Seven Deadly Sins for Writers: #1 – FEAR
If you asked me what it’s like to finally pursue my dream of writing, the honest answer is: Terrifying.
Yes, there is excitement and delight, and many other things weighing in on the positive side, but, the scale is often tipped by the heavy burden of fear.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a writer some day. “Some day.” A fellow writer recently told me that is a dangerous term. I agree. Part of what kept me in that Some Day mode was fear. A dream tucked away since kindergarten can be hard to finally pursue. As long as it’s just a dream, it’s still a possibility. It hasn’t been taken out in the world, soiled, rejected, or broken. If I never let it live, it can’t die.
As I reached my thirties, I finally came to the realization that I would have to take those risks. If I never let it live, it would not be alive. I decided to make the first steps down the writing path.
Step 1: Face It
We must stare straight into the mouth of this monster and see what lies there:
“Everyone will hate it. No one will ever publish my writing. I am not qualified to be a writer. No one will understand what I’m trying to say. My shining ideas will never be on paper what they were in my head. Everything I try to write will share the aroma of my cat’s litter box. I’m destined to fail.”
The old hag is right. They’re lies – all lies! These fears, laden with lies, blossom in our minds until we have an entire garden of ghoulish mental monsters that prevent us from pursuing our passion. We become paralyzed by fear. All the What Ifs keep us frozen in place, and we fail before we even start because we fail to start. After all, as long as it’s just an idea, it can’t fail. No one can reject it. It can’t flop. It can’t turn out poorly. It’s this intangible brilliance that lies untainted in my mind. Untainted, but also untapped. Safe, but of what use?
Perhaps we do get started. Then perfectionism pops into play. We write, and rewrite, and rewrite again. We reread for the 42nd time and it’s still not quite right. It’s just not perfect. We stall out. We never put our writing out there because it’s not quite ready for others to see. It’s not good enough to share with the world. Just a few more changes, then it will be ready. Our attempts to create perfection keep us in a dizzying loop of editing and nailbiting that results in frayed fingers but nothing shared. What If I could make it better still? What If I’ve missed something? In our efforts to make it worthy of the world’s eyes, no one ever sees it. (Don’t ask me how many times I reread and rewrote this paragraph.)
We keep telling ourselves these lies. They feed our fear and help it grow big, strong, and loud. The What If track blasts on repeat in our upstairs radio until we can hear nothing else. The dances with Perfectionism and People Pleasing keep us spinning in circles. I suppose these two things have their place somewhere in our lives, but more often than not they are unhealthy. They become stumbling blocks in our path to be productive writers. They lead us to a litany of What If questions, and that track never stops playing:
What if I write something that just plain stinks? What if I think it’s good but not everyone likes it? What if publisher after publisher rejects me? What if someone misinterprets my writing? There’s plenty more along the same line of thinking, but a blog post can only be so long. So, let’s just get right down to finally answering those basic What If questions instead of just fretting over them. This is step two.
Step 2: Embrace It
YES! The answer to most of those What Ifs is a resounding yes! Yes, those things are going to happen. At some point, each of these will come true to some degree. Guess what? That’s ok. We aren’t perfect. Our world it not perfect. As imperfect people, we are destined to imperfect writing. We have NO chance of pleasing everyone. If we write enough, and submit enough, we will surely be misunderstood, criticized, rejected, and more. Embrace the inevitable.
This doesn’t mean we believe the lies. A rejected manuscript does not mean we are a reject. Failure to publish an article doesn’t mean we are a failure. If not everyone likes our writing, it doesn’t mean everyone hates us. If our path doesn’t look like another writer’s, it doesn’t mean we aren’t a writer, or aren’t worthy of that title. Messing up doesn’t mean we are a mess. If we produce a flop, we don’t have to forever forfeit our writer’s card.
Creative souls can be a bit overdramatic. Let’s be realistic with ourselves. What really happens when these inevitabilities strike? Are we forced to wear an F on our shirts to let everyone know we have failed? Do we have to stop writing? Stop dreaming? Stop living? It’s highly unlikely that any of the What If’s we toy with are actually that serious. Ego-threatening, yes. Life-threatening, no.
What do we do?
Step 3: Chase It
Chase your dream. Chase your goals. Chase your passion. Chase away this monster. Chase away the sin of Fear. By running headlong into the fray, we sprint away from fear or mow it down in our path. Either way, this sin no longer blocks our way.
Once you’ve divulged your doubts and embraced the inevitables, Fear becomes fear and is easier to hurdle. You can acknowledge the risks, and run on this path anyway. Yes, you will get bruised, but at least you got off the park bench. Go ahead, stretch your muscles. Test your talents. Start feeding those instead of that What If monster. Who knows where it will take you? Maybe you won’t come in first, but it’s better than missing the race entirely.
Yes, you’ll most likely hear the recurring classics: Gonna Fail Now, Baby; Gotta Please the People; and Gettin’ Almost Perfect. They are catchy tunes that easily get stuck in our heads. But…it’s time. Time to face the music. Turn off the tune. Starve the monsters. Fill our heads with creative ideas, writing goals, feedback, research, contests, queries…even blog posts. The fear will not simply dissipate one day. We have to DO something. Get something else playing, going, churning, burning, chasing our thoughts and spurring us into action. No more Some Day. To-day.
The Fear chaser I keep in my mind is this truth:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
We are not alone as we stare down this sin. We do not have to let this Deadly Sin bind us. The Lord is with us as we pursue our dreams and feel pursued by fear. Chase? Yes. But also run – straight to a loving God who can chase away our fears and give us the desires of our heart.
My desire is to continue to write whatever God puts in my heart, that stirs my mind, that drives my hand to the page. He has instilled in me this passion that I no longer want to leave still. With God’s help, I will continue to be more than a conqueror in this battle with Fear.
In fact, it’s time to click the publish post button now.
Coming soon – Deadly Sin #2 – SLOTH – If I’m not too lazy to write it.