Fear Itself

The moon is broken and the sky is cracked…
The only thing that you can see is all that you lack. — Tom Waits

I danced with writing all my life, but I never made it work out how I wanted. It’s like a cha cha, forward and back, forward and back. Ugh. I want to boogie all over the dance floor.

I’m not alone. I’m for the most part a confident and outspoken person, so this seems like a non-match, but it’s amazing what the voices in your head will say when no one is looking. It’s self-defeating, gets in my way, makes me hesitate, and I’m tired of it.

When I want to explore something, of course I write about it! If I process the hell out of it, pick it apart, I can banish it, leave it behind, and waltz on.

Fear keeps me from saying I want to “be a writer,” and stops me from sharing my writing. It keeps me from figuring out where to go with my writing. I love to edit, re-forming words to mean what I want to say – but if there’s no reader, why bother?

credit Lynette Noni

credit: Lynette Noni

I’m afraid of failure: starting and not finishing, good ideas that produce few words, pages of useless prose. I’m afraid of no ideas at all, the blank page that goes unfilled.

I’m afraid that I won’t improve; that I’ll always be the writer that I am now, that writing every day, as all writers advise, will just shine a light on that.

I’m afraid of commitment: that I’ll get off to a good start, or a bad start, or any kind of start at all, and then be unable to keep going, that I’ll lose my enthusiasm. Better to not commit in the first place.

I’m afraid of judgement: that people won’t like what I say, or how I say it, or find it worth their time. That they won’t like me. I’m afraid of having an audience, and afraid of no audience, that I will bore people, that I’ll be laughed at. Afraid that my writing won’t even cause a ripple; if I’m hated, at least that’s some attention.

I’m afraid of writing this, and sharing it.

I’m afraid that I can’t write like my favorite authors, like Barbara Kingsolver, or Jim Harrison. That I’ll be the trite, meaningless and unpoetic writer that I myself wouldn’t read, let alone ask others to read.

Ironically, if you told me that you had these fears, I would have all kinds of advice. “You have nothing to worry about. Even if any of these things were to happen, it wouldn’t matter. You need to do it anyway. If you don’t, how will you know? If it’s a thing you want, why let anything stop you? You’ve done things you were afraid of before – did your fears come true? If they did, did that affect the thing you did? How will you get better if you don’t try? How will you get over the fear unless you meet it head on? How will you know which fears are baseless, when you have so many they can’t all possibly be true? What do you have to lose?” Oh, I’m so wise sometimes.

Fear isn’t a stranger to me. I’m familiar with it from performing, traveling, life transitions of all kinds. Playing mandolin in front of others is a continual fear-confronting exercise for me. I once joined a Comedy Improv class to get over the fear of performing. It ultimately helped, but first I had to beat back my fear of the class.

Traveling alone, I had to push away fear each time. People said, “I could never do that,” or “You’re so brave” but I scoffed. Most recently, taking a week to drive the 1100 miles, alone, to move to Portland, I had to ignore the nerve-racking inner voices along the way, while at the same time felt grateful for that spirit soaring solo journey. That trip paved the way for all the things that followed in creating my new life. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid, I just did it anyway.

I’m 62. It’s time to stop acting out childhood traumas.

Anne Lamott says that shitty first drafts are the way to go. Getting better might take until I’m 90, but if I don’t start now, I’ll never get better and I’ll die full of regret. Ask me about it when I’m 90.

“Getting over” fear may put it too strongly. Taming it, calming it, learning to work around it might be more apt. I can do that.

Anticipation is the scariest; it’s doubt that stops me.

Bravery is doing things even when I’m afraid.

I’m afraid. But I’ll write anyway. I’m afraid, but I’ll show people my work. I’ll hold my breath, but I won’t wait for judgement. I’ll make a blog, share this page, tell a story, and move on to the next one. I’ll pretend I don’t care, and then maybe I won’t. “Fake it til you make it” works in mysterious ways.

Just do the thing. Boogie on. Do it as well as you can. Do it until you see a benefit. Do it if it makes you happy. Do it anyway. Shall we dance?

My favorite fear-banishing scene

11 thoughts on “Fear Itself

  1. This is AWESOME! I soooo relate, as will every writer who reads this, or probably every body because we all have some boogie-man we fear but want to face, or need to face. You are such a good writer, and your subjects are so well chosen. You notice. Then process and articulate what you see. And add a little spice, some icing, salt and pepper and most important, a dollop of YOU. Hooray and thank you again for trusting me with this.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you have an amazing way with words! Thank you for putting it out there despite your fears. I love the dance analogy. And, when I started to read your post I too, thought of your beginnings with the mandolin. You have soared there my friend. Time and practice…you inspire me!! Keep on truckin’! 🙂


  3. Nancy, you are always an inspiration to me! Facing your fears and following your soul’s journey is an inspiration to us all! I recently faced a 5 month fear. I finally asked this amazing local guitar player & teacher to give me guitar lessons. I was convinced he’d say he was too busy, or a myriad of other reasons that I imagined in my head. When I finally contacted him, he immediately booked a time with me that ideally fits in my schedule! I want to do cartwheels! Much love to you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is the first one of your blogs I read..the title drew me. I loved reading it and the dancing image was perfect. I ve tended to be an adventurer, fearless and engaged with life but afraid to get on the dance floor! It looks so easy as others glide thru steps in time and rhythmic flow but my thoughts seem to glue my feet to the floor where they freeze and contradict my athletic history. Maybe I just need private lessons with a very patient teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Blogiversary is a Word | Rivers and Roads PDX

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