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“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” ~ Mary Manin Morrissey


Fear can be a huge boulder in any writer’s path, preventing her from being able to see that there might be a way to work with, even capitalize on, its universality.

Fear has a way of throwing us off balance, making us feel uncertain and insecure, but it is not meant to discourage us. Its purpose is to notify us that we are at the edge of our comfort zone, poised in between the old life and a new one. Whenever we face our fear, we overcome an inner obstacle and move into new territory, both inside and out.

Many would-be authors let their fears keep them from embracing their writerly possibilities. Which type of fear keeps you from fulfilling your writing goals? Here is just a small sampling (based on my clients’ and my own experiences):

• Fear of change(s)

• Fear of the unknown

• Fear of failing

• Fear of succeeding

• Fear of getting outside the “comfort zone” (those comfortable but stinky slippers)

• Fear of being too old to be relevant or too young to write a memoir

• Fear of being seen as frivolous or vain

• Fear of losing money – no guarantees

• Fear of being broke

• Fear of having to BE AN AUTHOR (“Will I have to pump out books like Stephen King for the rest of my life?”)

• Fear of not having what it takes (discipline, talent, passion)

• Fear of being wrong (too many typos and grammatical errors)

• Fear of not being able to begin (or finish!)

• Fear of humiliation, worries of what friends, family or colleagues will think

• Fear of self-delusion; that your experiment as an author will appear to be grandiose, full of fallacious arguments and factoids

• Fear that it’s all been said before anyway

• Fear of being audacious, “How dare I think I have something unique to say!”

• Fear of no longer having this goal (dream?)

• Fear of lawsuit or of physical retaliation (from those that think you’re REALLY writing about them!); and finally, the biggest fear of them all:

• Fear of being ordinary (just another schmo on the bus).

The point of this list is for us to see that we all have fears! It’s called being conscious. If we don’t feel fear, we may be suffering from PTSD (a kind of numbness born of trauma), or we might be a sociopath — one who has no capacity for empathizing with other living beings. But, my guess, most of us suffer from neither of these troubling conditions.

The majority of us feel fear and wish we didn’t get stopped by this fact of human existence. Well, I’m here to tell you, there’s no way around it, just through it.

I promise you, everybody can find ways to confront and move through their fears. I say to myself and my clients, “Just keep walking!” All dark tunnels have openings.

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” ~ Annie Dillard

While comfort with fear is a contradiction in terms, we can learn to honor our fear, recognizing its arrival, listening to its intelligence, and respecting it as a harbinger of transformation. Indeed, it informs us that what we are doing (or about to do) is significant.

When we work with, or befriend our fears, we can take the focus off resisting them, (the main reason we’re all so exhausted, let’s face it), and commit to our readers. After we have made the mental commitment to completing our book or other writing, we will have evidence — in our hands — that fears can be walked through, perhaps even worked through, at least for today.

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Terry Malloy, a former middle-weight boxer, (played by Marlon Brando), speaks to his brother, Charlie, in the back of their car in the 1950s movie, On the Water Front, it is clear that his reflections express regret for not taking more risks during the first half of life.

Terry now works at the docks of Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt boss who exploits the desperation of day laborers. What Terry sees at the docks repulses him.

In an economically-depressed environment, much like our own climate, many are out of work, more gather by the docks each morning hoping to secure work for that day than can be hired, placing Johnny Friendly and his forces in a position to capitalize on their hungry situation. Those who complain of the working conditions or wages one day don’t work the next day, or are placed in harm’s way. Consequently, most tolerate being abused.

Still, Terry doesn’t see how he might make a bigger contribution in this situation than he ever could as a famous boxer—one who sought his own fame and profit over a meaningful life. When our value depends on making an impression rather than contributing great things in our community, we can grow dispirited, without heart and hope.

Here’s an example of the conversation of egoic-regret, rancor, blame and his current feelings of ordinariness.

Charlie: “Look, kid, I – how much you weigh, son? When you weighed 168 pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.”

Terry: “It wasn’t him, Charlie, it was you! Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, ‘Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.’ You remember that? ‘This ain’t your night!’ My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charlie, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.”

Charlie: “Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.”

Terry: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charlie.”

Though this is a work of fiction, it has great resonance with many of us. Sometimes we blame others for our despair or resign ourselves to the smallest version of ourselves to avoid embarrassment, failure, discomfort or ridicule.

Clients in search of life direction (especially after age forty) often wonder what they might have been had they only applied themselves in school or after college. Instead, they chose the easier, softer, safer way; the way of their peers or the “familiar” way—the choices their family-of-origin thought was more impressive or worse, practical.

Famous dancer Martha Graham reminds us that we must listen to our deepest calling, the truth of who we are and bring this authenticity (our being) into the world of doing. She writes,

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” ~ Martha Graham

Before we can affirm, even authorize the next stage in our lives, we need to affirm the first half, no matter what choices we have made or have not made when we were younger.

So many of us find ourselves moving as fast as bumble bees in search of honey–seeking that golden ring of “better than the present.” Pausing and reflecting, as Socrates reminds us to do for a “life worth living,” can be a way to turn around unrewarding habits of regret and despair for creating a more enlivening future.

It’s especially heart-warming—especially on Labor Day—to know that Terry, eventually wakes up to his true potential. He comes to see that his struggle for fame could morph into something more useful not only for himself but for those around him. He uses his heart to give him the guts to organize his peers to stand up to their corrupt bosses thus enabling them all to receive better working conditions and more-adequate pay.

How might we turn our lives, and our sites for income, toward a more worthy and rewarding focus? Don’t we all have “bigger fish to fry” than our own personal profit/ego?

It can be a challenge to think of the good of the whole when we’re feeling financially desperate or personally despairing about a less-than-ideal past. My motto is much like the book by Martha Sinetar, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. I say, Do What You Love to do for others, the Money Will Follow.

What you love to do for others needn’t be a form of martyrdom. As Harold Thurman Whitman says: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”

What do you love to do for others that brings you the most joy? Do that and I promise you a rich and enlivening future beyond your wildest dreams.

Keep your mind open, experiment, and let me know how it goes. If you need my support to hang in there in this experiment, please contact me and we’ll see what we can create together.

Life Design Unlimited

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