Fear of New Things

In the art world, and in most places of life, change can come as fast as a tsunami wave–and my reaction to change may be compared to the terror of standing on the beach, watching the incoming wall of water, and wondering if I really am prepared for what’s ahead of me.

The analogy is imperfect.  A tsunami would likely have killed me.  The changes in my life, i.e. the publication process for my novel, will likely not kill me.

I just began reading the book Art and Fear.  I will give it a fuller review in a later post, but right now, I want to explore the fear and excitement that comes with change.

Have you ever been asked to give a speech in front of a crowd?  Been asked to drive a car that wasn’t yours?  Gone to an interview for a job you wanted so badly, your stomach melted into water?

When I face opportunities like this, the newness of the activity often transmutes to fear, fear of failure and especially fear of not being prepared enough to do what I’ve been asked to do.  The funny thing is that the only way to make this fear go away successfully is doing the activity.  Almost always, the observation from the other side is, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

In writing, prior to sending off a sample chapter or a short story or even a query letter, I find in myself a hesitation, a creeping perfectionism that whispers, But is this really ready?  What if there’s a mistake in this and it ruins your chances?

There are countless books on writing and art that tell you that masters at the top of their fields create more masterpieces and more duds than those they outrank.  They don’t hesitate and stop because they’re not sure they can do it.  They do it.

This applies to more than just sending my work out into the world.  This applies to my approach to marketing my book, carrying out the business of publishing, and continuing to write in the midst of change.

I can attest to the truth that my creativity chokes every time I worry if I’m doing it properly.  Thus, if I want to preserve this precious asset, I need to approach my writing and the busines of my writing with the same free expression.

I will still be wise and seek the proper advice and counsel that supports some of my more important decisions, but acting out of fear only gives it more power over me.

Here’s another thought, in nature, isn’t it the intense changes that are the most breathtaking?

A concept that I read in Art and Fear bears repeating.  What is the ultimate goal for my art?  If my goal, for example, is simply to become a New York Times bestselling author, then what do I do once that happens?

Will I keep on writing?  I read in the book that many artists focus so much on one goal, that once they get it, their art career ceases.  This is a sobering thought.

The authors suggest instead that the goal for all art be the creative community in which the artist lives.  In my case, this would be the society of my writer friends in the various groups that I attend as well as my network of family and friends who want to read my work.

If I am a regular contributor to this creative community, I can continue to present work to them whether I appear on a bestseller list or not.

And it’s extremely important to keep going, because it’s not the fame and money that started me down this path, it was my passion.

I’m musing over this dedication to contributing to creative communities and to doing exactly those new things that make me anxious.  To be honest, it’s a lot to chew on.  But you know what I’m remembering?  The things that I did despite dripping with nervous sweat, I feel very proud of having done.

You can’t replicate that sense of triumph, and it has nothing to do with prizes from the outside world.

What obstacles/fears in your writing are you facing right now? 


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This Post Has 5 Comments

    1. Rachael, I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! I saw that you are taking a year off to work on your painting, similar to how I quit work to pursue writing full-time. How is it going?

  1. Yes finished work (as I once knew it) 2 months ago, but it feels much much longer than that. It’s going really well thanks, working hard getting a body of work ready for my first show in September. Are you glad you gave up work?

  2. How exciting to have a show to prepare for in September! Good luck! Yes, I am glad I gave up work, though I will admit it was and is still a struggle to plan my own day and schedule and continue to be productive. But every time I think about it, I remind myself that this truly is what I want to do with my life. I’m also very blessed to have a husband who supports my dream. It took me several months to really adjust to it, though, so keep at it!

  3. True, you’ve got to be strict with yourself: I’m lucky to have a husband that supports what I’m doing too: it helps! also having a place seperate from home where I paint helps a lot, I spend all day there when I have a day of painting planned. All the best and good to share thoughts. Rachael

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