Monday, October 3, 2016

From the Writing Desk - On Fear

In Frank Herbert's "Dune" Paul Atreides recites a prayer against fear:

     "I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain."  

 In the William Hurt version of the movie, the Reverend Mother mocks him for this prayer.  The prayer gives him strength, brings him peace, it releases him from the grip of fear.  The sentence "Fear is the mind-killer" speaks the truth, but not all of it.

While not necessarily literally killing your mind, it does kill your creativity, your desire to live, your happiness, your dreams, and possibly even your love life.  Fear is powerful. It is the reason why it is so often used as a means to control populations.

Fear is big things like war, disease, plane crashes, and death, but it is also a small, persistent, and sometimes loud voice that is responsible for things like:

     You're not good enough.
     You'll never succeed.
     You'll never get published.
     You'll never get that role or sign that album deal.
     You'll never graduate.
     You didn't EARN your spot.
     You'll never measure up to X, Y, or Z. 
     You'll never get ahead. 
     You'll never change.
     You'll never make money with that dream.
     You'll never achieve your dreams.
     You'll succeed, but everyone will figure out you're a fraud.


Every single thing fear says is a lie.  It's not say everything will be sunshine and rainbows, but fear lies. It keeps you sedentary, stagnant, and under it's -- or someone else's -- control.  It keeps dreams and miracles from happening.

Fear is what is causing my brother's 22-year marriage to fracture.  Because he's afraid to follow his dreams, fear is manifesting itself in pursuit of a relationship with another woman.

Fear of success, of failure, of looking like a fool or fraud.  Fear of the unknown.

Fear is paralyzing.

Fear is also only as powerful as you allow it to be.

One of those inspirational posters that I've seen around the VA and assorted Military-related places has a saying that makes sense to me.

"Courage isn't the absence of fear, but facing it and doing it anyway."

The book I'm reading, The Power of Focus, relates a story about a firefighter and fear.  Firefighters face fear every time they run into a burning building, but they acknowledge it then go in anyway. One of the section ends with this quote:

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

I wrote it on a sticky note and taped it to the wall in my office.  It sparked a discussion with one of my co-workers.  For most people change is scary.  If you have kids or other people depending on you, change can be down right terrifying -- paralyzing.

The hardest part when facing fear is not to figure out what you're scared of, it's to take the first step.  It's been suggested to answer the question - what is the worst that can happen? Seriously, I'm a writer with a vivid imagination, depending on what that question is in relation too, that could be pretty grisly.  But, in relation to being a writer....the worst that can happen is that the publisher, agent, or editor says no.  Okay, yes, the rejection letter you receive is very professional and says, thanks but no thanks, or fix these things and resubmit, even though it reads like you're the worst human imaginable and everyone in the office laughed at your feeble attempt at a story.  And if you succeed? You'll be exposed as a fraud?  Unless you're actually plagiarizing someone else's work or lying about credentials, or stating a story is absolutely true and not just based on true events, this isn't that will actually be of concern. Publishing is a business, and regardless of what people like my ex tried to tell me, they aren't going to buy something to laugh at you.  Publishers buy books or sign contracts with authors to make money.  They want the best storytellers because that's how they make money.

Once you answer the question, what is the worse that can happen, the hard part is taking a step into fear.  It is far easier to clean my house, play computer/video games, watch television, or read a book than it is for me to write.  My biggest challenge appears to be a focus issue, not in the form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a real condition that needs to be diagnosed by a doctor), but in the form of procrastination.  What is procrastination, but a form of fear (it's also laziness or lacking in urgency, but for me in writing, it's a form of fear).  When it comes right down to it, I'm afraid that I'm not good enough or that I'm a fraud - in that I didn't earn the book sale.  It plays with low self-confidence.  The reasons could take some digging, but I have to ask myself is tracking down the reasons, which could be multiple, a good use of my time, or can I successfully knock the reasons aside, make a plan, throw in some accountability, and do it any way?

The therapist I see told me once that the why doesn't matter.  I looked at her like she'd grown three heads. Of course the why mattered.  How else was I going to get through it? Get better?  It took a lot of soul searching before I realized what she meant.  The why, the reason or reasons behind this or that can be varied and numerous.  Understanding the why, isn't going to give me the push forward.  What it does, is keeps me tethered to the same place. It's impossible to move forward, if you're always looking back.  The reason why doesn't matter.  The action does.  And it's easier for fear to find you if you stand still, are stagnant.

A while back I created a Strategic Plan for my writing career and life.  It didn't factor in fear or stress, which while different absolutely opens the door for fear to invite itself in.  In early September I discovered a new planning system, Bullet Journal, and while planners aren't new to me, so far this seems to be working.  Creating an action plan, along with manageable goals that take into account that not only do I have a full time day job and family commitments, I am dealing with mental health issues that can make getting things done difficult.  I also gave myself permission to take time off when I need it, like when my mom called me in tears because she'd been diagnosed with cancer.

I bought a cheap graphing notebook and started sketching a new story in it.  It's dark, the music that is shaping the soundtrack, the images that caught my attention on Pinterest, and images of the story arch that I've seen are all dark. I have books I need to write, stories I've started and are still waiting to be finished, but I'm afraid that if I work on one of those I'll either ruin the story or I'll stop part way through.  It's happened in the past.  Would it happen again? Maybe.  Maybe not. But a dark story idea arrived and it's a good place to channel the energy that is flowing.

My goals this week (Monday thru Sunday) are:

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing: 3 times, 500 words each session
WIP: Forbidden

Next Monday, I'll review what I accomplished.  I'll post them on Facebook page too, because accountability is important.

I write slow, for now.  At some point I'll write faster, but as long as I world build to the extent that I enjoy, it only makes sense to include it in my goals. 

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