This morning in a meeting, I needed to ask a question that I was afraid to ask because I knew the answer would potentially mean more work for me. (Spoiler alert: yep, I was right about that!)
Whenever I feel that kind of subtle, subterranean fear I know I need to lean in and listen.
My fear is often a sign that I need to act.
Last week, I wrote about dealing with distractions. My friend Heather [waves at Heather over on her lovely farm in Eastern Ontario] said that when she read that blog post and suggestion #5 in particular, she felt a mild sense of panic.
Suggestion #5 from that post was: Turn Off the Damn Internet.
Heather said she knows she needs to get some time offline and away from social media as well, but the thought is anxiety-provoking.
Anxiety about doing something is often a sign that we really need to do it. (Sorry, Heather!)
We have that niggling sense of fear and apprehension because we know it’s really important.
A few years ago, I was studying creativity coaching with Dr. Eric Maisel, and I decided to do some creativity coaching sessions with the Master himself to see how he did it. We walked through the list of current writing projects I had at the time — because I seem to always have a few going! — and he said something awful to me…
He listened to me run through my list of poetry, short stories, essays, mixed-genre pieces…and then at the end I confessed that “Well, I guess I also have this novel” while gesturing vaguely towards the desk drawer where it had been hibernating for a few years.
“Ah, yes. You need to finish a long piece of work,” Eric said. “You need to finish your novel. You’ve done smaller pieces and collections, so this now is your next place of growth as an artist — you need to write a novel.”
That was not what I wanted to hear, not at all. But he was right, and I am working on that novel and it is both more fun and more challenging than I anticipated, in the way of all good things in life.
I could tell he was right by that tiny, niggling sense of fear that I felt — my fear was the sign.
We feel that kind of artistic apprehension when we instinctively know the stakes are high. Because the project really matters.
So, you know where this is going, right?
Heather, if you’re reading this, you need to schedule yourself a good chunk of time offline, and maybe even delete an app or two from your phone for a while. I promise it will be WONDERFUL once you do it, but yeah…it’s not going to feel good at the start.
And for everyone who isn’t Heather, here’s the horrible/wonderful question I have for you…
This is the question you don’t want me to ask.
What are you most afraid to write?
NOW. GO. WRITE. THAT.
There is so much power in the material that gives us goosebumps or raises the hair on our arms. If you’re afraid to write it, it’s probably a sign that you must.
- If you’re writing from trauma and you’re not yet able to cope with that, then don’t write it yet. File it away as something to write later, if and when you still need to write it. Take care of yourself first.
- No one said you had to publish it, or even show it to another living soul. Write it first. FINISH it and then decide what to do with it.
The best part of writing out of our artistic apprehension is in becoming the writer who faces her fear and writes what she must.
Writing what we absolutely must write, and what only we CAN write, is why we’re here and why we’re writers.
So, what are YOU afraid of? Listen to that deep knowing in your gut and you’ll find your next project.
Need to find more time to write? I can help with that! Grab my free PDF Guide here: 30 Ways to Find More Time to Write