In February of 2008 I wrote my first column for Author. I had never written a monthly or daily column for anything, I had never interviewed anyone, and I had certainly never started a magazine, so it would be easy to say that in February of 2008 I did not know what I was doing. And, of course, in so many ways, I didn’t. Except, in one very important way, I did. In that very first column I observed that all the advice ever given boils down to this: Be not afraid. That was 744 essays ago. Or, more to the point, 300,000 words ago, because it occurs to me now, in April of 2012, that all my words were only used to find 744 different ways of saying those three words, Be not afraid. Why all these words when a bumper sticker would do? And when will this single well inevitably run dry?
I have written 744 columns, and could easily write 744 more, because there are infinite reasons to be afraid. That’s the beauty of fear—like a poison gas, it can fill any space; like a serpent, it can worm its way around any evidence, any argument, any acceptance letter, publishing contract or award. Fear is resilient, insidious, and formless.
And it is also nonexistent. It is the past and the future; a story dreamed to keep us awake at night. And just as there is no one reason to be afraid, there is no one way to reveal the lie of fear, nor write a book, nor lead a life. Every life asks a question whose complexity belies the beauty and simplicity of the answer. It is an answer we must each hear and then speak ourselves, and I hope that in all these words you find a few that you can use to answer yours.
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