Saturday, November 04, 2006


I was reading a post at Christa M Miller’s blog, and was reminded of a dream I had as a child.

A recurring nightmare, actually.

I was being chased, and in the dream I ran into my house and locked the screen door, but was too scared to let my sister in.

Well, okay, that was one version. In another, my sister wasn’t there.

But what was always consistent was that it was a summer day and I was being chased by Hamburglar.

I know. It’s embarrassing to admit it. But that’s the thing about fears. A fear can be a legitimate fear, although it seems to be based on nothing justifiable. As a child, reasoning wasn’t going to undo that fear, in part because I didn’t understand what it was that made me afraid of Hamburglar. I still don’t know.

What I find interesting is that as an adult, some of my fears remain completely irrational. Some are quite legitimate, but there are others that actually consume physical energy because I worry over them, and they’re nothing more than sheer nerves about meeting people. Then, after you’ve met someone you’ve corresponded with a lot at a conference or something, and you email them and don’t hear back, you obsess over whether you did something to offend them or if they didn’t like you ‘in person’ or what.

I think we all go through it. I hadn’t really thought about it so much, until I was reminded this week that I hadn’t written emails to most of the people I met at Bouchercon. I usually do try, but for some reason this time it felt more intimidating than ever before.

Fears that people won't read your work. Fears that people will read it and not like it.

Strange what irrational thoughts can wreak havoc on the mind.

This is NOT politically correct, but it is from Uncle Charlie.

A young boy went up to his father and asked him, "Dad, what is the difference between potentially and realistically?"

The father thought for a moment, then answered, "Go ask your mother if she would sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars. Then ask your sister if she would sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars, and then, ask your brother if he'd sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars. Come back and tell me what you learn from that."

So the boy went to his mother and asked, "Would you sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars?" The mother replied, "Of course I would! We could really use that money to fix up the house and send you kids to a great University!"

The boy then went to his sister and asked, "Would you sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars?" The girl replied, "Oh my God! I LOVE Brad Pitt! I would sleep with him in a heartbeat; are you nuts?"

The boy then went to his brother and asked, "Would you sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars?" "Of course," the brother replied. "Do you know how much a million bucks would buy?"

The boy pondered the answers for a few days and then went back to his dad.

His father asked him, "Did you find out the difference between potentially and realistically?" The boy replied, "Yes. Potentially, you and I are sitting on three million dollars, but realistically, we're living with two hookers and a homo."


Christa M. Miller said...

Thanks for the plug! :)

I grew up a fearful kid, and it's so hard to be realistic about acknowledging/validating kid fears without giving in to them. One strategy that seems to work is to tell him about the times we've been afraid of similar things in our lives... yet you're talking about the things that are not as well defined, things that only some people are afraid of but not others, all based on our histories. At which point the question becomes, how to talk about fears without adding to them?

This IMO is the real value of storytelling (whether fiction or non): find and tell a story that resonates with people and helps them resolve issues in their heads, not add to their anxiety.

Christa M. Miller said...

And an apropos blurb from The Rap Sheet:

Sandra Ruttan said...

"At which point the question becomes, how to talk about fears without adding to them?"

You know Christa, that ties right in with what I was talking about yesterday. Reading so many blog posts and comments about how hard it is, how impossible to sell books, how you have to do this, this and this in order to stay afloat...

Hearing all of that can lose effectiveness. It can stop being about giving you constructive ideas for how to market your work, and start being about overwhelming you with fear. I can't read some of those posts without adding to my fear, and that isn't productive. It's counter-productive.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Hooray, another weekend post! :-)

There's nothing shameful about being scared of Hamburglar as a kid. He was scary, man. Didn't even speak English, just garble!

I have lots of irrational fears. One of the big ones comes with this cursed season -- every time someone around here goes out, and doesn't come back exactly when I expect them, I'm sure they have been in a horrible accident and are right now sitting in a snowbank, mangled and bleeding and freezing to death...

That's partly due to my rather vivid imagination. I can conjure up horrific possibilities for any given situation. I'm a chronic worrier!

Anonymous said...

When I was Ireland, one of my fellow travelers was forced to own up to his ultimate fear: something biting him and not letting go (he found out that Ireland has weasels). We teased him mercilessly. I mean the guy was carrying a weasel stick with him everywhere we went.

I took part in the teasing as well, and since I had the same sense of humor as our target, my jibes hit really hard. Until the day we went to the cave.

I hate being outside in the dark. Turns out, being in a cave in the dark is even worse. I was miserable. I wanted out of that damn cave. The stupid tour guide kept turning off what few freakin' lights there were. He came close to getting pushed over a ledge. When we got to the end I damn near ran out of the cave. I pulled Mike aside and promised never to mock his weasel fears again. And I kept that promise.

That's really the only fear I have left from childhood, and it can take me right back to being a child. I've given up trying to keep it a secret though, screw it, life's too short. norby

Sandra Ruttan said...

SW, this time of year, that fear makes perfect sense.

I'd suggest not watching Misery any time soon, either.

Norby, it's amazing what can just set us off. Caves can be incredibly frightening for people. They've never bothered me when I've been in them, but I can just imagine the feeling you're describing and I don't think I should go into a cave any time soon now.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Robble robble.

Sandra Ruttan said...

If I can't sleep tonight you're in serious trouble!

Well, unless I pull an all-niter to finish the new Rankin.

Dr. Lisa said...

Ok, I have no idea why, but that joke made me laugh and laugh. Probably because I am in the middle of moving and I want to laugh at anything because if I see any more clutter, my head may explode.

Although, my laughing may just mean I'm a bad person. Which is ok, too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, I laughed too, so I'm a very bad person.

Hope the move goes okay Lisa. I hate moving.

Evil Kev said...

I also have a recurring nightmare of your sister visiting us.

Daniel Hatadi said...

That's the writer's way, isn't it? To get caught up in whatever we're obsessed with.

Look at me: I've become a NaNoDano!