Friday, November 7, 2014

The Upside of Fear

 By Sarah Reichert

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”  --Frank Herbert, Dune

            Humans are designed by nature to fear.  Fear keeps us alive.  Fear warns us of possible danger.  Fear drives adrenaline through our systems, and gives us superhuman strength or the ability to run away.  But fear can cripple.  Adrenaline can cause stress on the heart and shut down normal function of the brain. 

            We no longer roam the savannah, constantly looking out for a predator’s eyes in the grass, but our bodies still carry the reactive responses.  I’ve spoken to people, writers and not, who’s fear has changed the way that they move through the world.  We may not fear being torn to shreds at the watering hole anymore, but we fear the judgement of others.  We don’t fear being gored by wildebeests, but we fear sending out query letters.  Hearts jump, sweat breaks, and that nerving pain zaps through our system.  

I know many writers who have a finished work, as ready as it will ever be, but they find excuses to keep it safely tucked away.  Article or novel, the fear of rejection can be crippling.  As long as those words stay on our personal screens, they are still good enough. 

            But let me share a secret.  That little painful spike of adrenaline that hits you when you do something new and frightening, well it's kind of addictive. 

Standing at the precipice of great challenge is overwhelming.  It’s so much easier to back away to the safety of the plain landscape behind you.  But you already know what’s behind you.  You’ve been there.  Now is the time to take that heart-stopping leap.  Now is the only time we are truly given in life.  The worst you can do is fall.  You won’t be eaten by a saber-tooth lion.  You’ll just stumble and maybe take a hit to your ego. 

            Look at responses you receive as grades on your homework.  Use them to see the fault in your work from an outsider’s perspective and make it stronger.  Each time you send it out, it will get easier.  Don’t let little fears hold you back from the chance to soar.  Have a manuscript?  Have a poem?  Have a children’s book that you’ve sat on for years?  Its time to do something with it.  Use the fear to drive you on to the bigger and better.

The NCW Conference is only five months away!  Do you have a project you've been stalling on?  Its a perfect time to polish it for presentation at a round table.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Believe it or not, after a few years of pushing through the anxiety, you even become numb to query, pitch, and conference slush pile fears.

The Eclectic Reader bookstore is hosting a "conversation cafe" at 7:15 Thurs 11/13 and the topic is "What am I afraid of?" I might go so I can talk about black hairy spiders. I've never gotten over that one. :D

Shirley Drew said...

Familiar fears. But you're right, Sarah--the only way to get better is to take the constructive feedback and move forward!

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