By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers
Being a writer is like climbing the tallest peak in the world. We barely get to enjoy the victory, when someone straps us down, tears our shirts open, and tells the vultures to bring it on.
Let’s face it: to be an artist is to be vulnerable. And perhaps a little unstable. We pour our souls onto the pages. We sweat. We cry. We scream a lot. We drink ridiculous quantities of coffee, but never enough to combat our emotional and physical exhaustion.
Not to mention, the brutal criticism, and really, there is no way to combat that. We read it, we cringe,and we may (possibly) throw some things (at least, I hear). After that, we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, taking what we can use, and throwing away the rest…that is, between the hysterical sobs, and guttural groans (also, of course, not a first hand experience).
Other sides of our artistry are a bit less brutal and far more enjoyable. If we do it right, we get to create worlds and characters from nothing other than our hungry imaginations, then watch them flourish into amazing stories. Also if we do it right, we relish in the knowledge that our readers are enjoying them, and more importantly, feeling them.
Of course, getting to that point is easier said than done.
In reaching that goal, my approach can be at times… a bit unconventional. Possibly insane. For me, writing a novel means feeling my way through the darkness and through my pages, essentially with no idea what the outcome will be. I don’t plan before I launch into my work. I write on instinct. As I do this, one persistent and nagging question pokes at me: Will this work?
The truth is, I never really know, and therein lies the insanity, because it’s usually not until the end stages that I realize I’ve actually got a cohesive story, and even more, one that people may actually enjoy. Even then, it’s not until my precious child leaves the mental womb-vacuum and takes in its first gasp of air that I start believing. And once again, living.
That’s where the joy begins. And the pain. And then more questions. When the book is “live,” I am overwhelmed because there is so much to take in. I watch my sales, watch my reviews. I question and re-question, examine and reexamine. I again assess whether my work is worthwhile, whether it did or did not, in fact, work. Even then, it’s all still a guessing game. There will never be finite answers to my many questions, and that’s part of this game.
Some might call my approach to novel writing somewhat random, somewhat reckless, and yes, somewhat unzipped, and I’d have a hard time disagreeing. But here’s the thing: I understand it, and even more, I know what drives it.
Is fear a bad thing? Well, no. It’s what keeps me from touching a hot stove (at least, on purpose), from speeding down the freeway at 100 mph (give or take), and from making inappropriate comments (well, most of the time).
And fear is what keeps me from settling for Just Good Enough. It keeps me on my toes. Without fear, my work would be a shining example of Just Average. And that’s something I can’t tolerate.
So I strive for balance, because balance means allowing my fear to work for instead of against me. That’s the real challenge. Turning fear into a driving force that propels me to do my best, to be creative as I can, and to push myself outside the comfort zone. I am then mobilized instead of paralyzed.
Whether we like it or not , fear is necessary in art and in life. Perhaps Father Everett said it best in the movie Daredevel:
“A man without fear is a man without hope.”
And there you have it. When all is done, I know the truth—that I’m not afraid to be afraid.
Andrew E. Kaufman's new and bestselling novel, Darkness & Shadows, has been touted as "A story about damage and survival, about the past and the future, and about facing the truth behind the pain."