The worst thing that can happen to a writer is to be afraid. It’s worse than rejection letters, worse than a bad advance or a bad review. It’s worse than your editor moving to a different house or the small press that published your first book going broke. It’s worse than not being able to find an ending or realizing the middle of your novel is sagging. It’s even worse than when ideas aren’t coming, when you drop your line in your creative waters and get not a single nibble.
All those things are rough. It’s so much nicer when you find the story right away, when the publisher wants your book, when the editor stays put, when the reviewer raves. But you didn’t start writing expecting everything to go perfectly all the time. You’re a grownup. You know how it works. And once you’re at this for a little while, you’ll begin to learn you can handle any of these problems, from rejection to shuttered publishers – as long as you’re not afraid. As soon as fear arrives, the portal to new solutions, to new ideas, and to new stories slams closed.
It wasn’t until I wrote Fearless Writing that I understood that all fear is a story about the future. The story is always the same: What if I’m not safe? What if I’m broke and I’m not safe from the deprivation and misery of poverty? What if nothing sells and I’m not safe from the shame of failure? What if my work is savaged and my vulnerable heart isn’t safe from the lacerations of criticism? What if I’m simply not safe from unhappiness itself, that the empty death-feeling is not a passing shadow but a permanent hue coloring the rest of my days?
If you want to write, if you want to make something that wasn’t there yesterday, you’ll have to accept that the future is no place to find your safety. It’s a dreamland where anything is possible, and unfortunately our nightmares of failure and misery will always feel more real than our fantasies of success and fame. Stay home, writer. Stay where the writing is actually happening, where the new ideas come to grow. You will always be safe here, safe to journey down into the heart of what you love most, leaving all your doors and windows wide open to a friendly world of fellow storytellers.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com