Tag Archives: fear

If You Feel Stuck, It Could Be Your Voice

26 Sep

Woman screamingI get stuck a lot. Tripped up in fear, anxiety, obsessive worry. Paralyzed by perfectionism. Waylaid by depression and absolute apathy, where I can’t muster up the motivation to do or care about anything. Not even writing. Sometimes I deliberately take a break from writing to focus on more responsible, possibly more remunerative pursuits. But whether it’s deliberate or not, if I’m not writing I often sink into depression, fear, stuckness, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-anything-ness. I feel like I’m alone, without a voice, this invisible, forgotten, forsaken person.

Even–especially–when I don’t feel like writing, the way out of this apathy and despair is usually writing. This reminds me of a time 10 years ago, when I decided that I was going to give up acting and write instead. So I quit acting for a summer, and was totally blocked and couldn’t write a word. That September I signed up for an acting class, and soon after started writing my heart out, so inspired by the words in the scenes I was memorizing and performing. I wrote monologues and scenes and plays until the only words I was performing–in and out of class–were my own.

Sure, then it was acting that unblocked me and gave me back my voice and today it’s writing, but the message is still the same–the thing I avoid is the thing that sets me free.

I get very despairing when I feel like I don’t have a voice. When I feel like I’m not heard. When I feel like I’m all alone. In my obsessive worry and depression. This is not a fun place to be.

A few weeks ago, writing and I were on a little break. I put it on the side burner, or maybe even the back burner. It’s not you, it’s me. I just need some space. To focus on other things. And then that familiar despair crept in. I didn’t want to do anything, didn’t care about anything.

Day in, day out, my life felt like drudgery, comprised mostly of crying and naps (you know how exhausting crying can be). What’s wrong with me? I thought, even though this has happened before. Longing to give a shit about anything at all, to feel even the slightest desire to write again. Crying on the subway, something that used to be more of a regular occurrence but I hadn’t done in a long time. After getting off the subway I stopped at a Starbucks, red and puffy-eyed. I knew I was nearing a bottom and something had to change when the barista rang up my water bottle, looked at me sympathetically, and said, “Feel better.”

So I decided to end my break and go back to writing. I had to make the decision first, before I felt like it. But it didn’t take long for what I felt like doing to catch up, to want to write again. To feel inspired and idea-filled and excited and energized. To remember what it feels like to have a voice. To not feel invisible and powerless anymore. To be strong–and unstuck.

Writing, once again, is the solution. That thing that I sometimes avoid, resist, resent, and can’t even find the tiniest spark of inspiration for, is the thing that makes me feel better. This doesn’t last if I stop writing, though. Whenever I feel like I don’t have a voice, I’m on the path straight to despair. To claim my strength in the world, to get unstuck, to feel like myself, I have to go back go back and go back again to writing. I have to remember that I have something to say, and say it. I have to return to my voice–and use it as if my life depended on it.

Don’t Water It Down

10 Oct

Water glass
When I write something, I usually don’t publish it right away. I sit with it for a little bit, during which time I edit it, and generally try to make it better. And also: I feel afraid and worry. In the uncensored writing of my first draft, did I express any particularly strong opinions? Did I take a stand for or against something? Possibly come off as sarcastic, harsh or worst of all, angry or mean? Say anything that could potentially offend anyone I’ve ever known or could one day meet?

Then, during my process of adding commas and correcting misspellings, I go about diluting strong opinions that slipped in. I soften rough edges. I add very balanced and diplomatic explanations of comments that could be perceived as me being for or against something. I take out parts that seem sarcastic, harsh, angry and/or mean, and replace them with things that make me sound nice, cute, and likeable, so that everyone will like me.

Predictably, what all this watering down does, is weaken my writing. So then, with my stomach twisted into knots, I proceed to go over the piece again and drain the water, adding back what I took out, strengthening my opinions and sharpening up the edges. Because really, I’m not writing to hide who I am behind balanced, diplomatic, couldn’t-possibly-offend-anyone-ever-for-all-time diluted words, and to worry about what other people I may or may not know think of me. I’m writing to show who I am, really. To express what I think and feel. And to actually say something. Which is, a lot of the time, pretty terrifying.

So once my writing is returned to it’s straight up version, I take a deep breath. And then I click Publish.

What I Would Write If I Wasn’t Afraid

25 Aug

Woman writing in notebook

Writing is scary.

I have a compulsion to be nice, an obsession with people liking me. I’m afraid of hurting people in my writing. I often find myself trying to take care of and protect them, with my words. Or I just don’t write those stories.

These are some things I’m afraid of, in my writing:

I’m afraid of hurting my family. I’m afraid of hurting my exes. Of hurting their girlfriends and wives, their ex-girlfriends and ex-wives. I’m afraid of hurting men who have hurt me. I’m afraid co-workers or bosses will read some personal detail about me that will make me  uncomfortable, squirm at the water cooler, look down in the cafeteria. That they’ll read something that will adversely affect my review, even though I don’t get reviewed at my job. I’m afraid that an imagined future employer will Google me and decide not to hire me, because I’m a flawed human being who struggles, and my flaws and struggles are Google-able. I’m afraid I’ll hurt friends, acquaintances, people I don’t like, and people I can’t stand.

But recently, I’ve been asking myself, What would I write if I wasn’t afraid? And the answer is: A lot. The countless stories that are crouching in corners, I’d write them if I didn’t have to navigate my fears, take care of this person, protect that one.

If I wasn’t afraid, I wouldn’t try to hurt people with my writing. I wouldn’t write in ways that criticized and blamed. I’d just…tell the truth. I’d be who I am and tell my stories, honestly and openly, vulnerable, flawed, and struggling. I’d write some things that would make people want to come closer, and other things that would make them want to look away. I’d take ownership of my life and my experiences. I wouldn’t try to take care of everyone else. I wouldn’t apologize, and I wouldn’t hide. I’d write it all. If I wasn’t afraid.

And recently, I’ve been thinking, I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of? What would you write if you weren’t afraid?

Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway. No, Like NOW.

20 May

I recently attended the REVEAL Conference for young women spiritual leaders, and the keynote speaker was Sera Beak, bold and feisty writer of the Spiritual Cowgirl blog and author of “The Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark.”  As she stepped on stage she said, “I have a heavy pen but the voice of a shaky 12-year-old boy.  I’ll stop shaking half-way through, or tomorrow morning.”

Now, she did not at all appear to be a shaky nervous wreck nor did she sound like a 12-year-old boy, but I was struck by her honesty in fessing up to her anxiety about speaking, which she referred to several times throughout the day.  Because, while she may be shaking in her cowgirl boots, she is a speaker, that’s what she does.  And she doesn’t let the shakes stop her, or quiet her voice.

I love hearing about people’s struggles and the things that make them human, because, I don’t know about you, but I’m human and I struggle, and when people act like they have it all together and always have, I just can’t relate.  And I get angry.  So often successful people are presented to us as if they were just born that way, and if they do mention their struggles, they either gloss over them like they were a two second blip in an otherwise charmed life, or they toss their heads back and laugh about some hard time that occurred long ago and far away in the past – people rarely talk about difficulties as they are experiencing them in the present.  You might hear about someone who was afraid of public speaking, but then after years of coaching or breathing exercises or hypnosis or, as suggested on an episode of  The Brady Bunch, picturing the audience in their underwear, they overcame their fears and now can give inspiring charismatic talks at a millisecond’s notice without the merest flutter of nerves in their belly.

But Sera hasn’t gotten over her fear of public speaking yet, and she didn’t wait to overcome it before she started speaking.  She just STARTED because she had something to say, and she deals with her fear in the process.  And she acknowledges it openly, which tends to take the power away from fears that, when we try to repress them, throw parties like the ones people had in high school when their parents went out of town, with little mini-fears running around toilet papering the front steps and pouring Zima into the grand piano and doing keg stands.  Which is to say they go CRAZY and take over and trash the joint.

I have tons of fears.  And everyday I have to walk through them.  Sometimes I do a better job than others.  Sometimes I try to work it out and overcome my fear before I move forward.  Sometimes they stop me altogether.  But in other victorious moments, I feel the fear and do it anyway – whatever it is that I have to say or write or do – I just do it.  Like NOW.  Shaking in my Converse and all.

When I started Writeous Chicks four years ago, right after I began publicizing my first class, a lot of fears came up.  You know, of the who-do-you-think-you-are-what-do-you-have-to-say-that’s-so-important-you’re-obviously-going-to-fail-and-miserably variety.  And, shortly after the first fear arose, I developed a twitch.  A very visible twitch under my eye that lasted for weeks.  This brought about some concerns that the students who signed up for my class were going to, at the very least, seriously question my ability as a teacher when they saw what a twitchy mess I was.  But I kept going with what I had to do to prepare.  I didn’t let the twitch convince me to back out of doing the class, although it tried very hard to do just that, and was very persuasive in its pleas.  I continued to move forward despite it though, because I had something I needed to say and something I had to do.  And miraculously (and with the help of affirmations about how calm I was, recited in my mind approximately 24/7), my twitch disappeared a few weeks before my first session, and the students didn’t stage a walk-out.

So Sera’s speech at the conference was a powerful reminder that we don’t have to get everything together and overcome every single fear before we step out into the world with our actions and our words.  We can feel the fear and do it, whatever it is for us, anyway.  RIGHT NOW.  We don’t have to wait another second.  And the cool thing is, usually once you take action, the fear starts to subside half-way through.  Or tomorrow morning.

How do you deal with your fears?  When have you felt the fear and done your it anyway?