Skip to main content

Fear Is the Boxlocker of Dreams


So sayeth an internet meme made from a vulgar cross stitch, except I changed one of the words. Wink!

I have come to believe that fear is the #1 barrier to the success of creative endeavors. The evidence:

You're Not Lazy: The Last Motivational Blog Post You'll Ever Need (Medium)

and

Tim Ferris on Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals (TED Talk)

This idea rings true for me and the other ladies of my writing group. We struggle to finish manuscripts, applications, and query letters, not because we are lazy or incompetent or truly too busy, but because we are afraid of what comes next, whether it be failure, rejection, or the dizzying terror of succeeding and having to face an unfamiliar challenge.

The first member of our group to publish a complete novel, Meika Usher, did so after going to great lengths to face her personal fears. She didn't go back to school for a fancy MFA degree. She didn't take endless webinars or read a library of self-help books. Nope. Instead, shy Meika booked a solo tour of Europe and literally lost herself in unfamiliar territory, alone, for weeks. She survived and lived to tell the tale--and many other tales, which she is now promoting and selling!

Speaking for myself, I have fears that go way beyond worrying about creative failure or success. I'm constantly distracted by mom-related worries, from the real-life concerns of my daughter and her little friends to news stories about horrors that could, I imagine, befall my own family.

And whenever something terrible happens in the news, the trolls come out on social media. Even our own family members (we all have them) go out of their way to demonstrate that they are terminally stupid garbage people. It makes me feel sincerely that people I know are awful and mean-spirited and dangerous, even if I know that they are just frightened jerks behind a keyboard, like me, only less eloquent.

My time and my energy are wasted worrying about hypothetical threats.

I am now certain that anxiety is the greatest challenge I face as a writer. I have talent, skills, knowledge, resources, and inspiration. Fear is the only thing keeping my literary dreams from coming to light.

But fighting fear is easier said than done. So I've made a plan for myself based on these expert recommendations by the nice people at the University of Minnesota. As the Medium article explains, it's not enough to read and absorb this information; you actually have to do stuff. So my personal stuff to do includes:

  • Designate no-electronics time for several hours in the evening. No internet, no TV, no amplified background music. Read from a novel on paper every evening during that time.
  • Be mindful about acknowledging how adorable my immediate family is. I have a cute, playful, soft, murderfaced kitten and a lovable husband and daughter. I pledge to spend less time worrying about them and more time enjoying them.
  • Take all the risks  in my novel manuscript, where all decisions and consequences are rewritable. Enter the flow and go wild. Write like I'm having a lucid dream. Be the terrible goddess of the narrative. Discover what it feels like to strip off the bonds of critical thinking and create havoc. Try on the skin of a terminally stupid garbage person and run amok. Escape reality and all of its worries by spinning entirely imaginary horrors. Remind myself that even grammatical horrors are OK in a first draft.
  • Focus on using social media to maintain real-life relationships with people I actually talk to offline. Support my writing group ladies. Unfollow and unfriend as needed. Remember people who don't even know how to use the Tweeter machine. Visit my mom more often.
  • Keep. On. Walking. To school. That little bit of outdoor exercise is so good for me, and it soothes me to remind myself that every time I don't use the car is one time I've increased health and safety for my daughter and everyone around us. I can't control every risk to my child, but I can make strategic choices that count.
  • Organize smarter. Focus my strategies for social and political changes that will make my community safer so that I have less to worry about. Turn anxiety into action and action into results. Achieve the satisfaction of having done my part...

So I can get down to turning my nightmares into dreams and my dreams into a wicked good novel.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be:
You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")  35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't waste time o…

$Monday: Immigrants! (F Yeah!)

There may not be an I in TEAM, but there is an I in TEAM AMERICA, and it stands for IMMIGRANTS! (F yeah!)

Our nation is rich in immigrants, and they are more likely than native-born Americans to work harder for less money. They also come here with generally healthier lifestyles and different experiences than anyone born here has had. In other words, they bring value into our lives.

So support businesses owned by immigrants. Have your car fixed, your house painted, your dinner cooked by immigrants. Shop at grocery stores run by immigrants.

Food that comes from, or is at least somewhat inspired by, the traditions of another country is always interesting. It might be healthier. It might be exciting. It's probably inexpensive. And you get a little bit of a cultural experience without having to travel. You can stay in your hometown and expand your world at the same time.

My favorite cookbook, Thug Kitchen, often gives me a friendly reminder that it's a joy to visit an Asian market …

TBT: Another Woman's Treasure

The world is drowning in extra stuff. And some of that stuff is really nice, if you go looking for it in wealthier neighborhoods. Estate sales and higher-end, coordinated garage sales are still great opportunities to replenish a home or wardrobe, especially when you need a lot of things all at once. When I first moved into my house in 2007, I found furniture, clothing, shoes, dishes, linens, and more in the front yards and garages of my wealthier neighbors at the annual spring garage sale.

Not every year since then has been quite as good for shoppers--you can see how the economy affects how much people spend on new things they don't even bother to use. If you need specific items, you may need to try a few different sales to hunt down all your treasures.

"Naked lady parties," or clothing swaps with friends, can be another fun way to try out new fashions (for free!) while cleaning out your own closet. To this day, most of my clothing is second-hand.

And I'm proud to sa…

TBT: Cosmopolitan Fashions

Back in the early years of the millennium, I wrote this post about wearing clothes and accessories made by people of many different cultures. This has become a big topic lately, and I've learned a lot over the past 15 years about cultural misappropriation. I have always cared about dressing ethically, and now I am more knowledgeable about the issues. I would (or do) still wear most of the items shown below, because they are non-ceremonial items, produced and sold by people of the cultures represented in the styles, and offered to the general public (sometimes in tourist shops, specifically for outside visitors to shop). The one garment I show myself wearing in this post that I never owned is the Congolese dress I modeled while volunteering to sell Fair Trade handmade clothing, accessories, fine arts, and crafts. (Because African prints carry complex meanings in the U.S., I don't feel right about wearing something like that in my daily life.) I realize that purchasing items fro…

$Monday: Own Your Moneymaker

Ladies, gentlemen, humans of every gender and sexuality or none whatsoever, take care of your reproductive health. Nobody has a right to your sexual or reproductive choices but you, and knowing that all the way through your guts and juices and bones is essential to financial wellness. Reproductive autonomy is economic power.

How many children to have and when to have them can be the most financially significant decisions of a person's entire life. This is obvious.

But so is sexual autonomy, aside from reproduction. In any culture that controls human sexuality through shame, people (especially the disabled, children, and women, but all people) are at risk of being manipulated--sexually harassed, exploited, traumatized, or threatened--using the lever of public shaming over one's body and/or sexuality. These manipulations cost people jobs, productivity, creativity, confidence, social power, and physical health.

Kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart is a great resource for e…

TBT: Grow Your Household... Laterally!

As a "poor and fabulous" 25-year-old who branded myself the "Recessionista Genie," I bought a beautiful and spacious house in a desirable suburb with my husband at the very moment when the housing bubble burst, when we were making under $40K a year total and drowning in student loan debts. Home prices hadn't quite plummeted to exciting lows yet, but the door also hadn't slammed shut on the ridiculous lending practices of the bubble times. We were approved for an unimaginable six-figure home loan with no money down (we didn't even pay closing costs), and we took it. We were tired of living in a moldy, drug-soaked apartment building in a high-crime downtown neighborhood, and we were willing to do just about anything to escape living in a cesspool of filth and sickness. Our secret to success? Filling the house with roommates to help pay the bills and share meals.

We lived with at least one roommate at a time for about four years, until we had an exceptiona…

TBT: Choose Health

Remember the swine flu? Now we're talking about coronavirus. There will never be a time in our lives when there aren't any disease outbreaks, or when we don't have to care about pollution in our air, water, and food. We're all stuck here together on Cruiseship Earth arguing about things like whether to vaccinate or "choose life." Ultimately, none of our personal choices will matter if we all get taken out by plague or poisoning. So we need to choose health, together, collectively, for each other and for each other's babies, or else none of our individual choices will ever be worth a plastic bag in a whale's belly.

Here's what I wrote back in The Time of Swine Flu:

Choose Health
Cultivate health from the inside out and the outside in!

Everybody's talking about the swine flu, so I figure this is a good time to bring up the health situation for us un-wealthy folks. Part of the reason this flu has become such a problem is that people did not rece…

$Monday: Save $5K a Year + Healthcare by Eating In

Learn to cook--or make someone else do it. Do you have a man, a child in upper elementary or higher, a roommate, or a good friend you see regularly? Delegation is possible. Without giving up quality time with your favorite people, going on a home-cooked diet can upgrade your life and save you thousands of dollars every year.


Me, I love cooking. It's one of the sensual pleasures of my life. So anytime I can make the time, I cook for myself and my family and sometimes for my friends or my daughter's friends. I love colorful spice jars and crushing things with a pestle and squishing my hands into dough.

If you don't love cooking, you can make a deal with others in your life to make it happen.

I have a single lady friend who enjoys cooking but struggles with meal planning and grocery shopping for one on an irregular schedule. She wanted to get back into the habit of cooking and eating healthy meals, so she used a short-term subscription to a meal kit service to make it easier.

$Monday: Poop Your Problems Away

Grandma always said eat your fiber. And now Grandma is in her 90s and still sharp and chic, so I've baked this whole grain banana bread with flax seeds to share for her birthday.


This week's bougie financial advice was inspired by last week's birthday cake binge. I bought a sheet cake for my daughter's party, and the children only ate 2/3 of it. I was happy to take the rest home, because I enjoy having a sweet treat with my morning coffee. For a week after the party, I started each day with a little piece of birthday cake and a latte. Dreamy, right? This proved to be a lesson in what happens when you make a habit (even for just one week) out of a special occasion treat when you're used to a fairly healthy lifestyle and you're over age 35.

Holy poop.

Like Homer Simpson, I refused to stop eating the treat before it was gone, so I soldiered on through a spiraling cycle of indigestion, fatigue, anxiety, lowered productivity, and sleep trouble.

But but but CAKE.

For…

TBT: Destroy your lawn.

When I first bought my house in 2007, I couldn't wait to tear up the land and start a vegetable garden. I'd never created or maintained a garden before, but that didn't stop me. My grandpa gave me an organic gardening book and some tools handed down from Great-Grandpa, an immigrant who had relied upon sustenance farming to keep his family alive. Although I made a lot of mistakes and encountered unexpected challenges (as always happens when growing a garden), I kept it going for a few years and was able to make some of my daughter's baby food from veggies I grew from seed.

During those years, I grew tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, carrots, herbs, pumpkins, watermelons, sunflowers, squash, and strawberries. I spent hours in the sunshine and fresh air, digging in the soil. It was a lovely way to spend time and energy, and I'm glad I accomplished what I did on a less-than-ideal piece of land and learned the lessons that I did.

When my daughter entered the toddle…