We all have something in life we are scared of doing—some of us have many things. I am personally afraid of a lot. I am scared of stupid stuff like spiders, Jack Nicholson, and fish touching me, but then I am also scared of intangible things: loss and failure. I have learned something, though.
Fear is a poison. It will hold you back in everything you want to do. Fear will prevent you from living.
This weekend I flew to the DC area because I have an interview on a small local cable show to talk about my newest mystery, the Ninth Floor. Doing this interview scares the crap out of me. When I think about it my stomach hurts, my temperature rises, and I want to pass out. I tell myself, and anyone who asks, things like “I am not a public speaker”, “I am going to make an ass out of myself and end up at Youtube sensation”, and “I should call, better yet email, and tell them I can’t make it.”
On the plane I thought about my life and how I got to this position where I have published nine books, am supporting myself with my writing alone, done numerous radio interviews, and now my first TV appearance. The answer was simple. I got here because I did things that scare me. I may whine, I may complain, I may drag my feet, but damn it I do it.
It is scary to tell people you are writing a book. It is scary to meet other writers. It is scary to let someone read your writing—and not just the first time, it is scary every time. It is scary to send your manuscript to a critique partner. Sending your book to the editor will feel about as pleasant as waiting for news back from a doctor after they had to run tests. When it comes the time to publish your book it isn’t scary, it is terrifying…and it is every single time you do it.
However, if you don’t do it, you will never know what you could accomplish. If you never sit down and write those first words—bad or good— you will never know how far you can go. Fear will tell you that you aren’t good enough. You will never be as good as whatever author you are comparing yourself to. But fear isn’t always so straight forward either. It will also be sneaky. Fear will supply excuses for not finishing your work. It will make you quit once you have started. It will tell you that you are a perfectionist and allow you to keep going over and over the same material, but it will never let you move forward. Fear will keep you from finishing a project by distracting you with another one. It will allow you to not write, make you want to do anything else but write—even clean. Fear is that soothing voice that calls you to corner and wraps you in a warm blank, promising to protect you from the big bad world who wants nothing more than to laugh at you when you fail.
What fear will never do is make you successful. Success comes with risks. Success comes with putting yourself out for the world despite the fact that you are afraid. So what if you embarrass yourself? So what if someone hates your book? How does any of that hurt you? Embarrassment will fade and for every person that hates your book there will be ten others who love it. For every excuse you give yourself why you can’t do something, there are countless other reason why you can do it. For every mistake you make, you will learn how to do it better the next time because for successful people there is always a next time. You aren’t alone in feeling like this. We all feel this way, but the people who do the best are the ones who realize, these things don’t matter.
I believe this applies to all areas in life. Not just to writers. The things that scare you the most, that move you outside of your comfort zone and challenge you are the ones that are most worth doing. Living is comprised of the moments you defy fear and try. Don’t be afraid to live. You will stumble, you will fall down, but every time you stand back up the fear gets quieter and you move a little closer to realizing your dreams.