Earlier this year, while stuck at home recuperating from a wheelchair vs. knee incident (tip – the 250 pound power chair always wins these showdowns), I had a conversation with my sister Caroline. To be honest, I had conversations with all of my sisters who called to check on me that week. But, for this post, let’s focus on the conversation with Caroline, also known to all of us as ‘Crinnie.’
During our call, Crinnie and I were discussing one of my past relationships and she said something which got me thinking. I told her to hold on as I furiously scribbled it down. Crinnie is always doing this – offering me sentences which serve as great writing prompts. Thank you Crinnie. I’m finally getting around to using your prompt.
I have read several blog posts and articles about “how to live without fear” or “conquering your fears.” I’ve even written about facing fear. You might think I would not need to have my head whacked by a comment from my sister to realize there is more to the story. But there I was last January, wrapped in a penguin fleece blanket with an ice bag on my knee, discussing future plans and…BANG! Crinnie comes out with this keen observation.
You can’t be fearless until you are in the right place.
This sentence served as one of those “a-ha moments.” I instantly started spouting off about how I had not been able to be fearless in 2011 when I was miserable and stuck in a job I did not enjoy. I often let fear hold me back when I am struggling to maintain adequate personal assistant staffing. For almost two years after my sister Mary Jane died I cultivated my relationship with grief, which left me mired in fear without strength to pursue any of my passions. Then, I had to recuperate from my illness and near-death experience in 2013 before I was strong enough to recognize I needed to face fear and resume my personal writing.
In 2014, I enrolled in an introduction to memoir writing course, and realized I would have to share my personal writing – not just the writing I routinely do for my profession – with others for the first time in almost twenty years. I knew the only way I was going to continue to write and make progress in my writing was to practice in a public manner which is why I created DeeScribes. The tag line for this blog is “Following her writing dreams.” In a nutshell, it is why I started this blog.
Sharing work I am paid to create is different than sharing work I choose to create. Sharing my personal stories requires me to be vulnerable. Professional writing does not contain my personal opinions or ideas. The content I create for my employer is not my unique voice.
But when I share my personal stories, I expose a piece of my spirit and identity to others. I draw back the curtains I use to hide my walls and defenses, often to reveal something I’ve previously kept hidden. This is scary stuff and sometimes causes many writers to keep their content to themselves. It kept me from sharing my writing for decades.
Though I eventually did take action – participating in classes and starting a blog – I was never fearless. I am scared every time I share a new essay. Even with this post, my 170th post on this blog, there is a quiet voice inside my head saying, “What makes you think anyone is going to read this and find it useful or worthy of their time?” I fear my words will not be helpful, my meaning not understood. I worry someone will grant me the honor of five minutes of their valuable time and, upon reading my words, think, “Well, that was a waste.”
Just because I am in the right place to take action, does that mean I am in the right place to be fearless? What does it even mean to be in the right place to be fearless – and is fearless what I want to be?
These questions almost cause me to cease action. Then I challenge myself with the same query I offer other members of my writing group when they bring up similar thoughts.
Who am I writing for? Am I writing because I have an audience, small as it may be, or am I writing for me?
I know the answer. I am writing for me, just as I was when I wrote this post, and this post, and every post here on this blog. I am writing because nobody else can tell my story exactly as I can. I am writing because it helps me process my thoughts and understand my emotions and ideas. I write each day because when I don’t, it feels like something is missing, there is a gap which must be filled.
I have never been scared of writing. My fear comes when I must share my writing with others. The fear comes from comparing what I have written to the words others have written and thinking I may not “measure up.” But comparing myself to others does not further my attempts to complete my writing goals. It does not matter if I am “good enough.” I am telling my story in my words, the best way I can. If others choose not to read it, should I stop telling it?
If I honestly examine my journal writing and the thoughts in my head, I know I no longer want to be fearless when it comes to sharing my writing. Even if I may be in the “right place” in my life, even though I feel compelled to write, I want to keep that tingle of fear which gives me pause each time I prepare to hit ‘publish.’ I want to remain critical as I edit a guest post again, and again, and again, and yet again. Fear keeps me striving to learn more, to continually try to improve, to rally against complacency.
Even when we feel we are in a strong place in our lives, when things are going well and we are ready for action, it is still difficult to face fear. Perhaps the answer is not finding strength to face the fear, but rather finding resources to help us take small steps forward with the fear instead of letting it paralyze us.
I didn’t take physics in high school, but I know a body at rest stays at rest until an outside force acts upon it while bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Forward motion is necessary – even when we fear we may fall, or pale in comparison to others. If we let fear keep us still, we will never be able to touch and help others with our unique gifts and talents.