Every Day As a Writer, I Have To Tell Myself Not to be Afraid

No.fear from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Vincepal, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Every day as a writer, I have to tell myself not to be afraid.

There are plenty of voices in my head trying to convince me to get a real job, one with medical benefits and a regular pay check. There is the voice that tells me nothing I’ve ever written has really been that great, and there’s no chance that anything I write in the future will be anything special either. There’s the voice reminding me of every bad review, every clients’ criticism of a first draft, every rejection.

Today I stared out my window and I thought about fear. What would my life look like if I gave into it? I’d work 9 to 5. I’d watch a lot of television (because watching television is such a great way for me to forget about everything I’m afraid of). I’d encourage my kids to stay inside, to not try anything new, to keep their expectations low.

I’d stare out a lot of windows.

I wouldn’t let anyone read anything that I wrote – I’d stop writing.

I’d never say hello to anyone, for fear they’d think I was stupid, or naive, or ugly, and wouldn’t say hello back to me.

Fear has a way of leading us in a concentric path that grows smaller and smaller until we are so far inside of ourselves that we are nothing more than a small point surrounded by an unfathomable darkness. There is no question of engagement, no question of opening up. And if we follow fear long enough, it will swallow us up.

Ironically, the best response to fear is not to be unafraid. The best response is to embrace it.

Try new things.

Write or paint or draw. Start a new business or make a new friend. Take a walk. Get outside of yourself.

This is how you move through fear – by moving and by expanding your circle of movement.

Every morning as a writer, I have to tell myself not to be afraid, and then I have to do something about it. So I open a new page and I start typing.

My newest confrontation with fear involves starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund a novel I wrote over the last fifteen months. And I have to admit – I’m terrified…that it’s no good, that no one will like it, that people will snicker about me behind their backs. But I know it’s time to stop being afraid.

You’ll be able to support the launch and publication of this novel starting on Monday, October 20th, so stay tuned for more on that.

What are you afraid of?

5 Replies to “Every Day As a Writer, I Have To Tell Myself Not to be Afraid”

  1. Hey Shawn,

    Totally agree with you – fear is such a hindrance.

    One thought though – this to me seems like quite a black and white view on things. If by taking a job, would it mean your writing would need to stop? Is this really giving in to your fear or just being pragmatic?

    I am not giving in an opinion here but would love to see your take on why it has to be all or nothing as its something I wrestle with constantly.

    My ambition currently is to get the wheels in motion on a start up dream but in my spare time so my day job, and hopefully family are not effected. If that start up then shows me its the path to take then great, if not then I start again.

    cheers, and hope you and the family are well

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Ads. I think for me, in this instance, it is black and white. I have plenty of work for the foreseeable future, but even with that I still find myself fearful…of what might happen six months from now. Most people with normal jobs don’t even have six months security! That’s how I know, for me, in this time, it’s fear. Perhaps at some point this way of life will become impractical, and sure, at that point I could get another job and also write, although I still think there’s something to be said for going all in.

      But it’s a very individual thing, this idea of fear, and only we can know if we are acting out of fear or some other motive. I have friends who have used the excuse of being pragmatic when afterwards they admitted the reason they didn’t take the chance was because of fear. I also have friends who made some kind of leap and it was a foolish thing to do. It’s something only the individual can know.

      Finally, let me say this: whenever you make an important change in your life, whether it’s to become self-employed or begin a start-up company or any kind of major deal, your family will be affected. But there is always a way to look at those things that affect you as being positive, even if they’re difficult.

  2. Shawn, I worked for a major corporation for nearly 30 years before taking the leap to become self employed. I can’t say I was afraid to leave, but I did have an assumed feeling that I was “secure” in my position. It turned out that being on our own did not just bring freedom, but the realization that there was more security with self employment than as an employee. If our business turned bad, I could just work harder to find more customers. If I wanted to trim the sails, it was only my business. Being on the payroll brought with it the obligation to always be striving for management’s expectations and opportunities confined to borders they drew. The company merged twice after we left and now no longer exists. Would I have made it through all that? Unlikely. Just making the point that it took a personal experience for me to learn that, at least in my case, fear was self imposed and misplaced. Leaving the corporate world changed my life so many ways, I can’t count them. The only thing I gave up was a title that meant nothing to anyone outside the company and free business cards. Follow your dreams and your instincts. They brought you here and will take you there.

  3. Shawn, I’ve been reading your writing and following you since starting Twitter several months ago. I always enjoy your writing, especially enjoyed the Frieay episodes, disappointed when you stopped posting those. All I can say is ‘join the club’ when it comes to fear. That’s one thing we all have in common. Fear I think can be a real asset once you see it for what it is. The enemy trying to take control. There was s time I wouldn’t have dreamed of commenting on things like this, but I’ve become an encourager it seems and want to let people know how God changed my life. I am 78 now, a late bloomer, discovering my love for writing in the past few years, gathering info for my memoir. I once took s creative writing class and remember her telling us “if you’re a writer, you have to write.” Makes sense, whether full or part time, whenever the words come, they must be written.

  4. All of my comment wasn’t posted. Had to add this since its most important, don’t give up! I’ll be looking out for your book – keep us posted. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading☺️

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