Said the phlebotomist to the writer, “Too much fear stops the flow.”

This weekend, I gave blood. This wasn’t my first time, but let me say that (in my case anyway) it never gets easier.

Photo credit: rvoegtli on

I know the routine: the check-in, the donor questionnaire, the finger stick. I know exactly what to expect, which is the whole reason I break out into a sweat and forget how to breathe the second the phlebotomist cracks the cover on the needle. And, that cheesy sitcom playing on the television across the room does nothing to distract me from the snaking tube sticking out of my arm for a solid ten minutes — or more, depending on whether or not my vein cooperates.

I am mess from the minute I walk into the Blood Center to the second I hear the beep from the machine that announces my pint-size bag is full up.

It’s the anticipation of discomfort that gets to me, and the worry that I might not make my quota. What if I didn’t drink enough water? What if something goes wrong and she has to re-insert the needle? What if I pass out and never make it to the sugary treats at the end of Donor’s Row?

Oddly enough (or maybe not so much), a recent sit down with my work in progress felt a lot like this blood-letting. The same anxiety crept up on me seconds before I opened the file. I started to sweat as I scrolled down to my page mark. And, the initial string of words I typed out cut across the page and sounded choppy and slow. Then, all of the “what if’s” flooded my mind.

What if this scene doesn’t come together?
What if the story falls apart, right here, right now?
What if…I.Never. Finish.

I can’t avoid that anxiety, really. It’s genetic, and it’s part of my writing process. In many ways, dealing with it helps move me forward. I could give in to those fears, but that would mean I quit, and I’ve come too far to quit.

So, just like I squeezed that little stress ball and survived my stint at the Blood Center (once again), I’ll write through my fears as best I can on a given day. I’ll hold on to what phlebotomist told me this weekend, in between her constant chatter that she hoped would settle my nerves: the more you relax, the better your blood flows, and – before you know it – you’re at the end!

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ~Ernest Hemingway


11 responses to “Said the phlebotomist to the writer, “Too much fear stops the flow.”

  1. Oh my, I only wish I could write as easily as I give blood, I can do that without a second thought, but I sit down to write and my writer’s veins seem to collapse. Good for you though for pushing through both.

    • Julie, You keep showing up at your computer (and your story), and I’ll keep signing up at the Blood Center — feel sorry for that phlebotomist if she gets me again next time ๐Ÿ™‚

      By the way, I left a comment on your blog at your last post, and it got eaten by Blogger (when they were down for several days). I was so glad to see a new post up! Keep on keeping on! xoxo

  2. Great post! I’m going to write “Too much fear stops the flow” on a 3 x 5 card and post it on my desk as a reminder.

    • Kathy, Thanks for stopping by. I hope it helps to see that up and on your desk. I know I feel better today just having given voice to that fear. On to writing, now! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. What if I never finish? Huge concern. HUGE! Glad you survived the bloodletting, my friend.

  4. The title of this post says it all … not that your post wasn’t great. ๐Ÿ™‚ But it’s that fear of the “what if’s” that stop me from writing every time. And yet, that’s so silly. How will you know if the story works until you write it?

    This fear is obviously a universal problem for writers. Face the fear is my battle cry for today.

    Thank you for this post.

  5. Christi, first, kudos to you for giving blood! So much of what you wrote here I can relate to. Writing through our fears helps in more ways than just boosting our word counts.
    ~ Lisa

    • Definitely, Lisa. I think of all the times I’ve sat back down with my morning pages to write “pm” pages, if only to release the anxiety I’d been carrying all day!

  6. Pingback: A story! A story? A tale of fear! « Out of My Mind

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