown, the uncontrollable. She can pretend there’s a scary ghost from whom we must hide and then decide it’s a friendly ghost and all is well according to her whim. 

She is, on one hand, very clear on the difference between real and pretend, but these spooky things still have power for her. It’s fun, but serious fun. As Bruno Bettelheim writes in “The Uses of Enchantment,” “The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue.”

Reckoning with that power, that truth lurking below the unreality, kindles a thousand narratives and exercises her mind and creative spirit. So she really oughtn’t give up her fears. They are the nutrients in the soil. 

Prompt

Many years ago, I read some writing advice that I can no longer locate that said to write about your biggest fear. I think a lot of writers would say that’s pretty bad advice, but it resonated with me, so much so that I generated the idea for my novel by thinking about what my greatest fear is, or was at the time. (Having children has completely reorganized my personal card catalog of fears). 

In a recent newsletter, the novelist Brandon Taylor wrote about “moral fiction,” according to D.H. Lawrence, and learning to stop tipping the scales and preventing his characters’ suffering: “I had made certain that my characters would be insulated from any difficulty, real difficulty because, as a writer, I simply did not believe in my ability to write the scenes that would support such actions and dialogue.”
So your prompt today is: don’t give up your fears. Write them. Let them be grist. Believe that your writing can bear the weight of real, dark, spooky things that might not be real, but will be true if you really reckon with them.