Being afraid is a common theme in writing and conversations about writing. If you’re on Twitter as much as me (I’m unable to disclose the number of hours, otherwise I’d have to die of shame), you’re familiar with the kind of encouragement writers give to each other. Much of it is sympathy, connection, reminders that you always get through, all things come to an end eventually, and it just takes one step at a time. And it’s all quite true – the things we’re afraid of, like failure or blocks or stupidity, are much smaller when they’re chopped down into small pieces and in the end most of them never come true anyways.
I don’t have much new by way of advice for you today. What I do have is a reminder about fear.
If you’re like me, sometimes you’re almost afraid of being afraid. Afraid is a sense of looming, imminent danger, the possibility of messing up bad, the likelihood – not just the maybe, but the almost definite – that something is going wrong or is about to come crashing down. Afraid can send me scampering right back to wherever I came from, mumbling under my breath and giving that situation, interaction, or task a wide berth for as long as possible.
But fear can actually be a good thing, with just a little reframing.
What if fear was the sign we’re on the cusp of great things? What if fear is a green light, not a red one? What if fear is your reminder that you are courageous and bold, determined and disciplined, capable of marvelous things because you’re capable of trying them?
This won’t always be true. Certainly, when it comes to life and things like fire, sketchy people making advances, or diving off a giant rock into a shallow pool, fear is your friend when it tells you to book it in the opposite direction. Good judgement is another friend I recommend you make and keep in close contact with.
But fear shouldn’t automatically incline us to avoidance. Not until we’ve stopped and asked ourselves what’s beyond it. My gut instinct is often to assume that beyond the fear lies my worst imaginings – getting fired from a job, failing someone, making an idiot of myself, displeasing people I respect, failing to honor a commitment. Taking a path so far I can’t turn around and go back.
But this is rarely, rarely ever the case. So often, after I’ve given myself time to think and breathe deeply, what I truly see beyond the fear is growing, learning, becoming a better, more well-rounded, wiser, kinder person. Beyond the fear is improved writing, the courage to take other new risks, opportunities to make new connections, and chances to contribute something more.
I think if you take a few deep breaths, rest your shaking hands, and peer into that strange fog beyond your fear, you might find the same thing.