The falling leaves outside my window are ripe with metaphor for the creative life. As the tree lets go its leaves to go dormant and prepare for spring growth, a writer must let go of many things for her work to leave the dormant stage and flower in the light of day.
Fear is one thing I must let go over and over again.
“Face your fear!” I heard this advice a lot, but I had absolutely no idea how to do that. My fear paralyzed me every time I sat down at the keyboard. I couldn’t sit and face it– I had to produce. I had to get words on the page. So for many years I ignored fear. I resisted fear. I buried fear under a huge pile of leaves in the backyard of my brain. I wanted to get rid of it for once and for all.
One writing book suggested I whisper “shhh” whenever I felt fear. My fear was not like a crying baby. My fear was like a hurricane. I needed a stronger weapon than shhh.
Another writing book suggested taking off all my clothes and writing naked. I did it. That’s how desperate I was to be free of my fear.
Finally, I realized my fear is not some alien force out there waiting to pounce. Fear is embedded deep in the cells of my blood and my bones. Fear kept my ancestors alive. Denying, hiding, ignoring fear is akin to denying, hiding, ignoring my hazel eyes or my love or words.
It’s impossible to lop off a basic part of oneself and try to move on in a creative endeavor. Often we think we can create just by using our brains. Writing, illustration, cooking, juggling or whatever your creative work happens to be–requires whole-hearted attention.
Being whole-hearted means laying down our weapons. Instead of fighting parts of ourselves, it’s more helpful to accept what is.
Invite fear in. See it. Feel it. Know it for what it is. A single leaf, one of many we can let go. All the better to reveal the strength of the trunk and branches.
What strategy helps you deal with fear?
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories of history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers, in the blog comments, by email or social media.