I Am Afraid of Being Unintelligent

I wanted to write for as long as I could remember. From the day I saw Harriet the Spy, I became obsessed with documenting everything, and how I felt about everyone. Diaries were tucked on the side of the top bunk of the bed I shared with my younger sister. I was always careful to cap my pens to avoid ink stains on my sheets.  

As a kid, my diary entries would get me into trouble, and surprisingly, they have even haunted me in my 20s. Nonetheless, I was fearless then, honest and unapologetic with my words, basking in my truth and imagination. Now, as an adult, the fear of writing creeps up from my core, cascading on my shoulders and neck, heating up my ears….This type of fear manifests itself in my thoughts and physically, in my body. 

In January, I went snow tubing in the Pocono Mountains with a group of friends. At the top of the hill, everyone took their marks, ready to slide down the iced pathway. Tears began to wet my face as I remembered that the bones in my body are breakable and if shit went wrong, this could be the end. (I thought the drop was steeper than it actually was.) Meanwhile, in our line of tubes, there were many kids, unaware and ready to take on the mountains. I was the only one crying.

After sharing this story with coworkers, they empathized with me. After all, adults normally approach things with caution. We tap into our memory banks and draw from previous experiences to help decide our next step. We have a better sense of what could be beyond the hill; we’ve experienced broken bones, hearts, spirits. My tears were validated. 

The same fear paralyzes me when I want to write. However, the anxiety of authorship is not a new concept. In 2001, The New York Times article “Examining, and Easing, the Anxiety of Authorship,” even suggested that this feeling is more common in female writers. Where does this apprehensiveness stem from? Especially since our voices are increasingly needed in a world where women are still  undermined; there is nothing more compelling and strengthening than a group of people unified by shared experiences. 

However, the reality is that unreliable information spew from the top of a white castle, and truths are discarded with the wave of a hand. At the very baseline, I am afraid of being unintelligent. Writers are not the only ones to feel this way, this heavy sense of responsibility because you don’t know who will connect with what, or be offended by what. 

To help combat my anxiety of writing, I draw inspiration from the bravery of others. Within their transparency, I find solace in the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know (like me) but they write from intentional perspectives…and their words hold weight. The wonderful irony here is reverting back to the fearlessness of childhood to further your growth as an adult. (I need to write more.)

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