Sometimes Fear Is Spot-On
Published on October 8, 2018
This essay was featured in my weekly Studio Log email that goes out each Sunday. Are you a subscriber yet? I welcome you to join my journey and receive a weekly glimpse into the ups and downs of my creative practice as well as a FREE copy of my Creative Circles Guidebook too.
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A few years ago, I started to hear the call to turn the core concepts of my IGNITE program into a book. Even though I’ve loved to write ever since I was a kiddo, I’ve never considered myself “a writer.” So the fact that this was constantly on my heart and mind started to scare me. My first mode of attack was to seek out books on writing and simply start experimenting with the ideas I learned from them.
Then, one day on Facebook, I read an update from author Jen Louden stating that she and Laurie Wagner would be hosting a private retreat for writers who had a specific project they wanted to focus on in mind. God knows what possessed me, but I messaged Jen, asking if I could attend.
A couple months later, I’m stuffing my huge IGNITE binder, a few blank notebooks and my laptop into a backpack, and I’m strutting down the street like Quasimodo to my first writer’s retreat.
I was a complete hunched-over mess.
I dragged my feet around the same block at least fifteen times before mustering up the courage to open the door and step into that retreat.
I was terrified. What the hell was I doing there with all these real writers—many whom I followed and admired online.
And of course, one of the first things we had to do was write and then read our passage out loud. Should I go lock myself in the bathroom right now or start coughing uncontrollably and book out the front door once it gets closer to my turn? What would be less obvious? Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh, I wish I could just pass out like I did once in the fifth grade.
Then I did it. I read my paragraph of nonsense in three seconds flat. As instructed, nobody responded and the woman next to me bounced up with great confidence and read her words—slowly, articulately and with enough emphasis and feeling to fill a theater. It was obvious that this wasn’t her first rodeo. Again, what the hell was I doing here?
Finally, we took a ten-minute break and I asked Jen if I could have a word with her outside. She took one look at me and I started bawling—snots flying everywhere, my cheeks flushed. I confessed; I had no business being there. I wasn’t a writer, I needed to go home. Sorry to waste her time.
“Connie, didn’t you say you host painting retreats yourself?” Jen softly asked.
And that’s all it took; a light bulb went off . . . My students.
I had become one of my students. How many times did I myself dodge an arsenal of snots and tears and have to softly speak to a scared artist hidden behind walls and walls of fear?
My students. They’re the whole reason I was there. I wanted to write this book for them. I could buck it up for them, right?
That little chit-chat snapped me out of my spell, but it didn’t make the week go by any faster or make me feel any less afraid. It did remind me why I reached out to Jen on Facebook in the first place. I left that retreat with a whole notebook of notes on writing that I still refer to today. That notebook is gold to me.
I also left that retreat knowing without a doubt that I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to entertain the idea that maybe—just maybe—I am a writer. Most of all, I wasn’t ready to deal with this constant itch on the bottom of my Soul.
So the first thing I did when I got back home was pack up that dream and stuff it as far away from my thoughts as I possibly could. I even threw a rusty lock on it.
Now five years later and dressed to the nines, guess who shows up? Yep, the writing muse.
In my usual Connie brand of hospitality, I invite her in by immediately seeking out books on writing. I start tossing around ideas. I map out outlines. I even show off my new-found courage by oh-so-casually sharing my idea to write a book with friends. And then I get really cocky by announcing it like I mean it, over on Instagram.
And guess what? I do mean it. This week I met with my beloved Tonia Jenny. Tonia is not only the 21 SECRETS Creative Director and Course Manager, she’s also an experienced editor and book coach.
Half-way through dinner, I pushed my enchiladas aside and pulled out my orange notebook.
“I’m ready to talk business;” I said, “I’ve got a list of questions and tons of ideas I’d love to hash out with you, if you don’t mind?”
Secretly, I was hoping Tonia might be up for joining me as my book coach on this journey. Fortunately, it didn’t take much wrangling. Tonia said yes without me even asking. I now have someone to keep me accountable and knows a heck-of-alot more about this book-writing gig then I do. I feel set. I feel ready. I feel ridiculously excited, energized and even a little bit afraid, and I’m literally buzzing every morning I get up!
I am writing a book.
Though I feel it is necessary to share the rest of the backstory with you.
There is a lot of hype online geared toward facing fears and pushing past them. But what if fear shows up sometimes because we’re really not ready? What if fear has a job to do and it’s not the enemy many online marketers would like us to believe?
Five years ago, when I muddled my way through that writing retreat, my fear was spot-on. I was not yet ready to write a book. Noway.
When I embraced the fact that I was there for my students, I could relax a little easier into the retreat process, gain loads of helpful information and even begin to learn some new skills. For certain, my writing-retreat experience was not in vain and something I still am grateful for today. But the fear I felt was warranted. It was protecting me, so I could cook a bit more. I needed to dig deeper into myself, grow more confident in my view and voice, and even begin to chisel my life and business in a way that could support the time and energy needed for this type of creative endeavor.
The fear I felt was rooted in overwhelm and overwhelm is a sign that you are living beyond your means.
As artists, it’s easy for us to dive into our imagination and envision a world we want to live in or a dream we long to embody. I say go for it and if fear shows up, listen to her. Don’t try to beat her into submission. Don’t ignore her or make it worse by shaming yourself for feeling the fear. Simply listen to her.
Fear loves it when you’re curious, because all she really wants is a little of your attention and love.
Sit down with fear and ask her why she’s here. Is there something you’re not seeing? Is she trying to protect you from taking on too much or is she simply throwing a tantrum because you’re growing and life is no longer going to look or feel the same anymore?
Let your fear know it’s OK. Let her know you see her. But ultimately, let your fear know your heart calls the shots.
Your heart always knows if you’re ready or not.
When you’re ready, fear will still be there. But your will and determination to embrace who you are becoming will always outwit her seduction.
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