Fear – A Writer’s Friend or Foe?
Fear seems to be one of those emotions that we writers have to deal with a lot, or anyone else for that matter. It seems to chase us down anytime we try to step outside of our nice comfortable comfort zone. But I’ve always thought a comfort zone can one of the most uncomfortable places we can be. When it comes down to it, when we are alone, or the TV is switched off, or there is zero distraction in our life and we sit quietly listening to that inner voice—it whispers something profound to us…
…You are more than this, you can do more than this, you have something special to offer…
…and it’s a terrifying thought. Because then, we have to look that monster, Fear, in the eye. That somehow we would have to conquer it—we would have to face our fear! And that thought is often too much to bear, it’s easier to hit the button on the remote and slip back into our coma.
Is fear the enemy?
I know this is a strange question and I think most people would say, yes, fear is definitely the enemy. It is the menace that stalks the writer and squeezes out all hope of ever being published. It is the killer of inspiration that crushes the life out of our creative endeavors and instead leaves us playing small.
Or is it?
Maybe it is right now, but can that negative force be put to good use in the writer’s life?
I have always been a very fearful person. For as long as I can remember, fear has stalked my every hope and dream. It has been around the corner, lying in wait, every time I thought I could try something new. Or it has tried to kill the life out of every new connection and communication.
Who knows where my fear came from; fear of not being loved, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling flat on my face. I could go on.
One thing I do know is it has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. It has traveled with me everywhere I have gone, and in everything I have done.
I spent the majority of my younger life trying to shake it loose; trying to run away from it, overcome it, conquer it, or destroy it. I pinned a badge on My Pinterest Page years ago that says Punch Fear in Face.
But I then realized I was going about it all the wrong way. I was always looking at fear as a problem, a curse, and as something that I had to get away from. Then one day I realized I couldn’t. That fear was my constant traveling companion. It had always been there and always would be, and there was nowhere to hide.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
I read a book back in the 90s called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers; it stayed with me long after I read it, particularly the 5 tenets about fear. I wrote them on cards and stuck them to my wall, to try and get the principles through my thick skull:
- The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
- The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
- The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
- Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!
But it still took me another ten years, at least, to get it! I was still fighting, still battling, and still trying to punch fear in the face.
My Friend Fear
Then one day I had an epiphany, fear wasn’t the beast I was trying to make it out to be, it was actually my friend.
I know, shocker. All it was trying to do was keep me safe from the big bad world. Like an over-concerned mother trying to stop her child from swinging too high on the big swing at the playground—never mind that the child gets to experience the exhilaration of flying! It’s better to just be on the ground, to be safe, to be secure, and let’s not let any of that bad stuff happen to you.
The problem is, bad stuff still happens. Not only in the playground, but crossing the street, or driving in the car. At any moment something bad can happen and it puts the brakes on this whole thing we call living, either temporary or permanently.
So I got to ask myself the question: Do I want to die in the back seat of my car riding to play park strapped into my nice safe seat? Or, did I want to get up on the freaking swing and fly as high as I could? —with death being a mild consequence of living and taking that wild ride.
Fear’s just fear, it’s never going away, I told myself. So I decided to treat it as an awesome friend whom I would listen to very closely and consult on all my endeavors. Anytime I’m about to step out into new territory, I listen carefully to that inner voice of fear. My close consultant.
The voice of fear that sounds something like this:
You shouldn’t do that thing: no one will like you.
You shouldn’t do that thing: you’re going to look like an idiot.
You shouldn’t do that thing: who the hell do you think you are.
I listen very carefully, and then I do the exact opposite of what fear tells me to do. See if fear is just trying to protect me, then I no longer see it as a menace. I now see it as a compass and I use it to guide me to where all the growth is at, where all the fun is at, and where all the best swings in the playground are.
I’m still scared. I might fall flat on my face, but it doesn’t matter. I have to just pick myself up and look for the next big swing. Sometimes, I may take a little time to lick my wounds, but I don’t stay there, I have to get up and look for that next swing—the one that scares me the most—after all, what else is there?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
I can either choose to live full out or shrink back and hide in the corner.
I get to choose.
What are your thoughts?
I’d love to know what you think! Do you see fear as a friend or foe? How has it stopped you in the past? What will you do now to change things? What tips and strategies do you have to motivate you to step out and take risks? What do you tell yourself when fear tries to cripple you?
Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!
Is fear your enemy?
Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont
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