I hope that every one is staying home as best they can and staying healthy. Today is a guest post from a friend and author Nick Clausen. I’m sure that most of you know that I adore his books, since I review a lot of them, and I’m a part of his Reader’s Club so I get to get my hands on them to review.
He’s got a new book coming out so I thought it would be fun to have him do a guest post on my blog. He totally deserves all the love so I’ll have a link to his new book below. It’s on pre-order right now so get it plus you’ll help my blog out if you use my affiliate link and that would be great!
Have you conquered fear?
I write scary stories—I’m sure you already knew that—and people often ask me how I can write scary stories without scaring myself. They seem to think that horror authors aren’t very easily scared or maybe even completely immune to the feeling of fear. The truth, in my case, is quite the opposite.
I was a very timid child.
I was afraid of everything. Darkness. Being alone. Monsters. You name it. In fact, I would often become so scared I threw up.
I didn’t know what it was at the time, and my parents never found out, because I never told them. I never went to a therapist, either. Today I understand it was panic attacks and anxiety disorder, but I choose to look at it simply as fear. After all, there are no real biochemical difference between anxiety, panic and fear—it’s all just adrenaline.
So, you see, I very much know what fear feels like. That feeling of being paralyzed, that sinking sensation in your gut, that cold rush shooting out from your solar plexus; I’ve lived through it a thousand times.
And I think that’s why I can write scary stories. Not because I’m immune to fear, but because I’m intimately familiar with it.
I think the same is true to the master of horror himself, Stephen King, who happens to be my greatest idol. I’m sure he knows what it’s like to be petrified. His long-lasting drug addiction—which he speaks off candidly in his memoir On Writing—is proof to this. All addiction is a means to avoid uncomfortable feelings, and fear is probably the most uncomfortable one of all.
My own fear subsided somewhat in my teenage years. At least, it moved to the background where it didn’t really bother me in my everyday life. I thought I had simply out-grown it.
But you don’t outgrow fear. You can’t. You can only face it or bury it deeper. Guess which one I had opted for.
I was 28 when it struck again. When you’re 28, you’re too old to be scared, right? Wrong.
Suddenly, the door that had been closed for over a decade sprung open, and it all came spilling up from this black hole, the feeling of utter, inexplicable horror I had almost managed to forget.
I was 10 years old again, thrown back into that childhood nightmare.
I lived in an almost constant state of panic for months. This time, it broke me down a lot worse than it ever did to me as a kid. This time, it wasn’t only monsters or darkness I was afraid of. I was afraid of going outside, of staying indoors, of going to sleep and waking up, of eating and not eating. Every single aspect of my life was tainted by fear.
Cheery subject, huh? So, why am I talking about this?
Because my upcoming book, The Girl Who Wasn’t There, is all about fear. I don’t think it’s necessarily the kind of in-your-face-boo!-scary which some horror stories are, but I believe the fear is present from pretty much the first page to the last.
The story is about a girl who disappears and her brother who fights to get her back when the police and everyone else give up. It’s about fighting the crippling fear of losing someone you love, of putting yourself in harm’s way and not giving into despair.
The boy in the story, Andy, is very much like me when I was his age. Except he’s braver than I ever was.
When I wrote the story, I admired his courage and I wished I could have been like him. Then it recently came to me, that maybe I wasn’t such a coward-kid after all. Because even though I struggled with fear, I never gave up. I didn’t face it—I couldn’t at the time, the fear was simply too overwhelming—but I didn’t let it keep me down, either. I always got back up. It didn’t stop me from living and enjoying life.
Like I said, you either bury fear or you let it go by facing it. Put it away for later or deal with it now. That’s your only options.
As a kid, I had to bury it to get past it. As a grown-up, I eventually became able to let it go once and for all.
It happened at around 30 years of age, after living in torture for a couple of years. It took me that long to learn how to beat it, to stop giving into it, stop running from it internally and grow the courage to finally face it.
I did it one early morning in spring. It was a beautiful weather outside; the sun had just arisen; the birds were singing. And I had just woken up in a state of confusion and panic. It took me a moment to come to my senses, and I realized the fear was there again, that it had ambushed me while I was asleep.
I got up, went to the living room and sat down, sweating, panting, heart pounding away in my chest. And I decided I had finally had enough. So I resolved to not run away. To simply stay put and face it.
And that broke the fear.
Once it couldn’t scare me, once it couldn’t get me to run or hide, it lost its power completely.
It kept trying, kept burning for five or ten minutes or so. But then it simply subsided. Like a storm passing. And I was left with a deep peace. I had never experienced that before, the fear just letting go of me like that, and I was amazed.
It was still very early, so I went back to bed. Slept a couple of hours. Woke up, still peaceful. And I knew I had finally turned the tide.
It came back a few times after that in the weeks to follow, but never ever as strong. Never with enough force to get me to run again. Like I said, it had lost its power over me. We both knew I had finally won.
Alexander the Great was obsessed with immortality.
He sought to conquer the world in order to be remembered and live forever. And he is quoted for saying something along the lines of “Every moment free of fear, man is immortal.”
That’s what he found out in the end: You can’t live forever, but you can learn to live without fear, and that’s even better. Because what drove him, I believe, to seek immortality in the first place, was his fear of death. Once he conquered that, he realized he was already immortal.
That’s what beating fear feels like. Like you can do anything. Like nothing can harm you.
Now, this was a little more personal blog post than usual, but I know many people struggle with fear in whatever form, so I decided to share what turned out to be probably the most defining experiences of my life in the hope that you might relate to it in one way or another.
I also hope you’ll join Andy in his fight against his fear in my upcoming book The Girl Who Wasn’t There—I promise you; he will face demons not only figuratively speaking.
Until that, I encourage you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your experience with fear; what are you most afraid of? How do you deal with it? Have you conquered it?
Pre-order The Girl Who Wasn’t There today on Amazon for .99!