At this month’s meeting of my local writing group, LIAWS, our guest speaker discussed how fear holds us back from reaching for our dreams.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I’m multi-published. Yes, I speak around the country (and public speaking is the number one fear for most people). I’ve been recognized for my leadership qualities by several organizations. But…guess what? I still suffer from fears. You can’t be human and not have some kind of fear, phobia, or resistance to change.
Our brains are geared to keep us safe, to warn us of danger. But our brains don’t always discern the difference between the risk of death involved in Bungee jumping vs. the risk of embarrassment from flubbing a sentence in front of a crowd. Despite the cliche, no one’s ever died of embarrassment.
The trick is to retrain your brain. Instead of immediately considering the repercussions of failure when trying something new, you must envision how you will feel when you succeed!
This past June, my daughter and I went skydiving for the first time ever. A lot of people (including my husband) thought we were crazy. We heard things like, “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?” and “I would never do that. I’d be afraid my ‘chute wouldn’t open.” I’ll admit, we were both pumped full of nervous energy and adrenaline before the jump. The ride up to fourteen thousand feet found us both abnormally quiet, despite our instructors’ jokes and chitchat. We focused on keeping our breathing even, on stifling the fears that bubbled beneath the surface, and drowning out all the questions we’d heard regarding our sanity. We reached the proper altitude, made our way to the open door and…
Dropped. The wind was intense. Imagine sticking your head out a speeding car window (like a dog), feel the wind flapping your lips and stretching your cheeks as if they were made of paper. It roars in your ears, loud and overwhelming. Now multiply that feeling by a thousand. For the first few seconds (which seem like hours), I couldn’t look at the ground. I couldn’t speak so I focused on the sky around me and the altimeter on my wrist. Finally, I pulled my parachute cord, and my plummet slowed to a leaf dancing on a hearty breeze. The quiet surrounded me, and I became one with nature. I was a bird–tiny–in a massive world and, yet, an inexplicable peace filled me. It’s magical, life-altering. And pretty damn fun.
When we hit the ground, the first thing I did was smile. I’d done it! Despite my fears, despite the naysayers, I’d completed my first skydive. My daughter immediately began talking about going again. (Probably this summer–to a local place.)
What does this have to do with writing? The fear and doubt can be similar. No, you’re not going to die but you could fail. And as I said earlier, your brain doesn’t gauge measurements of failure. The naysayers will tell you you’re crazy, you don’t have what it takes.
Write anyway. Open the door and drop. Be brave. Live your dreams for no one else but you.
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