I’m an optimist by nature — I usually expect things will all work out. But when I’m anxious about something, I find that I’m more successful and experience less disappointment when I lean into it, rather than trying to rid myself of anxiety.
When I “lean into my fears,” I realistically assess the difficulties, challenges or obstacles that may be in front of me. I attempt to understand any potential risks or pitfalls in my path. I allow myself to consider worst possible outcomes.
There are several advantages to “leaning in to our fears,” including:
♦ When you’re focused on “thinking positive,” you may not be adequately prepared for the challenges of your journey, and therefore fail to meet them successfully.
♦ Thinking through the negatives and worst-case-scenarios keeps you from being overly surprised or disappointed when things don’t go as you’d hoped or planned.
♦ You are more likely to avoid magical thinking.
♦ If you can honestly acknowledge possible negatives and keep going, then you’re probably on a path that’s right for you.
♦ When you’re realistic about potential challenges, you are often pleasantly surprised at the smoothness of your path.
♦ If you’re “thinking positive,” you may be inclined to think your path is going to be easier than it really is, so you won’t allow enough time to accomplish the goal, and you may
not have enough diligence or discipline to get it done.
There are countless ways to lean in to your fears as a writer:
♦ Instead of agonizing over all the “what if” questions (what if my book is terrible, what if my book doesn’t sell to a publisher, what if the sales of my book are so low that I can never get another book deal), you face them and recognize them as possible realities. Then you convert your anxiety to motivation and work your hardest, focusing on what’s in your control and letting the rest go.
♦ When you find yourself afraid of the next step in the process—whether it’s writing your book, or editing, or marketing—you acknowledge the fear without trying to talk yourself out of it. You accept that it’s scary. Then you get back to work.
♦ Leaning in to your fears can help you identify weaknesses or areas where something might go wrong, compelling you to work harder in those areas.
Do you lean in to your fears? How can it help you in pursuing your goals?
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Great post, Rachelle! I’m sure this rational exposition will help a lot of people. Not only writers.
* There are few words I loathe more than ‘fearless’; it bespeaks either stupid bravado or callow ignorance. There are truly scary things out there. I’ve seen quite a few, and to say that I wasn’t terrified would be a lie. One simply does one’s best in spite of that, and often finds that one’s best effort is enough to win the day. The thing that lies on the other side of the door, before the breach, simply IS, and must be addressed. Scared to death, or not.
* These days, I’ve been ‘living the suck’. Passing out from pain, sometimes several times a day, isn’t a comforting experience. When you’re aware that it’s happening, it’s bad. When you wake up on the kitchen floor with the sun in a different part of the sky, it’s rather worse (“Is this how I’m going to die?”). But it’s a simple reality, and whether I like it or not, life goes on. I can choose to write or not, choose to care or not. Spending the day curled into a foetal blob of whining “WHY ME!” doesn’t really do the Lord’s work, does it?
* ‘Courage’ doesn’t enter into it. Bravery and bravado share the same etymological root. Everyone has there limit, and believe me, I have found mine.
* I don’t ‘overcome’ fear; I adapt, using two methods. The first is what I call ‘practiced protocol’. You practice what’s important often enough, whether it’s clearing a room or writing a blog, and you’ll keep doing it that way even when your face has been turned the colour of putty by fear. It’s muscle memory, only more so. Therefore, writers…keep writing. Every day.
* The second is to remember my old ‘coat of arms motto’; “Fear the dark, for therein I work.” I still have my old skills, and woe betide those who might assume otherwise.
Thanks for this, Andrew! Your words should be part of the post! I love the idea of adapting to fear rather than overcoming it. What a great way to put it.
Rachelle, thank you so much!
Andrew, once again, wise words. I love your thoughts on not overcoming fear, but adapting to it. Thanks for sharing.
Much of life is a mental game. We are what we think, in a sense. When you’re timid, it makes almost everything a little harder. Confidence builds slowly, but it does come eventually. What a JOY when it all starts coming together. Yes, I lean into my fears. I’ve learned some ways to neutralize their power over me. We are a lot stronger than we think. I appreciate Andrew’s comment and his two reasons. We have it to do so we do it. And, sometimes, we get added bonuses. . . life really does make lemonade out of lemons! Great perspective, Rachelle.
“We are a lot stronger than we think.” So true, Norma!
Good advice, Rachelle. I would rather be pleasantly surprised, not rudely disappointed.
Rachelle, I love your challenge to convert our anxiety to motivation to work harder. Thanks so much!
I was definitely in a cycle of fearing my book and ended up avoiding working on it all together. The fear of it not being good enough or interesting enough. Now that I’m almost done with a first draft of the three chapters for my book proposal, the fears matter less (for now) because I’m just focused on writing three great chapters, not getting an agent or a book deal. I’ll tackle those fears again when the proposal is done, haha.
Hi Becky, those are exactly the kind of fears I was thinking about. These are so common to writers! Perhaps rather than tackling them, you can now lean in to them, asking, “So what? What if my book isn’t good enough? What if I can’t get an agent or a book deal? What will I do then?” And allow yourself to think through to the other side. Will you be okay? Will you find another way? I imagine the answers are yes.
Rachelle, definitely yes. The answers to those questions don’t really even matter now and later, if I “fail”, alternative goals will probably surface when they’re needed.
Beautiful attitude, Becky.
Becky, I can’t imagine your lucid, clear-eyed writing not having an appeal that will be well-nigh irresistible.
Thanks, Andrew! Time will tell.
Don’t know if this acronym will help, but I’ll throw it in –
Love that acronym, Andrew!
Once I deal with the initial reaction to fear, I’m learning to lean into it, or to work in spite of it. One acronym I’ve heard for fear is:
*Oftentimes, I need to make a determination in my mind I’m going to press through, in spite of fear that I may feel.
*In those times when I do feel fearful, talking with a truth-speaking friend helps restore my perspective.
I love that acronym, too, Jeanne.
Good one, Jeanne!
This is so timely for me. I just read a post on Seekerville by Beth Vogt that was so encouraging like this. I’ve had a rough week mentally, regarding writing. Because of one negative comment that wasn’t backed by any positive. Forget all the positive I received … the one negative outweighed all the rest. Blog post this week? Why bother? And then, I leaned into it. I mentally shook myself straight. Last night, I determined that I’m going to polish the first three chapters of this new work and have it shining. That’s my goal for the immediate future, to have it ready for a proposal. Focus on what I can do. Thank you for this timely post.
Proud of you Shelli. It’s so hard. We’re so strong, together. 🙂 Blessings to you! Happy to give your chapters a read-through when you’r done if it’s helpful. (((HUGS)))
Thank you, thank you!!
There you go, Shelli…shake the dust off your feet as testimony against that negative comment!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I’m not truly afraid of many things-bridges, hydro-dams, ocean going container ships…bugs-but I don’t often encounter the first three.
Bugs? Well, there’s a chocolate for that.
Life is hard.
I grew up with a parent from a war zone. I can tell you what is fearsome, and it is not what some people think.
I have a family member in a profession in which the numbers 911 are involved.
Thus, I don’t fear much in my daily life, or my writing life. If I’m honest, I cannot stand it when people succumb to “what if…???” and lose their focus and Kermit flail all over the place over a review or a contract.
If it’s a horrid review and truly vile, then yes, that can be fearsome. But nasty isn’t the same as life threatening.
Perhaps I’ve very Calvinist about this writing gig, and where I’m at in the process. I trust my agent’s abilities, I do what she says, I work my freckles off, and then trust in God’s plan.
Am I afraid of never getting a contract? Nope. That is not a death sentence.
Am I afraid of failure? Not really. Again, because that isn’t life threatening.
Am I afraid of international success that brings me to the level of “Honey, we need a gate and a big dog.”?
YES. Because that scenario would challenge the vain conceit in me to rise and call me blessed, everyday in the mirror.
But, I also have brothers who would kick me off the high horse and make me shovel the stables.
Yes … we have to stay balanced. Lord, help us stay balanced.
Rachelle, great post. I’m reminded of something I heard once about fear being just as important an emotion as any other. Fear has a useful place. It warns us of danger, keeps us from edges of life’s cliffs. It moves us forward, past those dangerous places, to calmer waters. It’s more about not letting the fear take control. As a child and teenager, I battled anxiety and worry (close cousin to fear). The times I gave into those feelings, letting them consume me, that I shut down and lost ground. With maturity and help from my husband and God, I’ve learned to consider and evaluate the feelings before acting on them. Most often, the feeling of fear or worry is telling me something completely different than it appeared at the onset.
* As for how this applies to my writing, I most resonate with this line from your post: “If you can honestly acknowledge possible negatives and keep going, then you’re probably on a path that’s right for you.” I’m not known for sticking to things for the long haul.
I love that, too, Teresa … keep going. And to hear accomplished writers admit to still struggling through issues is so encouraging. It helps you to realize … this is normal. You’ll get through this. 😉 And I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing that the fear doesn’t stick to me as long as it used to … so, that has to be progress. 😉 I’m leaning in much quicker than I did initially. Thank goodness.
I’m not a negative person, but I always look at the worst-case scenario (as well as some of the not-so-worse scenarios). You can’t prepare for everything, but I feel a lot more confident if I’ve at least thought through what I could.
This week, I’ve wondered aloud if it was all worth it – writing, blog posts, learning, reading. Now, I’m getting back to believing in the real me, the one who can bend around the path of fear. I enjoy saying out this famous quote: ‘Our biggest fear is not that we are inadequate, our biggest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…’ A lot of times, it’s easier to see the obstacles in our paths, the ‘what ifs’ that plague our potential. But in the end, no fear should incapacitate me… It isn’t wrong to nurse fears, what is fatal is letting the fear get control of me… And as Paul says, ‘God has not given me the spirit of (incapacitating, harmful) fear…’
Michael, Beth Moore once said something like–“Don’t let anyone trash your confidence.” I try to remember that. Don’t give permission.
Thank you for such an inspirational post! It can be applied to so many areas. I often have problems letting my fears/worries “carry me away”, but you mentioned two valuable ideas: “convert your anxiety to motivation, and work your hardest, focusing on what’s in your control, and letting the rest go”, and “acknowledge the fear without trying to talk yourself out of it. You accept that it’s scary. Then you get back to work.” So helpful!
This is an excellent post, Rachelle! Thank you for sharing.