I’m told fear itself is not good and it’s not bad. No more than a weather vane: it just lets us know if we’re ready to meet or anticipate the challenge before us. Fear is only problematic if we do — or sometimes, don’t do — something to avoid feeling what’s bothering us.
Scared to pitch to an editor in that crowded elevator? Watching floor numbers overhead won’t help. What’s the worst that can happen? The editor might say, “I’m thinking of my up‑coming speech to the group. Could we talk about this after the next meeting?” Or, “Sorry, I’m not looking to pick up any new clients just now.” So, what were you so afraid of? And why? Both answers are civil, straightforward, easily understood. And one of them contained an invitation for further congress.
So we need to swallow some lessons about fear. How do you know when fear’s got you by the throat? You pass out in the elevator? Run, screaming, from the confines of the sliding door. Some real signs of fear:
A. You consider giving up writing.
- You keep revising. And never finish.
- You write in a frenzy, for hours . . . and its still not “good enough”
B. You’re afraid . . . so what?
- Admit (even just to yourself) what you’re afraid of. Out loud. Then let it go if it sounds silly.
- It’s OK to let the fears have their say inside your head. In fact, if that’s where they are, learn to ignore them while they’re talking.
- Find a way to prevent that fear from taking over; stopping you from moving forward.
C. Change your focus from the doing to the results.
- You think your book isn’t going to be good enough? And you’re only on chapter 2? Start working on chapter 3, and forget about “The End” result.
- Check out what your intentions are with this book, all the commitment you’ve put into the first chapters, the love you’ve had for any part of the process, your ultimate goal. Your intent could become to follow through, whether the ending is what you wanted or not at the beginning.
D. Are you a Perfectionist?
- You’re not perfect. Neither am I. Neither was J.K. Rowling when she started. I suppose she really isn’t now either. What she is, is dedicated to finishing what she starts.
- Acknowledge what, in the process, you are dedicated to — and keep that in mind.
- Study the genre or type of writing you’re attempting. What can you do which will bend your story to the will of that genre or type?
- Aim for “finished” rather than “perfection”.
E. It’s not that hard . . . so don’t make it harder!
- It’s not time to panic about how to self‑publish; or what to do for a “selling” cover, or where to find an agent.
- None of those things, and a myriad of others, matter until you type “The End”.
- Staying up all night to write chapter 4 probably won’t help. Pace yourself. Set achievable goals that are in reach from the way that you write — is being “driven” your style? Or a sign of your fear?
F. Examine your writing habits, and decide what they mean.
- Avoidance? You keep putting off getting back to chapter 7? Is it because you’re stuck? Or scared?
- Rewrites? Maybe you got to “The End” once. And now you’re on your 10th complete rewrite? You won’t reach ultimate perfection. If it’s good — and your critique friends say so — consider, that might be fear talking to you. Set limits. “3 times per scene, then move on.”
- Substituting housework for writing? Haven’t written for days because you had to sweep the back porch? Do last week’s laundry? Walk around the block, so you can “think”? Fix dinner for your sick hubby? Well, OK. Some of those things probably do need to happen. Can you give a “chore” 15 minutes, then give your writing 15? If you alternate, maybe you’ll be surprised at how much gets done, of each.
- Whatever you do should be done in the spirit of re‑training your bad habits, glorying in your good ones!
G. Does writing scare you? Good! Let it !
- Is the “scare” going to harm you? Scared of starting? Writing slowly? Going too fast? Letting anyone, even your trusted writing friends see it? If it won’t harm you, do as much of it as possible until the fear goes away.
- You’ve finished a book. Now someone in your women’s club has asked you to speak to them about writing. Just Do It.
H. Focus on the feat, not the fear.
- You write a column that’s accepted for a gardening tract in your town.
- Focus on the gardening you love and how to express the how to’s and the where and wherefore’s.
- Don’t focus on the fact that you’ll have to face this group, and talk. With coherence. You can do it!
I. Worst‑case scenarios should be faced.
- What’s wrong with my story? I’m a terrible writer. According to whom? My non‑writing neighbor. Or the magazine which turned it down.
- Why can’t I finish my story? Because it’s hopeless, it’s bad. If I never finish, I’ll never have to send it. I’ll never know — but I’ll be safer then.
- But if I finished, and got some feedback, I might improve. Wouldn’t that put me one step closer to reaching my goals?
J. Free your Fear
- Realize, fear isn’t the problem. “Fearing the fear” is the problem because it stops us in our tracks.
- Will getting rid of the fear mean that all my dreams will come true? No. But they may come one step closer to being realized.
- Your writing is important. Important to friends and family. Important to you! Your life is important, to all those same folks, including you!
Step it up. Identify the fear. Face the fear. It’s your fantasy. It’s your need to write things down. And it’s your Life. Make the most of them all.
*These 10 general ideas about challenging fears were garnered from The Writer’s Digest online from an article by Sage Cohen, entitled “10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing,” Jan. 3, 2012. If the above wasn’t enough, look it up and read his take on these ten challenges.