The emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the prospect of some possible evil. Now the general term for all degrees of the emotion; in early use applied to its more violent extremes, now denoted by alarm, terror, fright, dread. (OED)
1546 J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue i. iv. sig. Biv Feare may force a man to cast beyonde the moone.
I have been recently waking up with blood pounding in my ears and my heart punching its way out of my chest in search of a more relaxed owner. You see, life has become quite scary. I’m facing a long, painful and mostly fruitless process of job hunting. On top of that, being a writer by night is scary. That thing that I’m so passionate about and in which I have been pouring any remaining energy, aka my story, I’m petrified that I’ll disappoint it and it will abandon me. I delight at the stories that I get to explore and the characters that take hold in my head. They are a bit like old friends (even the mean ones) who deserve the best I can offer.
Yet, a blank page or job application presents boundless possibilities for failure. And as much as I keep telling myself that it should not matter, my anxiety has shot through the roof. I’ve been trying to tame it. I’ve explained gently that I write because I love it and will keep writing even when nobody else reads my scribbles. That I need a job but it has to be the right fit, for both me and the employer. That the right job is on the cards, but if I don’t put myself out there, I will never find out what I am capable of. That I have written all my life and will continue to chip away at stories and novels, even if they never get published or read by anyone because this is who I am: a writer and a lover of words.
I owe it to my characters to give them the best chance I can. I need to fight for them and their right to be read. I charm the fear by drawing maps of exciting journeys from A to B and promising to get stronger with each wobble because boundless possibilities for failure are twinned with boundless possibilities for progress.
O.K. I will be the first one to admit that it is much easier to steer clear of any unpleasant experiences. Being lazy is the antidote to fear. Just don’t do it. Abandon the short story when the going gets tough, and the initial excitement feels more like drudgery. Don’t send out that CV because you are more likely to get a ‘no, thanks and good luck with your endeavors’ back than a job offer. Why expose yourself to relentless rejections?
Well, because fear can also be rocket fuel to my creative engine. My fear of ‘what might have been’ is a million times worse than my fear of ‘what if they don’t like it/me/think I’m a stupid loser.’ And this fear keeps me on my toes. Keeps me running even when I’ve hit the wall over and over again. And failure is my mentor. Because of it, I’m determined to get better. I ask for feedback, as cringeworthy as the comments might be. I face my weaknesses and embrace the fear and failure duo because they point out what I should be focussing on to achieve my goals.
So far, my written work has been bouncing back unpublished and I welcome it, clean its wounds and nurse it back to life. Then I send it out again, with a kiss and a good luck wish. No job and an unsuccessful interview later, I asked for feedback. Explained that I was keen to improve. And you know what? Most of the time people are generous with their time and comments, and I got a great boost of confidence from that particular rejection, and a lot of encouragement from the interviewers.
To me, the fear of not writing is greater than the one that whispers in my ear that my poem will never win a major competition and my novel will never find a publishing home or loving readers. I embrace my fear because it is lovingly guiding me towards what really matters to me. I know what I want and what I’m prepared to work for.
Nobody’s perfect. I will never grow out of fear on my way to what I define as a success but I am grateful for having it in my life because my work is here not in spite of but pretty much because of fear.
Happy creating everyone!
From the Language Hole HQ
I love listening to You’re Booked
I love reading The Stories of English by David Crystal
I love watching Rebellion