I’m writing this blog earlier in the week than I normally do because my brain won’t stop mulling it over. Yesterday (today is Wednesday, May 21), a devastating tornado leveled much of Moore, Oklahoma. Included in the fatalities were a number of small children at a local elementary school. As the mother of an almost-three-year-old who goes to daycare five days a week, I probably don’t need to tell you that this news kicked me square in the gut.
Because on top of the empathy and sorrow that goes with hearing of any loss of life like this, is fear. My greatest fear. Harm befalling my child. And being unable to protect my child from that harm.
Fear can be a powerful driver in human behavior, and I am certainly no stranger to it. Having suffered a series of devastating losses in a one-month period when I was only three, I’ve struggled with a lifelong fear of abandonment. I had recurring nightmares into my early twenties about my mother dying—you know the kind, so vivid and realistic that you have to go check and see if the person is still breathing when you awake.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I came to realize that this fear had manifested itself into a penchant for obsessive-compulsive worrying. I worried about everything—every detail, every scenario, everything. Because I was afraid, all the time. And I guess I somehow thought worrying was a way of taking control. Until I realized some things are flat out of my control.
Like Mother Nature. So, now older and wiser (I hope), I exercise prudence but try not to be driven by fear. And I do mean try. Most days, I succeed. But not so much today.
On a normal day, I’ve learned to use my intimate relationship with fear to my advantage. You see, once you realize that fearful situations fall into two categories—those which we can control and those which we can’t—it’s kind of liberating. I’m not saying it’s easy, but on the things I can control, I don’t usually let fear stop me. I can talk to anyone, for example, without hesitation. Part of that is my journalism training, but most of it is a recognition that people are just, well, people. Some more inspiring than others, but no matter how famous or influential a person is, he or she is still a person. Unless they’re holding a weapon in my direction, what are they going to do? Respond or not. Certainly not worth being afraid of.
Many writers find themselves held back by fear. Fear of failure, mostly. What if no one reads my book? Worse, what if they do, and no one likes it?
We work hard here to help writers break out of that fear. Yes, it requires work—learn the craft, practice the craft, repeat. We offer a number of workshops and lectures on various topics to help arm writers with the tools to help alleviate that fear.
Because this is one of those places we can control our fears. And by controlling those fears and creating worthy works of fiction, we can help provide an escape from reality for people gripped with fears they can’t control. Real, life-threatening fears. Like disasters hitting elementary schools full of children.
Goodness knows on days like today, days where reality is too much to bear, I can use all the fiction I can get.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.