On Being a “Writer” (part 8: Fear and Loathing in NYC…Well, Anywhere I Am, Actually)

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ever scared. I meet discouragement almost every day. Sometimes those moments are small: I choose to snooze, I don’t get to the coffee shop and sit in bed on my personal Twitter for an hour longer than I scheduled for myself, I don’t make it to an art exhibition that I wanted to review, etc. However, there are important things that I do to stop it at discouragement before ranging on despair and derailment.

I mentioned Steven Pressfield‘s “The War of Art” in an earlier post in this series. One of his central concepts is that of Resistance. He writes, “Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance.” This Resistance at its most evil, is the anvil over your head manifesting as writer’s block. Yet, it can also act as an indication of your interests in and passions for your project. “[T]he more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”

There is an important lesson here. I have learned the dual nature of fear, which I can easily turn into self-loathing and self-doubt, if I’m not careful. A practice I’ve attempted to master is mapping my degrees of fear and how they each show themselves to me. For instance, I’ve already indicated a certain degree of difference between discouragement and despair. Truly know your degrees of difference. Track what actions and emotions are triggered by these feelings. Once you can really own these parts of yourself and how you are, you can work to reel yourself in and get back to a more effective and productive state of mind.

The fear can also be the voice of self-doubt and the root of the negative self-talk that tells us we won’t succeed. Nobody will like what you write. Nobody will even read what you write. This is all going to shit. Why bother? As an example, I’ve often referenced myself as “obstinate and oppositional.” Well, maybe those are the emotions/states I tend toward. However, the first step to making change is knowing where you can improve. Forget the how, for now at least. Don’t think too far ahead or the whole thing will seem too daunting to touch. Start small, go slowly, and feel for your fear like you’re fumbling in the dark drying to get dressed.

Pressfield also writes, “Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some idea we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” My advice is to study yourself and be brutally honest (because who else really will for you?). Own that fear, bridle it, and then ride it like a white horse to your destination: Success.


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