Fear, And Moving Forward

bloom

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

― Steven Pressfield
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

A story of my last 6 months.

The fear is always there, bubbling right under the surface, waiting to grab, to pull me under, but by the beginning of November I think I have powered through it. I have finished the book I was writing.

Then come the delays.

When I think about it now, I tell myself that, if I could have published the book, Handling It, right away, I might have kept my momentum. I tell myself that I could have kept those plates spinning. That’s what I tell myself. But I’m probably lying. It doesn’t matter anyway. I cannot publish the book right away because it needs to be read, prepared, edited. I need a cover and a sales blurb. I need to know how to publish on the various platforms.

Then there are holidays. There are demands on my time. Work.

More delays. Weeks pass.

Still, I think I’m doing the right thing. In a lot of ways, I AM doing the right thing. I’m not just resting on my laurels, I’ve started another book. Okay, yes, it’s a prequel and not the next book in the series, but I’m writing, aren’t I? The first draft is finished in only eight weeks. I am moving along.

True, the second draft gets bogged down, but now I’m working to get my business set up. First I have to get a business name, open banks accounts. I have to find cover images, learn enough about Photoshop to make a decent cover. I have to spend lots of time reading self-publishing blogs and worrying about marketing. These things aren’t writing, but they’re important.

Right?

Then the editor returns the edits for Handling It, the book I finished in November. Hooray! All I need to do now is make changes and get it out on the sites. Things are moving. I just need to take the last few steps.

And the fear swamps me. Like a tidal wave smashing into the shore, it pulls down the rickety little shack I’ve managed to build.

I don’t deal with the fear, though. I run away from it as fast as I can. Of course, I don’t realize I’m running. No, I start rationalizing.

I tell myself that I’m going to finish the prequel I’m working on before I publish Handling It. See, Handling It is the first book in the series, and it makes sense to publish the prequel at the same time. So I’m going to hold Handling It until the prequel is finished.

But suddenly I’m not making any progress on the prequel at all. I’m just looking at the same sections over and over again until reading them makes me physically ill. It’s almost as if knowing I’m waiting for the prequel to be finished guaranteed the prequel would never be finished.

Then I tell myself I CAN’T write. I have way too much to do. I have to shovel. No, now I have to mow. I have to weed. I have to deal with the mouse in my walls. I have to do my taxes. I have to take care of my mother.

Then the voices really start. The voices are always lurking, like the fear. The voice of my grandmother, who told me she didn’t know why I kept trying because I never got anywhere anyway. The voice of another, who told me I should just give up because nothing was happening and it wasn’t worth it. The voices of the many other people who have made similar comments, became impatient with me, or were condescending.

Loudest of all is my own voice. The voice that tells me that I can’t do it. That I don’t have the ability. That I will fail. That the world will only look and laugh. That I will be judged. That I will be belittled. That I will be mocked. After all the bullying from my peers I survived in my childhood and teenage years, do I really want to risk putting myself out there?

Then comes the despair.

Everything is overwhelming.

There’s not enough time in the day.

Everyone wants pieces of me, demands me to pour myself out for them. I have nothing to give them.

I stop writing completely. I stop even trying to write. I stop blogging. I stop doing anything but what is expected of me. I stop trying to be myself.

And everything grinds to a halt.

Except the fear.

All I know is that my “to-do” list is growing and my a1C number is rising and my life is dripping through my fingers day by day, never to be reclaimed.

And the fear.

Finally, I am desperate enough to take some action. I start meditating in a half-assed sort of way, just sitting and focusing on my breath for fifteen minutes twice a day.

I realize I am afraid of my to-do list. I break the tasks down into small steps. I tell myself I only have to do one step at a time. And I start. A log shifts in the log jam.

But when I try to write, I am still stalled. I am still trying to work on the prequel, but it’s getting nowhere. I have worked on the same paragraphs for a week, the same chapter for a month.

I start second-guessing myself again. Maybe the people who told me I should just give up are right. Maybe the people who’ve told me my writing sucks are right. Maybe I shouldn’t even try anymore.

Then the shame comes.

Here I have these edits for Handling It and I haven’t finalized the book, have made excuses NOT to finalize the book.

And finally I think that maybe I’ve been wrong. That maybe working on the prequel was an excuse.

The prequel itself is a valid project and will be published, but maybe putting it ahead of the book that was already finished was just an excuse not to take the next step forward. Because as soon as I said I was going to hold Handling It until the prequel was also finished, I stopped being able to write at all.

Maybe, I think, maybe that thought was self sabotage. Maybe that thought was the first log in the log-jam.

It was so sly, I didn’t even recognize it, because it sounds so logical and rational. It sounds like a decision any publishing company would have made.

But it is an incorrect decision for me because as soon as I made it, everything stopped.

I make a new decision. I am going to finalize Handling It. I am going to publish it as soon as possible. I am not going to wait – I’m going to get it out the door.

And I am afraid.

No, I’m terrified. Terrified to the point that I am nauseous. I lose a few more days to fear.

But this time, the fear is a good thing. Just as realizing I was afraid of my to-do list helped me start tackling it, realizing I am afraid – no terrified – of my own work helps me to see what I need to do. If I do not move forward into this fear, I will be turning away from all of the work I’ve done, all of the hopes I’ve had. I can’t do that. The only function of this fear is to hold me back.

I sit down at the computer. My hands are shaking, sweating. I am hyperventilating. The world goes black around the edges. I almost faint, I am so afraid.

But I open the file, and I start working through the edits.

Then I make myself go back the next day.

And the next.

I am still afraid. But every time I open the file, the fear backs off a little bit.

I’m moving forward. And the fear, when I faced it, showed me where I needed to go.

 

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

― Steven Pressfield
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

Thank you for putting up with my angst here on the blog. I do appreciate it so very much.

Handling It – the book mentioned in this post – will be out on June 22nd as an ebook at all ebook vendors. It will also come out as a paperback as soon as I figure out how to do that part. I’ll be posting the cover and first chapter next Tuesday!

 

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