Monday, 23 February 2015

Feel the Fear and Use it


When I put this picture on the blog, I had to stop my heart racing. To most of you, it is just a picture of a tunnel but to me it signifies everything I fear: blackness and small spaces and crowds. It's a problem that has seen me refuse to use the London underground, visit caves or basically go anywhere with no natural light or the potential to be trapped in darkness.

Unlike some people with claustrophobia, I can pinpoint the exact moment my problem started. I was very little and had arrived in France for a holiday with my parents. I'd fallen asleep in the car and been carried into the gite we were staying in and put to bed. When I woke in the middle of the night, the room was dark... in fact it was so pitched black it felt like I could touch it. I remember holding out my hand to try to push it aside. My first thought was that I had gone blind, swiftly followed by the fear that maybe I had died.

Still thinking I was in my bedroom at home, I got out of bed and felt my way around the wall to where the door should have been but it wasn't there and neither was the light switch. I can feel the mounting panic even now, over forty years later. Of course, I know now that the reason the room was so dark was because the French shutters on the windows had been closed so that no light was able get in. To this day, if I am staying anywhere away from home, I have to make sure that the there is at least a chink of light coming into the room through the curtains.

Fast forward thirty years and I am on a tube train with my sister. It's rush hour... it's hot... the train slows... then stops... the lights flicker.

I won't tell you more because it would spoil it for anyone wanting to read my latest story, 'Out of the Dark', in The People's Friend Special. The story came about because I was determined to take my fear and turn it into something positive. I decided to write about what would happen if someone like myself were forced into a situation where they had to confront their worst fear.

I'm pleased with 'Out of the Dark' because I was able to take the essence of my fear and use it to help write the important scenes, such as the one at the tube station. 

Interestingly, the story itself is a big departure from what you might expect from a People's Friend story. There are no cosy kitchen scenes or kittens - just someone trying to overcome a fear to help someone they love. There is also another reason this story is different from the norm but I can't tell you that either without spoiling the ending. Never underestimate the type of story this magazine will accept.

Claustrophobia can still be a problem for me at times (just ask my husband) but I am trying to manage it and I think I am a little better than I was but the moral of this story is to think of something that has happened to you that has caused extreme emotion: fear, hate, jealousy, sorrow and use it to bring your stories to life. You'd be surprised at how affective it can be.

On a lighter note, I have a very exciting announcement. My second collection of short stories, The Last Rose, will be published on 2 March  and everyone is invited to the launch party on my blog next Monday. It will be open house all day and there will be music, good food and the chance to win a free paperback. Hope to see you there!

35 comments:

  1. It just shows how our experiences can generate story ideas. Good luck with the next collection!

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  2. I think it can certainly make them more powerful, Simon.

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  3. I gave a character a fear I have of dogs in one story that has recently been rejected by WW, but will expand a bit for PF. I can understand your fear about caves. Both my mum and I hate them and feel claustrophobic. I can take underground.

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    1. It's really annoying, Julie but I doubt it will get any better.

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  4. How brave of you to face your daemons in such a way, Wendy. One of my daughters panics in crowds. She used to get to work at 6 am and leave late to avoid them. We can't always confront our fears but we can sometimes come at them sideways
    Looking forward to the launch

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    1. I like the idea of coming at your fears sideways, Natalie. It's a great expression.

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  5. What a dreadful experience, Wendy, it made me scared just reading about it. How brave of you to visit your fears and turn them into such a positive.
    Congratulations on the second book - looking forward to the launch :-) xx

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    1. It was actually quite hard to write - especially the subways scene. Look forward to seeing you at the party next week, Sue.

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  6. And this is why you're such a good writer, Wendy.

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    1. Thank you, Julia - that's very sweet of you.

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  7. Well done, Wendy -I always like to read something that has real emotion in it and I do think it shines through and grips the reader. I have been claustrophobic ever since being put to bed in a sleeping bag on holiday when I was about 8. I just panicked, felt I was being tied up and couldnt get free in this unfamiliar environment. Not unlike your experience, in a way. So I sympathise!

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    1. Those mummy style sleeping bags... Ugh!

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  8. Well done for turning a horrible experience into one that is positive! Congratulations on the new book too - I will join you Monday for the launch! :)

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    1. I shall have a glass if bubbly waiting for you, Sam.

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  9. Hi Wendy, Thank you for an inspiring blog post, and congratulations on your new collection of stories being released. :-) I look forward to reading it,and your story in The People's Friend. You were very brave to confront your fears within your writing. I love using my writing as a way of exploring a topic or strong emotion I have about something, I always find that interesting stories crop up this way.

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    1. Lovely to see you here, Kendra. Thanks for your comment and I hope you'll come along to the launch party.

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    2. Hi Wendy, Absolutely! I look forward to it :-)

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  10. I have exactly the same problem, Wendy, and have been fighting it for years. Although I also remember the same darkness in a French gite, it wasn't where mine started as I was an adult then! I won't go on the underground and detest completely enclosed toilets when out in case I can't unlock them again.

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    1. I have been known to ask my husband to stand outside the toilet just in case I get stuck and I always have a little torch with me in case the light goes out! Oh, dear, Rosemary - we're starting to sound a little crazy!

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  11. If we have to have fears we might as well put them to use in a story! Congratulations on the publication.

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    1. I have many fears - so that's a lot of stories, Patsy.

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  12. They say you should write about what you know and you certainly put your fears to the test. Congratulations on all your successes and I'll pop by on Monday if I may.

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    1. You will be very welcome, Maggie. look forward to seeing you.

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  13. Well done on your successes, Wendy and well done on sharing your fears. I have many mad phobias which can be very limiting, though I make the most of everything I can enjoy. Writing is a great way to unravel some of our emotions, and writing at home mostly saves us from the trauma of crowds, tube trains and lots of other scary things. Thanks for making me feel a little less mad. Good wishes KH

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    1. It's surprising how many if us share some of these feelings. Thanks for popping over.

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  14. What a frightening experience for a little girl! I get very jittery in crowds and I hate being closed in. It's a horrible feeling isn't it - I'm glad you made something positive out of it xx

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    1. I have a lot more fears I could write about, Teresa!

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  15. Claustrophobia is just awful. I have to steer clear of lifts, crowded cinemas, theaters, even buses. But I love the way you turned your fear into a positive, Wendy, by using that insight in a story. It's the way to go.

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    1. It sounds like you're worse than me, Rena. I went through a stage of not liking theatres because of lack of windows but as I love going, realised I'd have to control it.

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  16. Such a frightening experience to trigger off your claustrophobia but great that you used it to inspire a story for PF.Good luck with your second anthology - I love the look of the cover!

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  17. I completely understand your fear, being just the same myself. I was very proud of myself when I went into the WWII Tunnels under Dover Castle during the 90s, even though they did have to send 'a minder' down with me in case I needed to get out quickly. With deep-breathing, I managed to complete the tour and very interesting it was, too. Same couldn't be said when I tried to do the Dungeon Experience at Warwick Castle about 5 years ago... I didn't even get past the first room. Having said that, everything the guide said was designed to make you feel locked in/in the dark/no way out etc. I was on crutches at the time and I doubt anyone has ever seen anyone on crutches descend a spiral stone staircase in a narrow tower so fast! Or at least that's what the outside guide told me when I startled her by bursting out of a side door just as she was giving the 'you are prisoners' spiel to the next group outside. 'WIMP!' she yelled for the benefit of the crowd and then came over after she'd shoved them through the 'in door', put her arm around me and said, 'Sorry! I didn't mean it. Just had to keep the mean persona up for the crowd'.

    Haven't read your story yet, but will do tomorrow. xx

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    1. When we took my step-son to Disney a few years ago, I had to send him and my husband on test rides to see if they were 'suitable' for me re blackness, small tunnels etc

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    2. You're braver than me if you attempted any of those, Wendy. x

      I read your story earlier and came out in a cold sweat reading some of it, but I loved how it turned out. Very clever and inspiring. Thanks for a good read.

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    3. Glad you enjoyed it (if that's the word!)

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