I am pleased to announce that I will now be a regular contributor to the RMFW Blogs. I am really excited and proud to be here. There are so many wonderful members of our organization. So many writers, authors, and publishers that I look up to. In fact, in many ways, I feel like I’m walking with giants – and it’s a little scary.
It’s the worst four letter F word I know. At times it can be your friend. At times it can be the shackles that hold you back. Today I want to write about fear.
I am 46 years old. I’ve accomplished some things in my life. I’ve accomplished many of the goals I’ve set out for myself in my life. I’ve also failed a lot, too. But as I look back on the road markers of my life, I realize that every major event where I came out triumphant occurred because I stepped out of fear. Applying to my dream college, asking my wife to marry me, my work as an actor (ok, a set extra – but I acted!), and everything else was directly related my decision to act in spite of my fear.
I’ve got a little secret to tell you. See, evolutionary biologists tell us our brains have a negative bias. That means we are inherently conservative in our actions because it’s what kept our species safe over tens of thousands of years.
Our ancestors told crazy caveman Larry, “No, we are NOT attacking the pride of lions with clubs and sharpened sticks.”
Our ancestors chose to continue planting the grains they were used to instead of that new-fangled grain the foreigners brought.
Our ancestors chose to play it safe because that consistently paid off.
But guess what, we don’t have to do that anymore. Now, I’m not talking about paying in traffic people, but that skip of the heartbeat, that breathlessness we get that lets us know something isn’t right, we can choose to ignore that.
See, our primate brains still act react to social situations as if there’s a wolf pack around the corner. It doesn’t know how to react any other way. And that can be really helpful – when there’s an actual wolf pack in the area! But there isn’t. So why do we give into our fears?
The last three days of May I freaked out – hardcore. For the first time, I decided to enter The Colorado Gold Contest. The story had been written a year ago. I had taken it to critique group, even had a former judge peruse it. But I waited until the afternoon of the very last day to turn it in. I was scared. I started procrastinating by calling old friends, watching YouTube videos and re-reading books. I did everything I could not to submit my four thousand words.
At times like these, you have to remember that the thing that scares you is the thing you are supposed to do. That fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing status or prestige – are all illusions. The things that matter in your life are still going to be there whether you step on stage and sing or run away. More importantly, if do choose to stand in that state and make a fool out of yourself your friends are still going to be there.
Will it hurt? Probably. Will it be embarrassing? Possibly. But all suffering is redemptive and you’ll be a better person for the scars. You’ll learn and do it better next time.
You know what’s awesome about writing? If it doesn’t work out, you can always hit delete. You can always re-write that WIP, start a new story, query another agent, or submit to another contest. There are endless opportunities to write well.
Will it be hard? Yes. But hard is relative. Will it be “Shoveling horse manure in Missouri,” hard? Probably not. Will it grate at your ego? Well, only you can answer that.
The point is you have a unique opportunity to tell a story only you can tell. Don’t let a little fear get in the way of that. It takes courage to write – especially today. It took courage to look up RMFW. It took courage to start reading this blog. So we already know you’re a courageous person just for being here! Now let’s continue to be courageous.
Christ Batty, the founder of NaNoWrimo, is fond of saying “The World Needs Your Story.” I couldn’t agree more. All you have to do is make a habit of it. Write a little a day, even if it’s just a page. Then, join a critique group. Meet new friends who will support your writing. Go to conference in September.
You’re probably wondering if I submitted my first 4K to the contest. I did. I clicked submit at 3:19 PM on May 31st. I got in under the deadline – in spite of my fear.