It is my opinion that there are many writers who, to some degree, possess this phobia, which is what, I think, may help them be writers. Eremophobia is the fear of being oneself. Perhaps this explains why so many of us identify ourselves as introverts. This may be a tenuous link, but it’s possible that, because of that introversion and because writers are all about possibilities, that a quantity of Eremophobia is the key to being able to craft believable characters.
In some ways Eremophobia is all about being a faker. Think the Leonardo DiCaprio film Catch Me If You Can where a young man literally fakes his way though a series of jobs. In some ways it’s wanting to escape or wanting to be better or wanting more. Think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — the original Thurber short story is all about escaping his mundane life, whereas the recent fantastic film adaptation with Ben Stiller is about wanting more and finally attaining it.
Applying Eremophobia to writers brings a few questions. Am I running away from myself in order to be someone or something else in fiction? Am I hiding myself away from others? Am I a big ol’ faker? Am I wearing a mask that I only take off and show my true self when all is right with the world? Didn’t Billy Joel write a song about this?
Yes and no.
Yes, Billy Joel’s The Stranger is about trying on faces for your lover instead of being yourself (sounds like internet dating, doesn’t it?). No, I’m not running away. As for the faker part…
Speaking for myself, I certainly felt like a big ol’ faker whilst I was doing my PhD research, which is quite a common feeling for PhD candidates (I’m now Dr Sandra with a diploma, YAY!), but writing fiction, writing my novels is…different. Rather than being a faker or searching for an escape, for me, writing a character is all about headspace, all about inhabiting that fictional individual. I get into a character’s head, to think like them, to speak like them, to perform actions like them—all on the page of course. I, sort of, become that fictional person. Sort of. However, it’s not so much I am afraid to be myself as much as it is I’m able to do things that I otherwise might not, things that are not in my character or part of my moral fibre, things I am not physically capable of accomplishing, things I’d very much like to do or be, but lack the intelligence to achieve. It’s simply that this fictional person can do and be the things I am not.
At least, that’s my theory.
So then, what’s your take on Eremophobia and writers? Is it a wild, wild imagination, keen observation skills, introversion, A fear of being one’s self, or a mix of all?