Monday, September 7, 2009

Article: The Things We Fear

As writers, we know fear can be paralyzing. The trick is getting around those fears and moving forward with our writing careers. I’d like to take a look at the things we fear and explore ways of disabling them.

Disheartening voices chip away at our confidence. Anxieties hold us back and keep us from achieving our goals. According to personal coach, Thomas Leonard, there are five universal human fears.

Paralyzing Fear # 1: There isn’t enough. There isn’t enough time, money, opportunity, love, etc. Scarcity terrifies us. We’re distracted by our sense of lack. It’s human nature to find it difficult to accept when someone else has something we want for ourselves, be it a multi-book contract, a Rita award, or her name on the New York Times Bestseller List. There is an insidious voice inside many of us that whispers, “Her success infringes on mine. If she succeeds, I won’t – there’s not enough room for both of us.”

This is untrue. There is room for everyone in the writing industry. Instead of obsessing about who’s getting the piece of pie we wanted, we need to focus on how to make sure there’s enough pie for everyone. When we make a concerted effort to be kind and giving to others, good things will come to us in return. Even if you don’t buy into the mentality of abundance and promoting good karma, most of us can agree that negativity cripples us. It’s impossible to do our best work – the work that will allow us to make our mark on the publishing world – when we’re consumed with envy and negativity. Let it go.

Paralyzing Fear # 2: If I succeed, they won't like me anymore. ‘They’ might refer to our writing friends, our coworkers, even our family. This fear starts whispering when we think about submitting our manuscripts to editors or querying agents. But what happens when we actually have some success? Because of that little voice, we play down our accomplishments. We insist that it’s no big deal that we finaled in that contest. The fact that we got a request for a full manuscript from our dream publishing house means nothing.

Discounting our achievements diminishes not only our own dreams and goals, it also lessens the value of what we’re trying to accomplish as writers. This anxiety is rooted in rejection. We fear that those we care about most will reject us based on our success. Jealousy is a part of human nature, and it’s possible – even likely – that from time to time, some of our colleagues will resent our triumphs. That doesn’t mean that we should hide our light under a bushel basket. Giving in to these self-depreciating tendencies may keep us from achieving what we desire most.

Paralyzing Fear # 3: It's too good to last. In our society, we’ve become conditioned to look for the catch in the contract or the anvil that’s sure to drop on our head. We live with the certainty that “the other shoe is going to drop.” For some reason, we refuse to believe that happiness is anything but fleeting. The problem is that when you continue to behave as if something horrible is around the next corner, it usually is. We find it because we’re searching for it.

Challenge yourself. Live in the moment. Enjoy your current happiness. Refuse to anticipate problems. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t borrow trouble.” This is good advice. Waiting for that next catastrophe leeches the joy from the present. We all deserve to be happy, and it’s not a crime to enjoy that happiness.

Paralyzing Fear # 4: I’m a fraud, and sooner or later everyone will figure it out. Most writers have deep-seated insecurities that were no good at what we do. We’re convinced that any success we’ve had is nothing more than a fluke. We think it’s sheer dumb luck that we’ve gotten as far as we have.

What about the people who have complimented your writing? Bought your book? Written good reviews about your book? Do you think they’re all idiots? I didn’t think so. The next time someone compliments your work, write it down, save the critique or the email and read it the next time you start having those horrible, debilitating thoughts about yourself. We all need positive reinforcement. There’s nothing wrong with reminding yourself that you are a good writer with valuable skills.

Paralyzing Fear # 5: Nothing I do matters. We become so mired in the everyday insanity of trying to combine our writing with the day job, the laundry, the dishes, the carpools, etc. that we feel like our prose isn’t important enough to spend time on – that we’re not important enough to spend time on.

We need to remind ourselves that our writing has significant value. If we refuse to recognize this truth, we’re going to have a horrible time getting other people to recognize it, too.
Take a step back and look at your writing life. Look at the big picture. Does writing make you happy? If the answer is yes, then give it the attention it deserves. Make time for it. Make time for yourself.

The things we do and say and think matter. They matter a lot. Focus on banishing these fears and give your writing the best you have to offer. By doing this, you’ll find you’ll have the satisfying writing life you’ve always wanted.

By: Bronwyn Green


Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Great reminder that we're not alone in what we fear! Thanks for sharing this, Bron!

chocoaddict said...

Lots of food for thought, and great suggestions. Thanks!