dad / death / fear / Florida / happiness / life / memoir / novel

And your greatest fear is?

tree and text

My art.

the lake

When I was a kid (and for many years after), I would’ve said my biggest fear was spiders. As a teenager I’d lock myself in a room if that’s what it took to get away from a spider.

Spiders still cause me breathing trouble.

When I started sending my writing out into the world, I might have said my biggest fear was having certain people read my work and not like it. This sort of thinking gave me panic attacks.

But I’m putting my work out in the world anyway.

My upcoming novel is set in a small Florida town, not unlike (in my mind) the town I grew up in. Almost all my stories are set in Florida. The stories not set in Florida are set in imaginary, odd, nonexistent lands–which are still a lot like Florida.

Now, I haven’t lived, really lived, in Florida since I left for college. I’ve spent a few summers there, and my father lives in the same house he bought before he married my mother. It’s the same house on the same lake in the picture above. I could visit home today and stand in that same spot where my dad and I are standing in the picture. Unless there’s been a lot of rain.

Since I left home, I’ve lived in Indiana, Ohio, Bulgaria, Colorado, and Texas. And nothing is like Florida. When I was born, Disney World wasn’t there. Imagine! We went to places like Weeki Wachee Springs instead.

My home state was another character in my life.

And my greatest fear is that I might end up back there one day. I’m happy to visit my dad and my friends who live there. They love it. It’s home. I can’t blame them.

But I never want to live there again. Sometimes I’m taken by this irrational thought that Florida is going to reach out with a long tentacle and drag me back in, and that this time there will be no escape. Yes, melodramatic, but I am a Floridian after all. Melodrama is in the water down there.

In spite of this, I seem incapable of writing a story set anywhere else. Why is that?

How do you feel about Florida? How do you feel about your home state? And where do you set your stories?

13 thoughts on “And your greatest fear is?

  1. I was in Florida in 1995 to leave on a Caribbean cruise – we saw the airport, a hotel, and the cruise terminal. I would love to spend more time there – I want to go to Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West someday, even though I’m certain I’ll hate all the cats roaming the property.

  2. The thought of putting my work out there used to terrify me. But the fear continues to diminish as I move along. I’ve already been critiqued pretty harshly. What more can they do to me? I guess at some point I realized that it’s my story. Not everyone is going to like it. And to take it to the next level, the fact that absolutely nothing artistic is universally accepted, let alone liked or loved, is a comfort.

    For example, it’s comforting to me to know that almost NO ONE from my home town, or even from my extended family, knows I’m a writer. It’s comforting to know that most of the people from my past life even read much fiction, let alone epic fantasy.

    I hope my realization offers you some comfort, too, Marta! Best wishes for the novel, in all of the other 49 states and dozens of other countries. ;-) (Btw, there’s a great scene from a Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs Bunny saws Florida off and it floats away.)

    • Yes, I’m bracing myself for actually having my work out in the world. You’re right. Nothing is universally accepted, and that’s okay. I’m not sure how I feel about more and more people from my hometown learning about my writing. It’s strange.

  3. My only thought on Florida are the bad drivers lol but I only went there once when I was a teenager. I grew up in NYC and I find that my best stuff is written about a person in a city or my experiences in a city. (“best stuff” is all relative :)

  4. You make me want to visit.
    I’m Scottish and my stories are set in the UK, it’s what I know, though like you, I haven’t lived in my birthplace for a while now. I think it is for that reason that we write about them, a kind of drawing back, a memory is always so much better than a fact.

  5. I have weird fears. Unnatural, even. I’m terrified that I will live past 60 because I can’t begin to comprehend getting through 4-5 decades more of bipolar attacks 1-4x a year. Two decades is more than enough to endure that crap. To that end, when I’m depressed or severely anxious, I get scared because I’m pretty certain the road I’m driving on is about to end just beyond my sight and I will go tumbling over the cliff a ‘la Wile E. Coyote. Now I follow people so they can go over the edge before me thus giving me time to brake.

    Then there’s the fear of living in any state that does not touch the ocean, so I won’t live in those places. They set off my claustrophobia. Likewise, to avoid that land-locked feeling, I have to sit on an aisle seat at all movie and theatre events or else I can’t stay. Claustrophobia makes one feel rather oxygen-deprived.

    I used to be terrified of all spiders, now I am only afraid of the BIG ones. If it is so big it waddles (I have seen this) or if it looks large enough to BBQ as a dinner for four (there’s one of those living by the hose on the side of the house this summer), then I scream and throw up. Really.

    I’m such a girl sometimes. Independent of my gender, I’m also a bit crazy which does not help matters at all.

    • Anybody can have ordinary fears. Well, some people may have weird fears they don’t admit to. I’m afraid of spiders. They used to make me hyperventilate and cry. And I’m afraid of serial killers. Probably because I grew up in Florida.

      I think you’re cool, weirdness and all. But I also always hope you are okay.

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