Books Magazine

Does Fear Hold You Back?

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

If you think about it, how much of what we do in our daily lives is motivated by fear?

In an interview with Wyatt Mason for The New York Times in October 2014, Robinson talked about how the emotion of fear has infiltrated our culture like never before.

This June, as a grandfather clock rang the quarter-hour in her modest Iowa City living room, the American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, a woman of 70 who speaks in sentences that accumulate into polished paragraphs, made a confession: “I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny.’ ”

“ ‘So I shot him,’ ” I said.


“ ‘Can you blame me?’ ”

‘Exactly. Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”

She added how fear affects her life as well.

It was here that Robinson brought up fear: How it has come to keep us at bay from our best selves, the selves that could and should “do something.” In her case, that “something” has been writing. For Robinson, writing is not a craft; it is “testimony,” a bearing witness: an act that demands much of its maker, not least of which is the courage to reveal what one loves.

“A lot of people who actually believe in the sacredness of life, they write things that are horrible, desolating things, ” Robinson said. “Because, for some reason, this deeper belief doesn’t turn the world. . . . It comes down to fear; the fear of making self-revelation of the seriousness of ‘I sense a sacredness in things.’ ”

That’s strong. How many of our daily interactions are motivated by fear?

I’ve always struggled with truly believing I’m a “writer.” Even though I do it full time, and even though I write this blog every day, I often wonder, “Am I really good enough? Can I really call myself a ‘writer?'”

I’m beginning to think I like Marilynne Robinson more than her novels, at least Housekeeping. I’m struggling through it a bit.

Is fear reflected in your writing? How?

Read the full interview at The New York Times

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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