I am far from fearless.
I fear doing something the wrong way and ruining it.
I am afraid that I will accidentally hurt someone with something I say or do.
I fear the idea that I may someday look back on my life and see a series of missed changes, missteps and regrets.
I am afraid that people will realize my insecurities and like me less for them.
I fear that the things I think I am good at I actually am only mediocre, or even bad, at.
I am horribly afraid of free-roaming mice (if they’re pets, that’s fine, but wild mice, I’m flat-out jump on the couch and shriek afraid).
The list can go on, as I’m sure it does for everyone.
Fears can be debilitating, they can keep us from moving forward in our lives and they can hold us prisoner. And fear is not always rational.
A number of years ago I lived in an apartment that suffered from mice. They had found their way to my uncovered trash can (never again!) and decided they liked the place. So they stayed. And they made themselves at home. I remember hearing them scurry about while I lay, paralyzed, in my bed at night, afraid to let my feet touch the floor because they might come running at me. Because my fear of mice is particularly specific, I fear that they are going to run over my feet (see, “fear is not always rational.”) I remember one of them fearlessly walking into the middle of my living room one day, causing the previously mentioned couch-jumping and shrieking episode. I wanted them gone, but I couldn’t stand the idea of killing them (I did overcome that particular challenge after a while). I also called in help — I knew that I couldn’t face this on my own so I asked friends to come and help me dispose of the mice that had been caught in no-kill traps.
I still am scared of mice, and I still feel that moment of anxiety when I hear that there might be mice in an area I am occupying, but I know that I cannot let that fear stop me from enjoying things that I enjoy (like old houses and camping).
I know that I have to risk the fact that someday, somehow, a mouse might run across my feet. But also know that there are people who will help me deal with mice when they decide to invade my spaces.
Some of the other fears are harder, because they are not external forces acting on me. Fears that come from within are most challenging, I think because it is easy to never face them. Mice I will have to face whenever they decide to enter my space. But, I will never have to face that I might not be good at things if no one ever sees my work. That’s how I feel sometimes, when I hold my fiction writing close and don’t put it out for others to read. I can forever tell myself that it is good, or at least decent, if I never let anyone else see it. But, not putting my work out there also means that nothing can ever come from it. As my brother reminded me the other day, “You are guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Facing those fears involves taking risks. Risking failure. Risking proving your fears correct. If you don’t try, you can’t fail — but you also can’t ever succeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about risks, and fears. I watch friends and family take risks, in their relationships, in their careers, in their education, in many places in their lives. Some of these risks don’t pan out, and some may be hard to dig out of, but others exceed their expectations. That’s the reality of risks, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I think the challenge is facing those that don’t work, and not allowing them to feed into your fears.
Earlier this week I posted my response to the Daily Press weekly challenge with a mostly-fictional piece of writing. I’ve shared my fiction before, but in limited groups (and with mixed results). So I hesitated in posting that piece, for a number of reasons. And I put these reasons out here not in search of reassurance, not hoping that people will counter my concerns with compliments, but because I think that they are not unique to me. That I am not the only one who faces the possibility of sharing some of myself (in this case through my writing) with fear and trepidation.
One, it’s a first draft, a rough draft, that hasn’t been revised and re-edited — so what if it is terrible, and then viewed as an example of what I can do? But, I reason, that’s actually something I love to see from other authors — I love getting the opportunity to see the more rough work, behind the polish that comes with the help of many eyes. But I still want to place the writing in explanations, to make note that it is a draft, to preempt any thoughts that it isn’t any good with comments to that effect. If I let people know ahead of time that I am uncertain of the work, perhaps they will not judge so harshly?
Second, the dreaded “What if… ?” What if it isn’t any good, even if it got revised and edited? I have done a lot of creative writing with kids, and have noticed that, even if the writing is rough, you can see potential in the work. There are some who are natural storytellers, and some who just have a way with words, and that often shines through. What if none of that is true in my writing? What if all that anyone sees is a boring little piece that gives no hint of talent, skill, or potential?
There are more, certainly, fears upon fears, reasons to not share what I have written for the challenge this week. They pile up and create a wall that can be a challenge to break through. But, that is letting myself get boxed in by fears. That is allowing those things I am afraid of ultimately rule how I am going to act, keep me from taking risks. And taking risks is something that can build on itself. I don’t know that it gets easier, not really, but I think your approach shifts the more you do something. I have seen this in action in other parts of my life, and I have to trust that it will also be true in this. That with each time I take a risk, face a little edge of my fears, I am chiseling away at the wall that has been built.