Sometimes we fear success, while other times simply looking at a blank page can fill us with angst. Other times we worry about what people will say when they read our work … or even what they won’t say. Fear of that silence may, in fact, be the most powerful fear of all.
Because then who would we be?
Nothing!! screams the ego, doing its level best to make you want to crawl into a hole for the rest of eternity (plus ten years).
But your ego is wrong.
In some ways, fear can be helpful. If you fear dying without completing a project or fully living out your passion, that can fuel you. And to a certain extent, all of us writers are afraid we’ll pass away without leaving our mark on the world. (Scratch the writer thing; that’s just a human trait.)
However, many writing-related fears aren’t so normal/helpful.
You know this is you’ve ever had thoughts such as:
… and other things about crap. Even fear of success can be debilitating. Many of us laugh that off, sarcastically thinking: Yeah I WISH that were my problem. But it’s real too. If you’re successful, people will hold you to much higher standards. Your work will be out there; it will have a much larger audience. An audience that can critique you and reject you and hurt All of the Feelingz.
The one thing all these fears have in common is they can wreak havoc on our productivity. Who wants to take that on when they could instead get lost in a good fantasy or catch up on the latest Netflix-binge candidate?
So if you want to write without fear, you have to kick those thinking habits. Easier said than done, of course, especially since the Interpreter is always getting in your way.
Oh, did I not mention the Interpreter? Because he’s a jerk.
Okay, not always. The Interpreter is a left-brain function that seeks to make sense of your surroundings, working always to align the present to the past and form a coherent story out of the primordial soup of our daily experiences.
Problem is, the Interpreter is seriously biased. It will do basically anything to bring order to the world. Square peg, round hole? No problem, will force.
In some cases, this is good. The Interpreter helps you keep trucking when rational assessment of empirical data might make you give up. If you’ve been trying to get published for ten years without success, for instance, you might be tempted to quit based on that fact alone. The Interpreter steps in, however, to qualify the situation and help you see where you have succeeded, the likely causes of the situation and why you should keep the faith. Helpful!
In other cases, though, it’s not nearly as friendly. Take that same situation, which might also prompt the Interpreter to conclude that you will never be a writer. That you aren’t as good as other people, and that therefore you are fated to lead the same unfulfilled existence forever.
See the problem? The Interpreter takes some true facts – you haven’t yet hit your goal, and there are definitely people who are better than you at the craft – and turns that into an unshakable belief in your own I-am-crap-ness.
See? Told you he’s a jerk.
It takes practice to learn to write without fear. Especially when you’re facing a daunting edit or a very public endeavor, it’s simpler to just turn and run.
But it’s important to fight that fear. Sure, the Interpreter can make you feel bad, if you let it. And frankly, even if you don’t (trust me, I know).
You know what it can’t do? Make you stop writing. Force you to put down the pen or remove your hands from the keys or toss the paintbrush across the room. That’s all you.
It might seem facile, but just accepting the situation can really help. You can remind yourself that feelings are not facts, or that the Interpreter haunts all of us. You can choose to acknowledge it with a quick nod of the head before getting back to work.
You can even talk to it, like, “Heyo! I see you. Since you’re here anyway, could you go ahead and grab me a coffee/pee for me/start a conga line in this Starbucks?” It probably won’t do as you ask, but a little private silliness can go a long way toward dispelling fear and getting back to work.
Oh, and you can also check out my book, btw. It’s all about fighting fear and learning to live your creative dream.
So what do you think? Are you ready to live a new, fear-free life?
Okay, not fear-free. You got me there. How about slightly-less-fear-filled? If so, I’m with you. Down with the Interpreter.
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