Conquering Fear

Yesterday I spent the day with writer friends from the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA, participating in a workshop presented by Bob Mayer. He spoke about many things in his six-hour talk, including turning ideas into stories, recognizing and developing conflict (my biggest problem, perhaps), outlining and plotting, characters’ needs and flaws, and story arcs. But for some reason, the part that resonated with me most was his discussion of fear.

FullSizeRender (1)Fear, Mayer said, is “a feeling of alarm or disquiet caused by the expectation of danger, pain, or the like.” It stems from uncertainty. Since life is one long uncertainty, all of us have fears. We fear failure, rejection, criticism, loss. We fear making the wrong decision, making mistakes. I can remember three times in my life when I was truly fearful: the day I graduated from college; the day I made a commitment to start my own law firm; and the day I sent off my first manuscript to an editor who’d requested it. Every one of those marked a decision to leave the safety of the known and start on an unknown path potentially fraught with peril. Graduating from college I realized it was the first time in my life I really had no clue what I was supposed to do next. The entire world was before me, and absolutely anything could happen. Starting my own law firm, I left the security of a regular paycheck in exchange for freedom–to take the work I wanted, to get away from the backstabbing bullshit of my old firm, and to spend more time with my four-year old son. And the day I sent that manuscript was the first time I faced either real acceptance or true rejection of my writing.

That editor did reject my manuscript, which stung. I am extremely fortunate in that another editor was waiting to see it too, and when she did, she bought it, and my life as a published author began. But all three of these moments in time taught me that to act in the face of fear is, while scary as hell, worth every tear shed and every night spent tossing and turning, asking yourself whether you’ve done the right thing. Mayer said yesterday, “Heroism is taking action in the face of fear.” While I certainly don’t consider myself a hero for facing my fears, perhaps all of us who take that step into the unknown do have a bit of the hero inside us. Although you’re never going to see me jumping out of an airplane. No way.

If fear is preventing you from accomplishing your dreams, take a closer look at yourself. I’ll bet there’s a hero inside of you too.

22 Comments:

  1. Mayer’s workshops are wonderful, aren’t they? The definition of fear certainly is something we all can identify with. Thanks for sharing three of your instances. I can sympathize with standing on a threshold and wondering, ‘What now?’ Now that I’ve actually retired, I’m there. Terrific post, Marin.

  2. So inspiring, Marin! Facing and conquering our own fears leads to the single greatest turning points of our lives, and sharing your own fears is very brave. Sharing!

  3. I was at the same conference and while the fear factor didn’t resonate with me nearly as much as it did with Marin, I am now comfortable with some other ideas he presented. I’ve been asking “What if?” for a long time now, creating new story ideas. But now, I’m eager to ask “What now?” when it comes to expanding my career. Thanks for sharing what you took away from the meeting, Marin.

  4. Great post, Marin! I try to remember that I’m not alone. Being human means facing our fears and conquering self-doubt every day if we want to make progress. The biggest hurdle to achieving our dreams is within ourselves — conquering our own fears, insecurities and self-doubt to put ourselves out there and make ourselves vulnerable. I recently read a quote from the popular songwriter Andy Grammar — he mentioned writing about being a virgin until he met his wife. Now if that’s not making yourself vulnerable I don’t know what is. But it’s also the secret of his success — being completely honest and revealing in your art.

    • It’s so true–we are so often the architects of our own failure, and fear is a very big part of that.

  5. Wonderful post, Marin! I’ve often said to my children, “Do not hide behind a shield of fear. Use it as a sword and go forth!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “swallowed” my own fear and used it to push harder. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Great Post ! And so true. We must risk failure to truly live.

  7. Are you talking to me? Loved this post. He covered so much, hope I can remember some of it. He was right on about FEAR. For me, I don’t know if it’s fear of failure or fear of success. I’m pushing to find out. Great post.

  8. Great post! I know the fear you speak of. Not everyone faces it down so you should be proud of yourself.

  9. Great post, and great reminder. Thanks for sharing– I love the books Bob Mayer writes with Jennifer Crusie (assuming its the same Bob?) sounds like it was a great workshop!

    • It’s definitely the same guy–he had some great stories about that collaboration. Thanks for stopping by, Katie!

  10. Hi Marin, Fascinating post. I congratulate you on taking the time to think and write about your reflections on fear – it seems like it can only make you a stronger woman and an even more creative writer. Best to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
5 × 21 =


  • Archives