I’ve been feeling under the weather lately – April was a really bad month. I feel like I’ve lost a chunk of time from my life – no writing, no reading – I couldn’t do anything but sleep! But while I was recovering and taking a hiatus from my WIP (and from critting) I found myself getting down about the publishing business, and my chances of actually landing an agent or getting a book deal. I follow dozens of writers, all of whom are on this same journey. It seems like everyone I know wants to find an agent, wants that golden publishing contract. And while I know there is room enough for all of us, sometimes it feels like an insurmountable task. And so I start thinking things like “Why keep trying? It will never happen to you.” or “You’ll never be good enough, you should stop now while you’re ahead.”
And then I realized it was my Fear talking.
So Fear and I sat down and had a little chat to figure out what was going on. Come to find out, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to get hurt if my dream doesn’t come true – if I never land that agent or get my books published. Even scarier? There’s a part of me that’s terrified that it *will* happen and that my life will change! How messed up is that?
But my fear is trying to protect me.
Fear keeps me from pursuing this goal 100%. If I don’t try, if I keep pushing aside my goals and dreams, I can’t get rejected, and I’ll stay in this protected limbo forever. I have dozens of stories to write. They’ll need editing and revision. There’s a chance I’ll *never* get one to the point where I feel comfortable querying. And if I don’t query, I won’t get rejected. There will always be the possibility of “that chance” just over the horizon. My heart won’t get broken if it never happens.
Fear keeps me from being successful. If, by some chance, I get through the first fear block and succeed at getting an agent or publishing contract, the fear is there to stop me from going further. Change is scary. With success comes responsibility. And there’s nothing worse than getting your dream and then finding out that’s not what you wanted in the first place. Or even worse, that now you’re here, you can’t swim with the big fish. You’re a fraud. And once you’re out there, so many things that can go wrong – bad reviews, bad experiences, bad sales. It would be easier to stop now than fail later.
When we fear things I think that we wish for them … every fear hides a wish ~ David Mamet
When you have so many of your hopes and dreams wrapped up in this one huge thing, it can get overwhelming. It can take over your life and become an obsession, or drown you in depression. It can make you do crazy things, or nothing at all. Fear is a symptom, a signpost that you’ve found something important to you. When you hit that fear wall, it’s like your subconscious slapping you across the face and saying “Pull yourself together, woman, this is important stuff!”
So what do you do with the Fear?
I wish I knew the real answer to this. I’m still struggling with my own fears around this journey. I struggle with self-sabotage. I worry that I’m not good enough. I fear that I’ll never achieve this dream. Unfortunately, I’ve lived a lot of my life in fear mode. There are good reasons for it, and at one time it served me well. But now? Now I’m just tired of it. The only thing this fear is hurting is myself. When I think about it, I realize how much space Fear is taking up within me. And what wonderful things could I replace it with?
Fear is never going to go away entirely, but I need to learn to live with it and tame it into manageable proportions. So this year, Fear and I are going to become friends. We’re going to sit down and figure out where those blocks are and why I have them. We’re going to have a cuppa and talk about how Fear has helped me in the past and why it doesn’t need to protect me in the future. We’re going to sing and dance, maybe even play, because Fear can’t scare you when it’s busy doing something fun. We’re going to distract it with movies and pedicures and massages. And we’re going to remember that the Fear is only trying to help in the best way it knows how.
How do you guys handle the fear in your own lives and journeys?
Note: This post’s title comes from Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.