There is a fear within me of the unknown, a fear of the dark and dirty soil beneath the surface.
Afraid of what I can’t see, what I can’t smell or touch or even conceive.
This is nothing new, of course. Damn near everyone has such a fear on some level, I believe. It undoubtedly is what has fueled some of the best stories of our time (related note: I’m currently reading Stephen King’s It, and holy hot damn, what a book).
Most recently the bulk of my fear has revolved around not knowing if there’s any true value in my words or stories for others. It’s whether or not I can reach the extent of my writing goals and if I do, what the hell happens after that?
Will others read it?
Will they enjoy it? Take value from it? Find inspiration in it? Will they care?
I mean, hopefully, yes. And some will care, some won’t, I get that, I’m fine with that, there’s no reason anyone shouldn’t be fine with that.
But every time I start, every time I lay the pen to page or tap away on the keys, there’s that haunting, nagging son of a bitch in my ear, Fear, laying the way for self doubt.
Still, I’ve realized something. For the longest time I felt the goal was to overcome fear, to be rid of it. To be fearless. No more fear, hands dusted clean, that’s it, thank you, sweet, moving on.
No. It doesn’t work that way.
Turns out — ha, ha! — FEAR is actually sort of a good thing, and, in an even more twisted way, a friend and a teacher. It’s not here to stop us. It’s here to guide us. And believe it or not, there is a blinding brilliant luminescence behind it.
Fear and Writing
Let’s take a step back a bit. I have essentially four goals (albeit large ones) when it comes to my writing:
- To write and publish my own fiction in the form of novels and short stories
- To blog incessantly about the creative process and facing (and dealing with) the anxieties that come with it
- To write and publish nonfiction books, be them shorter ebook explorations or longer books touching on various concepts related to creativity and living a full life
- To eventually build out this effort into a more solid freelance endeavor, a platform I can work with and hopefully educate and inspire others who may be struggling with their own creative paths
These all scare the shit out of me. For one, I held back on this blog for a long time. It has sprouted up like a mushroom in the springtime over the years in different fungal forms, but what you see here has been a months-long effort of trial and error trying to get it to look and feel the way I want it to. To have an idea of what the hell I was going to write about. The idea for this iteration sparked more than a year ago and the learning curve has been steep. The fact that I’m even writing this now is insane to me, and a year ago would have felt impossible (and maybe it was for my mindset a year ago).
I’ve written countless stories as a reporter over the years, many of them public-facing, some of them for a more niche audience, some of them internal-facing. And yet for some reason, running my own blog, with my own thoughts and opinions, and bringing this to an area I want to excel at in my life moving forward — not to mention finally moving forward with the vast number of fiction projects I’ve been sitting on for the better part of a decade — as an introvert, this is not easy.
Interestingly enough, I’m finding that it is actually the fiction part of all of this, the part I feel in the deep-down core of me is what I need to most express, is what I have the most trouble getting to and working on. Why?
There’s dirt down there.
There are fears.
There are anxieties beyond the surface-level qualms of everyday life.
There is sobbing and grief and tears and muck and garbage-ridden shit.
But amidst that, there is a light. It peeks through in splinters, and is only viewable or accessible through all of the above. I’ve faced fear before, albeit in different, and arguably more terrifying and dark forms, usually as grief or loss, and, to a lesser extent, self-devised panic (though self-devised fears always feel the most powerful to me). And through every instance of such fear, through every encounter with it, there has always — goddamn ALWAYS — been some form of value, some form of lesson, some illumination or spark or fire-blaze insight that has come from it. In the wake of such fear, I usually see that it was the fear of something that was actually worse (in most cases, not all) than what came to pass.
Again, fear is not the enemy. It may look like a venomous snake hanging from a tree branch, but once you look closer you realize that snake is actually a lamp post, lighting the way, and showing you a warm truth.
Fear is a Lamp Post
On a somewhat related note, I recently read a book by Dan Millman called The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose. It’s sort of a spiritual field guide, a much different take on the self-help realm than I’d ever seen. It actually calculates your biggest life purpose based on your birth date. I won’t dig into how this works (you can read the book for more on that), and I know to some this may sound new-agey, but I will say that my result focused on one thing: achieving freedom through discipline. This hit the nail so hard on the head for me because self discipline (or lack thereof) is partially the reason I haven’t moved forward with my creative efforts until now.
Millman’s book isn’t the only one that has helped me with this kind of understanding — there are several others (some of which I wrote about recently) that have discussed the notion of “feel the fear and do it anyway,” and I’m learning now what this insight actually means.
Forming a new routine has been one sloppy endeavor thus far, and I’m less than two weeks in as of this writing. But even at this point I’m already changing my mindset in terms of how I want to approach certain things, which I’ll report back on later, but the surprise part of this for me was how chaotic the process turned out to be. It’s not an overnight fix, it’s a gradual adjustment from one life of mindset to the next. All of this movement forward is frightening, and I’ve had to let go of preconceived notions, of ideals I had for myself and my writing. Letting go is not easy, it may be among the hardest things we as humans can do. But it’s part of the reason we’re here, to understand this, and to grow. Yes, grow physically and spiritually, but also grow creatively. Grow in full.
This growth is the dirty part, it’s a shedding of the skin. It is not by any means clean or easy. But it can be simple, and it’s representative of the the light I’m talking about. It’s there, shining splinters in the night.
Moving towards it? Scary as hell.
As I’m learning, and as I’ve seen, absolutely.
The glow is brilliant and all-encompassing. It’s the place where we find our creative spark to ignite our art, whatever that may be. In this light, there is no need for fear, and there is no judgement.
Because it is home.