Stepping out of fear

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There are, in my mind, some similarities between free soloing and writing fiction. Both should be practised, preferably, in solitude. Other people are at best redundant, and at worst a major distraction. Both require focus, calmness and discipline. Both are completely useless (as in: there is no demand for it, the world is indifferent to it, nobody asked for it). And, here is the most interesting similarity, I think: both the soloist on the big wall and the writer facing the empty page must 'step out of fear' – in the expression of Alex Honnold in Free solo, a documentary about his ascend, without ropes or helpers, of El Capitan, a 900 meter high block of granite in Yosemite Park, California. It took him just short of 4 hours, and although I knew he would make it – I secretly betted my life on it – I felt a pit in my stomach when I saw him trying to traverse the euphemistically called 'Boulder Problem' near the end of the climb by way of the so called 'karate kick' (if he went for the jump, I would have left the movie theatre).
It's not a matter of overcoming fear, Honnold insists. It is a matter of stepping out of it, not letting it get into your consciousness. (It helps that this climber's brain hardly has a amygdala to speak of, as is shown in a MRI-scan, so emotions tend not so much to interfere with his behavior.)
The fear writers of fiction have to deal with is not a mortal fear (except maybe in the case of Salman Rushdie), but a fear of their own demons, deepest insecurities, which may lead to a fear of madness, perhaps (at least in my case).
Free soloists are in search of perfection, actually, their lives depend on it, and in a way, this is true of (true) writers. It is not so much the margin of error (which is of course infinite in the case of writers), but in a way, if a fiction writer is taking his fiction writing seriously, he is fighting himself, just like a climber is fighting himself. Every word is a 'crimp', every sentence a ridge, every chapter a stop on the route to the top.

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