Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breaking Down the Fear

Today we're tackling the fear. Head on. No pads. Right between the eyes. So if you're not quite ready for that, you might wanna locate your mithril and pick up some extra chocolate.


Let it be known that any author, at any stage, has fear. This thing, that, the other.

Me? What am I afraid of?

7. Mediocrity
6. The unknown
5. Ghosts
4. Sushi
3. Living up to expectations
2. Failing as a wife/mother/sister/friend/teacher/writer
1. Dogs

Yeah, so-and-so said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." but he wasn't trying to publish a book or raise a child or keep a rabid yellow lab from tearing into his thigh. So whatever.

I do think once we recognize what we're afraid of, it's not so scary. Once we look it in the eye and try to deal with it, the horror isn't as real. We're in control then. The problem is, it's easier to put on the headphones and ignore the raw fish, lingering spirits and antsy canines.

Easier, but not better.

So spill. What're your top fears? How will identifying them help you move past them?


Melissa said...

I so agree, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself....that guy was crazy. I guess I get his point. Sort of. But not really.

1. Spiders
2. losing my mom, grandparents, or best friend - I don't think I could survive any of that.
3. Dying before I'm 25 - something I firmly believed was going to happen for a very longtime, for very real reasons.
4. Having the voices in my head go silent.
5. Failing at anything I apply myself too (which is generally why I avoid the applying all together).

Kay said...

What great timing for your post. All week I have been gripped in fear while trying to draft my first novel. What if it's no good? What if I've wasted all this effort? What if I never learn to tell a good story? I will work past my fear and keep writing!

Terri Tiffany said...

Hmm with writing or life? In life, I guess it is running out of money before my husband finshes school and works again. With writing, that I will always be mediocre and not ever get a book out there!

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

#1. The first step in anything! It chokes me into non-action. I say "Just do it!" but manage to sidetrack myself.

Giggles and Guns

Cassandra Frear said...

Giving the fear a name and then looking at greater wisdom like the Bible is a very powerful way for me to deal with fear. Unfortunately I have had a lot of practice for the last two years.

My greatest fear? Being abandoned.

Matthew MacNish said...

Damn! I forgot my Mithril shirt. Where's Bilbo when you need him?

Your honesty and humility never cease to amaze and inspire me Elana, they are one of the many reasons you rock so hard.

That's sad that you're afraid of Sushi. I wrote a sort of guide for beginners on my blog once here . Check it out if you have time sometime (it's a little longer than your guidelines).

Janet Johnson said...

Yeah, you read about mine already. But the failing as a mother thing . . . that's pretty high on my list, too.

I look at my fear of querying, and I think "What am I really afraid of?" A no? It must be fear that I'm no good at writing. But I can fix that if I don't give up. :)

Vicki Rocho said...

My biggest fear? Looking/sounding/being stupid. This spirals out into everything I do and paralyzes me so then I DO look/sound stupid. Vicious cycle.

#3 is a biggie, too.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Here's my biggest fears:

1. Losing my immediate family--not too many left. Just my mom, husband, daughter, & my husband's mom & dad.
2. That I'm not a good enough writer to ever get published.
3. That if I did get published, I couldn't handle the marketing, writing with raising a family, taking care of a chronically ill husband, and a full time job, which wouldn't go away.

I try to tell myself I can handle it all. On good days when I get almost enough sleep, I'm okay. On too hectic days, I still feel overwhelmed about it. But you're right, the first step is to confront your fears.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I like the no pads idea. I think that's how I'll approach my writing, today. Your #3 is classic for me. Shamefully, another one is success. What if I actually do well? Then what? Stupid, I know. And you are so right when it comes to facing the ugly beast. Recognizing our fear takes it down a notch. ";-)

Jonathon Arntson said...

1. Crustaceans
2. Failing at life. Period.
3. Paper cut to the eye
4. Critiquing other's writing
5. Speaking in public
6. Latex gloves
7. Clowns
8. Driving into a wall
9. Never seeing things through
10.-10,000. All other animals as varying degrees.

Anne Gallagher said...

My biggest fear is success. Yeah, what I'm trying to achieve is scaring the behoozis out of me.

Alison Pearce Stevens said...

My fears are similar to those of others. That I won't succeed as a writer. That I will succeed as a writer (I think that's really fear of the unknown). That I won't be a good mom/wife/daughter/sister. That something will happen to someone in my family. Oh, and, um... centipedes.

Claire Dawn said...

Today, I'm afraid I'm not supposed to be a writer. I was all set to go to a conference, and everything keeps getting in the way. The latest? Lost passport. Feels like the universe is telling me a big fat no. :(

Unknown said...

#1 Fear...being a failure. Not sure how to get past that one other than finding success, which I have in many areas of life. Just not my career......yet...

Candyland said...

Right now it's not getting an agent after everything. Sure, it's not at the TOP of my fear list, but it's enough.

WritingNut said...

Before I start - I have an award for you on my blog!

Now on to more serious matters...

Sigh, that's the hardest part - looking it in the eye and dealing with it. I always want to run in the opposite direction!

What am I afraid of? I'm a big scaredy cat, so there are so many! I have all of yours (minus the sushi), plus:

1. Losing my family
2. Ending up alone
3. That I'll be working my entire life and always be struggling
4. Not ever finishing my novel - not being able to see it through
5. Never getting published
6. GETTING published
7. Ending up stuck in a rut forever

Theresa Milstein said...

Ours are similar:

7. Mediocrity
6. Being considered unemployable
5. Ghosts
4. Rats
3. Global Warming
2. Failing as a wife/mother/sister/friend/teacher/writer
1. Dogs

Unknown said...

I'm with Candyland. What if This last year of my life ends up being wasted.

I can't see trunking my novel as an option.

Sarah Ahiers said...

wait wait wait... Dogs?!!


(i'm just kidding. it's ok if you're afraid of ghosts)

and yeah, ghosts? Straight up. I don't want invisible things bothering. Especially when i', sleeping

Jaydee Morgan said...

Other than bugs and rodents, my biggest fear is that I'll never publish a novel. I'm not sure if it's because of fear that I don't usually say that aloud. It probably is but I constantly tell myself that if I work hard enough at it, I'll get there.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wow, this is a whole lot of honesty for so early in the morning. I'll go ahead and respond before I chicken out.

I just had my first book published last month. What do I have to be afraid of?

That it will be the only one. That I will somehow screw up, and this will be IT. The end.

Stina said...

Big icky spiders

Fortunately the last one won't kill me. ;)

Jessie Harrell said...

I think it was a fear of mediocrity that kept me from finishing my book for months! I was only like 2 chapters away from the end & knew how it was going to end, but I just couldn't write it. Or maybe I didn't want the fun, creative part to be over...
I'm also afraid of spiders. Any size.

Melody said...

3. Scorpions
2. Losing my family
1. Failing to realize/perform my destiny

And yes, I put my MITHRIL on first!!!!

Anonymous said...

Not being able to finish some of the stories I've started. The ones that mean the most to me. The ones I think are great if I could just tell them right.

Huh....the other fear was saying that out loud.

Wasps and bees--I try to be all calm and normal it doesn't work so well. (getting better around bees they really aren't interested in me).

Bugs, when they are on me. If they are on the ground, or a leaf, or in the grass where they belong I am fine, on me...WHOLE nother story.

Anonymous said...

Great post!
My greatest fears:
1. My husband dying.
2. Never finding a career I love.

I know God says, "who by worrying adds one hour to his life." But it SURE IS HARD to turn off that fear/worry, isn't it?

But if I'm aware of what's freaking me out, it might help me get past it, you know?

Sounds good, in theory, anyway.

Unknown said...

I fear my laundry basket. I think it might be magical because no matter how many clothes I wash, it remains full. Seriously, it's freaking me out.

Natalie said...

Loved ones dying, snakes, and failure. That's pretty much it. I need to work on getting over them, but it isn't as easy as it sounds. I just keep hoping the first one will never happen, I won't ever run into a rattle snake while wearing sandals and I won't fail too much before I can succeed.

Erica Mitchell said...

Facing them head on...erm I could do some of them and rationalize other but number 1 no one has been able to break me of
1. Emotiphobia- look it up :P
2. loosing my husband
3. living in a haunted house
4. i'll run out of ideas
5. choking
6. Spiders (but only the big ones with the "butt")

Zoe C. Courtman said...

My fear is that I won't be able to finish anything I start. Writing, fitness, projects, what have you. Which, I guess, is that boring old fear of failure. But it paralyzes me on most days. My other fear is more of a rabid revulsion: spiders. HATE those eight-legged FREAKS--!!!

Steena Holmes said...

Um, spiders, bees, losing my kids ... oh and finding myself without any chocolate. That's a huge one.

Anonymous said...

Hornets. Def. Esp. when they are in my house. And rumor has it they attack people for no reason. Cranky buggers.

I've looked them in the eye and killed them everytime - with much screaming, trembling, heart pounding, and sweating. It doesn't take away the fear to face it. For me anyway.

Christina Lee said...

Well right now in my writing life (in my real life, there are too many fears), it's not having any agent believe in my writing enough to take me on. sigh... And then after that I'm sure it's the same with an editor.

JEM said...

With the one-two punch, Elana! Also, I hope your list isn't in order...:)

I would say I'm afraid of wasting any potential I have in life and never being brave/determined/dedicated/crazy enough to reach my full capacity as anything. Also I'm afraid of a brown recluse climbing into my bed at night, heights, and anything that challenges my relationship with solid earth under my feet.

If you figure out how to beat these fears, give me a call. I'll have chocolate waiting as a thank you.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

1. loss of a loved one ( of my kids)
2. failure/being a disappointment
3. dentists
4. bees
5. wrinkles

I have an award for you today! :-)

Tana said...

Oh please don't be afraid of my favorite food in the whole wide world. It's the comfort food of the century. Soon it will take over Thanksgiving tables and be served at McDonalds. i promise you will love it. Sushi rocks.

Valerie Ipson said...

I fear paper cuts.

That's why I became a writer after the PC was invented.

j.m. neeb said...

I fear posting comments on blogs.

j.leigh.bailey said...

Disappointing others.
Disappointing myself.
Being ridiculed.
So of course, I tend to not do anything for fear of the above.

Meredith said...

I have an irrational fear of balloons. They're always going to pop and scare the heck out of me. But really, I'm scared of not living a meaningful life.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Wow, I would say failing as a parent is high on my list and probably every other parents too. Right now I have a fear that I'm never going to finish this ms. :) Oh and Jonathon Arntson, I've had a paper cut on my eyeball, while not fun, they do heal quick.

Shannon Messenger said...

*giggles* I've never heard of someone being afraid of sushi before. :)

My fears--in random order:

-Small Spaces
-Guys in Speedos *shudder*
-video cameras

Yup. I'm weird. ;)

John Sankovich said...

I think the only thing I could consider a fear is failing to provide for my family.

Other than that, I've done some crazy things, such as skydiving, so most fears for facing death have been blown away as I free fell at 120MPH.

Great post like usual Elana.

Jo Schaffer said...

*Spiders (Bleh!)
*Loss of loved ones (not sure this will ever change)
*Murky water to swim in (shiver)
*Sharks (easily avoided--no land sharks)
*Great Heights (conquered while ziplining over the jungles of Costa Rica)
*bikinis (scream of horror)
*Lost opportunities (I try to carpe diem!)

Maybe I am less scared of those things the older I get. (except the bikinis--that gets worse...I would die if I had to wear one.
AND I'm a California girl. Sad.)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

This was a timely post for me, too. Thanks, Elana! I was just thinking about how dread is worst than the thing I'm dreading...usually.

I share the top one with most everyone else who commented:
1) loss of family (whether to death or alienation)
2) failing as a mom
3) mediocrity (i know I'm stealing yours, but it's mine, too)
4) being hated
5) the apocalypse happening before I get published (seriously. sad, I know)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Sorry. I meant, dread is WORSE, not worst.
6) typos

Hannah said...


Okay, that's not entirely accurate.

Let's see, in no particular order.

The movie, Paranormal Activity
The movie, The Strangers
More people I love dying before their time.

Kelly Breakey said...

For me it's water. I have a serious fear of drowning. It almost happened as a child and I have never forgotten it. What's even more amazing is we spend all of our spare time on the beach, on the boat, on the water, in the water, at the ocean. Does that count for me facing my fear?

Mary Gray said...

Haha! You're scared of sushi. I'm terrified of strawberries.

ali cross said...

Sheesh Elana. Quit making me think already.

I'm afraid of so much. I don't know how admitting them will help, but here's a few:

1. Never losing the extra weight I'm carrying and forever feeling like I let myself down.

2. Never getting a book published. Because then it would mean I didn't have what it takes, that I'm not "special" in that way.

3. Not being the friend/wife/mother maybe people think I am. Letting my friends/family/myself down.

I seem to be afraid of letting myself or other people down more than just about anything. Hmm.

Krispy said...

Some of your fears are definitely mine, and some of them aren't (I love dogs! And sushi!).

My fear list would include SPIDERS! (ECK!!!), bugs (in general), failure, not living a meaningful life.

Carolyn V. said...

Spiders and accidentally stepping on snails. They crunch. Not only is it scary, but it's gross too.

Rachael said...

1. Making a fool of myself/sounding stupid
2. The future (though this one varies on the list depending on the day)
3. Driving
4. Supernatural
5. Tornadoes (brought on by the recent tornadoes surrounding me)

I'm trying to face one, two, and three right now. I kept telling myself this morning "Courage is being afraid and pushing on anyway" but it only worked the first couple times.

Anonymous said...

My biggest fear is failure associated with not living up to expectations. Not with writing, funnily enough, because that's the one place where there's no outside expectation to pull me down. :)

Lydia Kang said...

I don't fear sushi. I fear that there's never enough sushi.

Clementine said...

My biggest fear is being trapped in a car submerged in water. I have that nightmare over and over again. Even worse is when my kids are strapped in the back seat and I can't get them out. Someday I'll have to work that in a story somewhere!

Jemi Fraser said...


- cancer
- something hurting my kids
- snakes
- not being good enough (which pales in comparison to the first 2)

Anonymous said...

My biggest fear is the same as your number 2. Failing my loved ones.

Little Ms J said...

1. Loss
2. Failure
3. Not trying hard enough and regretting it.

Funny how they contradict themselves, eh? My fear of failure has kept me from moving forward at times, but then my fear of regrets leaves me anxious. Damn emotions.

Stephanie Thornton said...

1. Failure
2. Shots

Good thing those two don't usually happen at the same time, right?

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I can help...Try vegetarian sushi...It's awesome! Carrot and asparagus are my favorites...avacado (please excuse my spelling) is mushy...

Nichole Giles said...

Um, holy crap. So sorry! Didn't realize that when my dogs decided to lick you to death the other day. :(

Fear? Failure. Success. Change (even when I want it). Loss. Admitting defeat. Letting the world win. Death (my own or those I love).

But the thing that terrifies me most is the idea of growing up to become either of my parents. Seriously. That would be very, very bad. (No, I am not joking.)

feywriter said...

More specific than failure as a Mom - fear I'll forget my kid. I am so incredibly absent minded, I'm afraid I will forget about him at a critical time.

Fear that my writing will never be good enough. I wonder if my writing is actually improving, if I have what it takes to make this a career.

I also fear not living up to expectations.

G.~ said...

Biggest fear?

Not being good enough.

At the moment, I am afraid that I don't have what it takes to write a phenomenal book.

I am afraid that the corridors of my mind will not unlock to open the absolute creativity that is within.

I am afraid that I will never be able to get out of my own way.

G.~ said...

Oh, and not pertaining to writing, I am afraid of not being missed.

Not when I'm gone gone, that I could care less about. I'll be gone. But I'm afraid that if I up and left or just took a vacation, that people won't miss me.

Annette Lyon said...

What's freaky is that my list of fears is nearly identical to yours. Including dogs.

I think we were separated at birth or something.

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