Dancing with Fear

 “You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”

~Mary Manin Morrissey

fear faceFEAR.

If you write you have it. If you publish you have it. But if you keep it from having you, you can overcome it.

Officially, the dictionary defines fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat (and I would add  that it is also caused by something scary and unknown). What this dictionary doesn’t mention is that sometimes fear is caused by something real, but most of the time, especially for a creative person, fear is caused by something imagined.

Every author I’ve coached, myself included, has a waltz with fear when they think about sharing or publishing their work. The thoughts fear whispers sound something like this:

“What if people don’t like it?”
“What do you have to offer that hasn’t already been said?”
“You’re not really good enough…”
“What if you’re wrong?”
“People will laugh at you.”
“People will judge you”
“Are you really worthy?”

These thoughts whispered by fear seem real, but they are misguided. They are fear’s way of trying to block you from achieving your dream, your goal and your purpose.

Fear is a bad dance partner who comes to the party and wants to ruin your night. He dances with you as often as you’ll let him and he will whisper in your ear, confirming every doubt–and making up more.

When I was in the process of publishing my first book, Notes from the Margins, I would walk into a bookstore and nearly hyperventilate with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. The fear of putting my work “out there” nearly made me quit. I would look at all the books in the book store and think, “What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? There thousands of great authors out there…I bet I won’t measure up.”

Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.  ~Bill Cosby

How did I get past this fear?

I looked it in the eye and asked it what it was really trying to say.

The underlying theme of my fear was that I was afraid my story wasn’t important or wouldn’t mean anything to anyone. But I turned this fear around by realizing that my book was about a personal experience (that is unfortunately a common experience among women). Because my experience was both common and personal, I told my fear that I did have something important and unique to say. And then I told the fear, “Thank you for your concern. I’ve heard you, but you are wrong. Now go sit down and color!”

So how can you let go of your fears?

One thing that helps is to write your fear down on a piece of paper and really look at it. What is real about it? What is not real? Does it point out a valid problem, or is it preying on your doubts? Write down everything you know around the statement of fear. Then circle the words that are the truth.

When you look at the fear this way, it begins to lose its power to the truth. Once you take fear’s power away, you can determine how you can overcome it, or as Bill Cosby said, you can, “Decide that you WANT IT more than you are AFRAID of it.”

I think creative people always waltz with fear when they present their “baby” to the world. We are sensitive and we really do want people to be moved by our work (which is why we should work extra diligently to overcome our fears and get to the business of sharing our work since that is why we’ve created it).

You are bigger than your fear. You have something wonderful to offer the world! Have the courage to tell your fear that the dance is over; You have other people on your dance card and they are eager to see you!

(members of the Publishing Club get free access to an audio interview with Alane Pearce and Life Coach Marianne Moorehead discussing this very issue!–Join the Club!)