One of my writing friends, Linda, writes a weekly blog at the Debutante Ball (a blog showcasing new authorial talent). This week she's sharing her writerly fears. Funny thing is her fears are my fears. And many other writers' fears.
One fear Linda did not note, that I have, is that my long-suffering spouse will decamp for greener pastures should I rocket to fame as a best-selling author, which is of course pure unadulterated nonsense--I'd need to publish before ever fearing best-sellerdom. Even should I defy the odds and join the ranks of some of my favorite authors (Linda Lael Miller, Lisa Kleypas, Diana Gabaldon, Joanna Bourne, Vicki Pettersson for example) I doubt my husband would decide that was a most propitious time to depart. More likely he'd gleefully retire and spend his days fishing and golfing, while I poured my days into writing the next best-seller, and the next, and the next, and the next...but that's the thing about fear.
As I mentioned to Linda in the comments: "...most fears have no foundation in logic - think spiders. They're astronomically smaller than humans and in 99.9% of the cases, non-venomous - yet some people scream and jump around like crack-addled apes when they see one. Fear = miniscule potential magnified by irrational bazillions to equal the worst possible outcome imaginable regardless of probability. This is why it's a Sneaky Bastard and must be stomped on like a spider the moment it's recognized - before it has a chance to grow into an eight-legged, wiry-haired, multi-eyed, dual fanged behemoth."
That is what fear is. Right up there with Tricky Bastard, which is how Ivan Coyote refers to procrastination, another symptom of Irrational Thought Syndrome, or ITS.
Whatever you imagine will happen--spouse file for divorce, mother disown you, friends discredit you--likely won't. And if "the worst" did happen, is it really a bad thing? Or is it a bad thing to stay married to, or friends with, someone(s) who would undermine you, rather than celebrate your talent? Um...
This isn't to say that you should shuck all fear aside and plunge into whatever you believe is totally amazing right this minute. Not at all.
Goals, dreams, plans, hopes; they're motivators; the things that get us out of bed in the morning, add a little pep to our step, smooth to our groove. And we need them. We need a purpose, a sense of place, a desire, want, interest; more importantly, we deserve them.
Life is short. The time when we're physically and mentally able to pursue our interests, even shorter. But that doesn't mean we shirk our every responsibility and go running off to tip-toe through the tulips. No.
It means we pursue our goals and interests within the confines of the lives we've constructed for ourselves and the ties that bind us to others.
If we're parents, we're obligated to ensure our children are fed, clothed, housed, educated, and safe from harm, until they're adults. If we're married, we must nurture our spouse and our relationship with him/her if we wish to preserve the bonds of matrimony. This may mean modifying some of our dreams for a period of time, or making sacrifices elsewhere (like sleep, or designer clothes, or girls' nights out), to enable us to meet our responsibilities and ensure the interests of those to whom we we're sworn--either legally or morally--to protect, while enjoying small, hopefully frequent doses, of the nectar that feeds our souls.
For writers, it's easier.
One can scribble away in a notebook in the car out front the school, or at a table in the Aquatic center while waiting for Precious Child to be let out, or finish a swim lesson. Laptops are portable, and another chapter can be written on lunch and coffee breaks, or while Adoring Spouse is shooting nine. Those interested in trekking around the world, or securing that dream job in another city or country, may have to tweak their timeline, even delay their plans, for a little while, until everyone to whom they made a commitment is ready for their big break. A wonderful woman I know is an admirable example of someone who understands responsible achievement, and who recognizes that her short-term sacrifice now will result in long-term gain for her, and those she loves.
A single mom, she is in a long-term relationship with a man who lives and works in another town. Their relationship is conducted by phone during the week, and alternating residences on weekends. She could move to be with him, but that would require disrupting her daughter's life again, and she believes she and her ex disrupted their daughter's life enough with the divorce; for her daughter's sake, she's chosen to stay in the same town as her daughter's father and share custody with him until the child they created together finishes school and is free to choose where next she wants to go in life. Then this wise lady will pursue her heart's desires to its fullest extent. Yes, there are risks in waiting a couple more years--for her. But the risk of not waiting is potentially more hazardous for her daughter, and that's a risk she's not willing to take; she's not willing to sacrifice her child's happiness for her own. A courageous decision. A selfless choice. A loving mom, one wise enough to balance the years she has left to chase her dreams against the short few her daughter needs to finish school, and realize she has of plenty of time to be who and where she wants to be, after her child is grown. And that's the key to controlling the Sneaky Bastard: balance.
Fear sneaks in when one is leaning too heavily one way or the other--I'll never do this!
Really? Never is a long time. Do you truly think if you started now you would never learn to dance/finish that novel/earn that B.A.? Sure, it might take a year, or two, or ten, but if you put aside regular, consistent days/hours to work on it/learn/practice, I bet you could. Just don't swing your pendulum all the way to the other side--I have to do it right now! If I don't I never will; it will be too late!
Really? If you don't climb Mt. Kilimanjaro today, your world will end? Are you sitting on a live hand-grenade? Unless you have a terminal illness and only weeks to live (if so, do whatever it is now and be-damned what anyone else thinks), or are 99 years old, I bet you have lots of time to achieve whatever it is you want. Of course, if you're seventy years old and eighty pounds overweight, chances are you're not going to dance the Nut Cracker on Broadway. But if you're fifty, and you've always wanted live in France, and your last child graduates high school in four years, I bet with judicious planning and organization, you could be a resident of France by the time you're fifty-five, with another twenty or thirty years to look forward to living exactly as you envision.
If Sneaky Bastard is blocking you--or conversely urging you to abandon reason and dive head-first into something you have not thoroughly thought out--before you grab sword and shield and go charging, invite SB in for tea. Sit down, find out why SB is holding you back--or shoving you forward--and then jot down exactly the opposite potential. Example:
My spouse will leave me --- My spouse will cherish me even more.
I'm too old! -- I am mature and wise enough to develop a balanced plan to make this happen.
They won't like me --- They will welcome me with open arms.
I'm not smart enough -- I am smart enough.
If I don't do this now, I never will! --- France has existed for centuries; it will still be there in four years.
Has Sneaky Bastard or its twin, Tricky Bastard insinuated into your life? If so, what steps can you take today to invite SB or TB out?
~Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking it merely for its own sake.~ Robert Moses