A while back there was a discussion about fear on another blog (which shall remain nameless, because it’s bad enough to realize you’ve spilled your guts in a place where more than three people can read it — no need to provide a link to the darn thing). The discussion had to do with how fear keeps us from achieving goals and living up to our potential.
So I thought about it and “confessed” that I fear success. And in a way, that’s true. But the more I think about it, that’s not real fear so much as worrying about how I’d handle success — I’m talking about huge success, not the polite kind where you finally get published but your mom and eight friends are the only ones who buy your book — and how it might change my life. And it would, in the unlikely event it ever happened. But I’d figure out a way to deal with it. I’ve survived worse.
Then the other day I was wandering around on the internet and came across a blog about . . . okay, damnit, I can’t remember exactly what it was about. Or who wrote it. I’ve looked but can’t find it again. It was in the same vein of encouraging writers to face and overcome their fears in order to become more confident writers. If you find it, let me know and I’ll link to it. It was good.
The post included a quote about fear that rang so true it stopped me dead in my tracks. And then, typically, I got distracted by something shiny and forgot to bookmark the blog. It took me forever to find the quote itself, since I didn’t remember it verbatim. Here it is:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” –Marianne Williamson
There’s more to it but I’m not going to quote the rest, partly because it has religious overtones that make me uncomfortable, but mostly because this first part is what hit me in the gut and whispered, “That’s it.” That is exactly what I fear the most. Not success, per se, but my own power. The fear that I might be, through my writing, “powerful beyond measure.” Just saying it makes me cringe. [Insert standard disclaimer here about how fear is often irrational.]
I’ve had a few days now to mull it over and I think this is the reason my writing lately feels flat. Uninspired. Lackluster and tepid. I’m at the point in the story where big things are meant to happen, where powerful emotions are evoked and characters do and say significant memorable things. Instead, I’ve been pulling my punches and avoiding anything too strong or meaningful. Not on purpose, no writer does that deliberately, but subconsciously.
This fear has apparently set up a filtering barrier between my brain and the page. It has its own little monologue going on up there: “C’mon, who are you to presume you have something significant or meaningful to say? Who are you to provoke the thoughts and emotions of others? Who are you to think you can write something daring and different? You want to get published, you’d better play it safe.”
For months I’ve been thinking I’d lost the ability to tell a story (if I ever had it). But I now suspect I’ve simply been hiding from myself, from my own power.
Oddly enough, recognizing and acknowledging that fear has given me a sort of “permission” and the determination to embrace it. Which I believe was the entire point of the blog post first referenced above. It just took me a while to dig deep enough — via a superficial surfing of the web — to get at the truth of my fear.
So. There you have it. I’m still trying to come to terms with the concept — not that words have power, but that mine do. That I do. Beyond measure.
If I’m quiet for the next little while, it’s because I’m trying to find the courage to write through the fear. Trying to create something bold and powerful and true. Regardless of the consequences.