Fear is a funny thing. It can invade our subconscious with ninja-like stealth and get us to do things we don't really want to do without our even realizing it. Fear is the creepy puppet master behind so many of our bad decisions.
After lots of hard work, I am staring at the near-end of my work on one of my books. I am so excited to get it done and I want nothing more than to share this story with the world.
Until fear enters the picture.
As a writer, you hope for mostly glowing responses, mixed with some great insight that helps you make the story even better. But there is a big risk in letting people-- especially people you know, in my opinion-- read your writing.
And risk breeds fear. And fear breeds anxiety. And fear and anxiety breed the fight, flight, or freeze response.
So I start what-if-ing.
What if it sucks? What if people read it and think I'm a terrible writer? What if they read it and wonder how I could possibly devote this much time to something I'm so bad at? What if they think it'll never get published? What if they think I should stop writing? What if I embarrass myself? What if I look like a complete ass?
What if, what if, what if???
I'm not much for fighting, but it's easy to consider running away...in this case, that might look like letting everything else in my life take over my time, suddenly making myself too busy to finish the work; or freezing up...ever heard of writer's block?
As I get closer and closer to the point of no return (sending the book out to people), I find my psyche doing a dance between pushing toward the finish line and taking side street detours. I burn through another chapter of revisions, then schedule a bunch of activities that take away my time to work. I refocus, push through another chapter, then freeze, and spend an entire day just staring at the words on one page, making zero progress.
Why is this not done already? I ask myself. What is taking me so long?
It's the dance.
Which is to say: It's the fear.
So I force myself to take small but bold actions-- things that can be done quickly and force accountability-- to try and outsmart the fear. I post on Facebook or Instagram something about my writing, my deadline, or my goals. I tell friends and family about what I'm up to. I write blog posts about it. ;-) In hopes that making it public, will make me accountable.
But it doesn't lessen the fear or what ifs. It just makes me bulldoze over them, full-throttle: "Watch out suckers, I'm coming through!"
And in the quiet moments, I challenge the what ifs.
What if it sucks? Then I'll rewrite it and make it better; or I'll learn from it, like I did the last one, and the next one will be better. And, by the way, what if it doesn't suck?
What if they think it'll never get published? Then either they'll be right, and I'll move on; or they'll be wrong...
What if I embarrass myself and look like a complete ass? Would I rather embarrass myself now with bad writing, or embarrass myself later by never having pursued my dreams and having lived a wasted life?
And that's really what it all comes down to, isn't it?
"We tiptoe through life hoping to safely make it to death." --Anonymous
Fear is never going to go away. So here's to bulldozing right on over the top of that shit!
Until next time, challenge one of your fears. Don't wait for it to go away. Just push on past it and get on with your bad self.