A wise friend of mine once observed:
Every action we take or don’t take is driven by one of two things:
Fear or Love.
I’ve been sifting through this idea for a few years now, wondering if this were actually true (being the “inward bound” workshop/personal development/human potential geek-junkie that I am – and yes, I am the kind of person satirized on shows like Portlandia). But I’ve discovered that whenever I break my actions or inactions down to the basic essence, my wise friend is right. I just have to be brave enough to tell the truth about it once in a while, especially when it comes to the fear end of things. I’m quite good at justifying my fears.
I also think that there are levels of fear, and I can always tell when I get to the fear behind the fear behind the fear (to that essence), because it just goes THUNK when it finally gets to that simple statement of belief I hold. You know, the one that isn’t really serving me.
For example: Even though I say I love to write and share and talk story and writing practice is INVALUABLE, I haven’t blogged for almost two months. I could easily tell myself I just haven’t had time. And I could list all the stuff that’s been going on in my life to enroll everyone in that story.
However, I didn’t really have to watch 3 episodes of Scott and Bailey in a row and then stay up until 2 AM playing Angry Birds feeling guilty and telling myself, Pulitzer Prize author Michael Chabon doesn’t stay up all night playing Angry Birds. (Although I certainly invite him to tell me otherwise.) He’s a real writer. He writes.
And I didn’t have to start at least 8 posts when an idea inspired me, only to finish none of them.
I know procrastination when I see it. And I know procrastination stems from fear. So when I finally broke it down, it went like this:
Why didn’t you finish those posts?
I was afraid I’d lost my momentum on the ideas and they wouldn’t be as good as I thought when I was inspired to start them. (first level of fear, logical enough that I could just brush it away)
But so what if they’re “not as good” as you thought they would be?
I’m afraid that if they’re not very good people will figure out that I’m really a fraud and I’ll lose readers.
First, you’re not a fraud. Second, so what if you lose readers?
I’m afraid if I lose readers I’ll look stupid and people will judge me for that.
Then no one will like me. (I am now 9 years old)
Completely unannounced, Byron Katie’s voice barged in on my thought process and asked me: And WHO would you BE without that?
Who would I be without the fear of people not liking me? If that fear were simply gone from my life, what could I accomplish?
And what is the price to myself if I hold myself back because of this fear?
A few years ago at a SCBWI conference, author Laurie Halse Anderson said that one time when she’d been whining and complaining about some niggling thing to do with her writing, her husband told her: “You know what? You’re gonna die.”
He didn’t say it to be mean. She got it. The things that were holding her back weren’t worth paying attention to in this limited time on the planet we all have. Her fear of not doing those things became greater than her fear of doing them. And sometimes, that’s the place I also need to go to get my motivation back.
On the flip side, the love I feel for what I do when I’m actually doing it, and not trying to be too perfect or precious about it, is also life-fulfilling motivation. And even though fear (and anger) can be incredibly useful procrastination busters, I think “doing” from a space of love is where I’d much rather be.
YOUR WRITING WORKOUT
What is the fear (big or small) that holds your protagonist back? If you look deep enough, what is the essence of the fear? How does she justify her actions/inactions around this fear?
What price to herself for inaction? What will she lose if she does not act? Her freedom? A friendship? A position? A lover? Her self-worth?
And is there a moment when her fear of not having/doing something becomes greater than her fear of doing/having this thing?
TIMED WRITING GUIDELINES
Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes per start line
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.
(just do it!)
The excuse my character gives him/herself looks like . . .
The fear behind all of my character’s fears tells her . . .
The price of my character’s inaction is . . .
The scene where my character breaks the bonds of this fear happens when . . .
Now write your next scene . . . 🙂