On Holy Terror, Fear and Trembling

Photo by Katrina Noble, temporary tattoo by Chickadee Road

Photo by Katrina Noble, temporary tattoo by Chickadee Road

Documentary film update: I've officially hit the holy terror part of this project.

I know this feeling intimately--it's the same feeling I get when I'm working on a new story to tell onstage. It starts sometime after I say yes, after the event is announced, after people expect me to show up and deliver. It waits until I have a table full of parts and like some mystery mechanic I try to assemble them together for the first time.

I step back and see that it is all wrong, that it either doesn't hold together or doesn't stay together, or at best it looks good but is completely not operational.

That's when I get very quiet and wish my body could fold inside itself like those tiny notes we passed around the schoolyard, folded into wads the size of thimbles.

Maybe this is the time I don't pull it off. The thought sticks to me like a bad dream that still feels real after waking. It makes my body feel heavy, my movements slow and my breath shallow.

I'm not just afraid of looking bad publicly. It's true--the thought doesn't warm me, but in my better moments I can leave that out of it.

The bottom line is, I work in service of the story. The idea of not doing a story justice, not distilling out its essence and delivering it in a way that can be received, not getting to that juice that doesn't just entertain or amuse but transforms us--both in the telling and in the receiving--that is my fear, my most holy dread.

It makes my nerves raw. My body looks calm but If you look in my eyes you can see this very primal animal-on-the-run business just leaking out like invisible tears.

I used to mistake this feeling for madness.

I even got myself checked out to be sure.

She said, Do you really think that courage always feels like a cape flapping in the wind on a mountaintop? No. Most of the time it feels like fear and trembling.

That was good news, because I LIVE in the land of fear and trembling.

Okay, Loves, it's Join the Club time. Do you have a holy terror part of your creative cycle? What do you work in service of, and what is it you most fear? Scroll down to join the conversation in the comments, if you're reading via email click here, or pipe in on Facebook.