You may be asking, “What the hell is FIRST fear, Marcy?”
Let me tell you a little story. I had a life-changing experience recently.
One Saturday morning, I sat in a high school auditorium, listening to two attorneys discuss their world-famous case.
Tears clogged everyone’s throats as we heard the brutal details how the Klu Klux Klan’s murdered some innocent people because they hated the color of their skin. This event has all the makings of a great novel or movie: intense conflict, public outrage, and justice in the end.
I love me some redemption.
I don’t want to give away the rest because I’m superstitious. I want to write it before I hear others’ opinions.
As I tried not to bawl in public, I could picture each scene in my head.
No, I’ve never written historical fiction before, but YES, I’ve written four mainstream novels that have won several awards. I’ve also written one screenplay that finaled in the Austin Film Festival’s Pitching Contest.
So, I don’t suck.
That whole day, I was energized and hungry to start writing.
By the next morning, it was a different story…I woke up to Fear beating the X#@& out of me:
You can’t write that story. Hell, Spike Lee’s already done a documentary about it.
You weren’t even alive when it happened. You’re no expert there.
It’s best to stick with what you know.
By bedtime, I was ready to quit before I’d even begun.
Meet a rat bastard
Meet First Fear.
Fear Fear tells you from the get-go that you don’t have what it takes to write whatever is tugging at your heart (or do anything creatively that forces you from your comfort zone and into a higher plane).
New York Times best-selling author, Steven Pressfield, has a rule of thumb, “The more important a call of action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
Resistance is a fancy word for Fear.
The more we want to write…that novel…that children’s book…those poems…the more frightened we become.
Actually, it’s not that bad. Fear is part of the creative process, people.
Now, my favorite definition of normal is that it’s just a setting on the washing machine, but normal looks different on everyone.
We should also remember that the more AFRAID we are to write whatever, that means the more we love it and the more we MUST do so.
It’s for our soul’s sake.
The problem is, we get amnesia and Fear freaks us out time and time again.
Fear of failure.
Fear of success.
Fear of 1,000,001 different, terrifying outcomes that all end badly.
How to exterminate a rat
You can’t say, “Don’t be afraid.” That doesn’t work.
We’re already TERRIFIED! This new project is bigger, way beyond our talents and we’re not sure we’re good enough to do it.
In my free eBook I gave you, Write on Fire: Learn 8 Secrets to Overcome Writer’s Block and Pursue Your Dreams, I said, “Many people make the mistake of believing you have to get over your Fear FIRST, then write. Wrong. That’s bass-ackwards. Writing is what makes Fear go away.”
Easier said than done. Here’s two things I try to do when I’m starting a new project:
1. Start small.
2. Gather your posse.
1. Start small
The key to overcoming First Fear is baby steps.
Let’s say you want to start a novel.
Maybe 1,000 words a day scares you to death. Five pages everyday is a lot.
Try to write 250 words instead. That’s one page. Most everyone can write at least one page daily. Many people find they write more because they’ve taken off the pressure.
Small steps will always take us further than big, sweeping change because they’re less scary.
2. Gather your posse
The definition of posse: a group of people who have a common characteristic, occupation, or purpose.
That’s us. We are writers.
New writing projects shove us into First Fear.
If it doesn’t, you’re not writing the right stories.
Are you both thrilled and terrified?
Congratulations. You’re onto something fabulous. Fear Fear will be right behind you.
Find two or three other people who believe in you and your crazy dream.
Shut up, sit down and write. It doesn’t matter how awful it is in the beginning. You can fix that later. Just get the words onto the page.
It really is that easy.
It really is that hard.
Gather your posse, folks. There’s a rat bastard in the house.
How do you fight First Fear?
Share your comments with me. If you enjoyed this blog post, please pass along to your friends.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
Thank you for your post. I think I’m on second or third or one hundredth fear right now. But, I needed this reminder. I like what you said about the more fear the more the need to write. Right. Keep writing. Okay, that’s what I’ll do…after I complain a little longer:)
Marcy Mason McKay
You’re so right, Linday! It’s not just First Fear….it follows us every step of the way! I always seem to forget that Fear lessens the more I write. It’s such a rat bastard! Thanks for your fun comment!
Write through it and ignore it. Yes, it is always easier said than done, but it is just that simple. That fear only has a hold on you for only as long as you let it. No matter how you feel just write through it and within a few paragraphs the fear is dwindling away. It is your power over it.
Take that Rat Bastard and twist its head off. You are a writer…you’re allowed to.
Marcy Mason McKay
Wow, K.J. Remind me to call you the next time I’m fearful over my writing (which will be tomorrow @ 5 am, by the way). LOVE it when you said, “It is your power over it (fear). AWESOME. Thanks so much!
April Myers Redmon
As usual, you hit the nail on the head for me. Just stepping past the starting block, or hurdling it, or whatever, is difficult. I’ve always been someone who worried too much about pleasing people besides myself, and at my age you’d think I’d be over that!
Marcy Mason McKay
Thanks so much for your honesty, April. You’re right, starting IS the hardest part. I know we’re all different, but for me, the pain of NOT writing is more painful than writing and failing. If you can, gather your posse and just try to write. YOU’RE WORTH IT!