Last week, 97 writers from all over the world came together for the Challenge I hosted right here. We had so many insightful and powerful conversations about the struggle to create, but here was the overall conclusion…
Fear sucks time, energy and joy from your life (and your writing).
There’s got to be a better way.
Fortunately, there is. Read on…
1. Make Space for Your Fear and Creativity
I’ve shared before that I’m lucky to have four fantastic women in my weekly critique group; three are traditionally published, two have hit the New York Times Bestseller’s list. In the past, I’ve been truly dumbfounded when these three would fret over their books. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Big publishers already bought your books. You’ve had success after success. You’re awesome. Surely, you’re over that Fear thing?”
With each new book, especially in the beginning, they walk in to our meetings looking almost ill they’re so scared. They’re not sure they can duplicate the magic.
As I begin Burger Heaven #2 with a total of ZERO pages, I want to do things differently this time. Fear is ALWAYS going to be part of the creative process, so I want to start embracing my Fear and make space for it.
Whenever you try something new, or push beyond your comfort zone, you’ll be afraid. That’s okay.
Embrace and make space.
2. Stop Treating Your Fear like the Enemy
This is so me. Yeah, I wrote Pennies from Burger Heaven and people are loving it. I’m beyond ecstatic because that makes my blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
Do you see what I did? Look at my words:
Fear = enemy.
Writing = blood, sweat, tears.
I act like creating is this epic battle, so I need to wear a suit of armor everyday to survive the pain. Even the book I recommend to everyone on the planet, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield is full of military metaphors. Granted, he’s a famous military author, but still.
One of the optional Challenge tasks I suggested was for everyone to find a more positive image for Fear. I shared how I’ve always treat my Fear like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz – the mean, old, ugly hag. I now see it’s more like Glinda the Good – loving, kind and wise. Which one I choose to see is all a matter of my perspective.
Here were some other incredible insights:
*Sully from Monsters Inc. – one writer saw this big, blue terrifying monster on the outside, but it’s actually this warm, cuddly sweet creature on the inside.
*Star Wars – one participant talked about needing to trust the “force” more, instead of being lured to the dark side (her Fear).
* The angel/devil from the film classic Animal House – this metaphor tickled the writer. In the future, she planned to listen to her own angel or devil.
As I’ve said before, I picture writing like a game of Charades. Fear is signaling to me from the middle of the room, but I’m sitting there clueless trying to figure it out the answers. It can’t tell me because that’s against the rules and we’d be disqualified. I have make mistakes until I find my own way.
3. Write through Your Fear
It’s so ironic. We say we want to write. We talk about how we’ve dreamed of it for years. We yearn for it like chocolate, then we do everything we can to avoid it.
If this is you, no worries. Most writers do this. If you’re new, expect to be bad.
I don’t say that to be mean. I know you’re doing the best you can.
Remember, all first drafts are “bad”, whether you’re a newbie or seasoned author. The only way to make the Fear to away is to write through it. You can’t wait it out, avoid it or whatever because that just makes the Fear grow.
Liz Gilbert says, “It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice you will improve.”
You want to be a better writer?
Then write on a consistent basis. Practice makes progress.
There were a dozen more takeaways from the Challenge, but to me, this is the essence for both writing and life.
Thank you again to all those who participated. Regardless if you did or not, I wish everyone the best in 2016.