(First read Part 1 of “Facing Your Creative Fears.”)
3. Third, if your fears are real, face them squarely and deal with them. Do you really lack sufficient writing skills? If so, enroll in a course. Study writing books on your own. Analyze the books you love best to see how those authors did what they did. Take a public speaking course if you want to be a storyteller or give talks for groups. Take an assertiveness course or get help for your codependency if nasty family members really are holding you back from trying.
Work to improve, but don’t get caught in the “perfection trap” by accident. “It is indeed important to strive for excellence in creative endeavor,” says Thomas Kinkade. “It’s important to grow in skill, improve technique. But if we make a god of perfection, we risk pushing ourselves into a creative desert. We’re afraid to try because we’re afraid we won’t be good.”
Feelings of Fear are Real
“But I am afraid!” you say, terror creeping in around the edges of your voice. I know you are. I’ll tell you a secret. We all are. We wear masks to hide it, but we all deal with the fear of writing. How? We learned, finally, to do the writing afraid. We learned that fear didn’t have to stop us, that most things we could go ahead and do whether we were scared or not.
We research, even if we’re afraid our idea is overdone. We write rough drafts, even when we’re afraid the whole thing stinks. We submit to publishers, even though we’re afraid that editors cringe when they spot our name on a manuscript. Of course, the magic finally occurs. After many, many repetitions, the fear disperses. It almost disappears.
Just don’t imagine that you can eradicate all your writing fears. As Ralph Keyes wrote in The Courage to Write, “Finding the courage to write does not involve erasing or conquering one’s fears. Working writers aren’t those who have eliminated their anxiety. They are the ones who keep scribbling while their heart races and their stomach churns, and who mail manuscripts with trembling fingers.”
A Writer’s Job Description
Susan Jeffers wrote a book some years ago called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. The title says it all. It’s okay to feel the emotion of fear; it doesn’t mean we have to turn tail and run.
I’m a great believer in Mini Habits, with teeny tiny goals (such as, “I will write for five minutes today.”) I feel no resistance to writing for five minutes, so it takes no motivation or willpower to do it. And, of course, it often goes way beyond five minutes. This would help many of you too. The act of writing would dispel many of your fears. If you could see my office, you’d notice the four signs I have taped up that say in big, bold letters, “Work! Don’t worry. Inaction feeds worry. Action attacks worry.” Yes, even five minutes of writing will do so.
Do It Today!
Don’t stay frozen. Tackle those fears. Start small. Celebrate each baby step taken as a victory. Don’t hesitate to ask people for advice and encouragement. Study books. Listen to audio tapes. Read articles. Make banners or posters for your office. Leave Post-It notes on your computer. Use every means possible to remind yourself that you can conquer the thing that you fear. You’ve conquered fears in the past, and you can do it again! Don’t let fear stand between you and the writing career of your dreams.