Conquering Fear

When I feel fear creeping into my body, I am reminded of all of those well-worn quotes:

  • Do not operate from fear.
  • There is nothing to fear except fear itself.
  • Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

I have hypothesized before that fear is kissing cousins with “doubt.”  Fear creeps in…

When we feel uncertain of our expertise.

When we feel worried about being judged.  

When we feel unsupported.  

When we try new things.  

Doubt comes with us and fear jumps in the suitcase like an unwanted bed bug.

Lately, I find myself feeling more fearful. What do I fear most lately? I suppose failure.  

After decades of being a television executive, and now almost two years into being a television producer, I find myself feeling almost apologetic when people ask me, “How are things going?”

I am talking about my professional circle who when asking about “things," actually mean “work." And, by “work”, they mean my television projects. They want to know how this “second” career as a tv producer is panning out. Occasionally, someone will ask me if I am enjoying “retirement.” They assume I am retired because now I live in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with retirement, except that I am not retired. This results in me feeling some combo platter of defensive and deflated. In spite of the fact that I have a number of projects in development, I don’t have any shows on the air yet. So it seems like I am not doing anything. I remind them (or really myself) that television development is a very slow process. It takes months to develop a project. It might take years to get anything made, which is why I started writing in the first place. I needed something that I could create. Something that I could control.

It is also why I started writing a weekly blog. It gave me a forum to be totally creative. Where I can create my own content. Pick my own topics. Not have to answer to anyone else. Not have to wait for anyone else. It’s something that allows me to explore ideas, rant, whine, celebrate, wordsmith, ponder and engage with others.

I gave myself some parameters: a post every Monday. A weekly goal. It was going to cure my Monday Blues. In many ways it has.  In many ways, it has not only given me incredible freedom, but also joy and purpose.

But I hear the “peanut gallery” in my head. The peanut gallery are those who knew me “before.” When I was a professional, successful TV executive. Those who are waiting for me to parlay that experience and knowledge into my next lucrative endeavor. The blog doesn’t fit into that mold.  

Some of those nearest and dearest to me have referred to it as “psychic income” or my “vanity project” and it’s like a knife through my creative heart. I hear those labels and I feel defensive, embarrassed and even selfish. I am supposed to be using my expertise to create another lucrative career.  Not just writing to write.

I come from a generation that doesn’t acknowledge art unless it comes in a familiar package: a song on the radio, a screenplay that gets made into a movie, a teleplay that airs on television, an article that is published, a book that you can buy.  “Art” is validated by someone willing to pay for it. Even I can fall into this trap.

My teenage daughter and I listen to music in the car ride every day to and from school. I have given her the gift of “Spotify premium." She spends hours curating music and playlists that she likes, and in turn, I am exposed to new music almost daily that she finds and shares with me in the car. Her taste in music is excellent. She searches for songs that have lyrics with meaning and melodies that are haunting.  She leans towards the singer/songwriters of her generation in the way that I did when I listened to those of my generation like Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor and Elton John.

But as I listen to the inspired lyrics and beautiful melodies of these young artists, I can’t help but think:  If only I could write music. If only I could play music, then MY words would have more meaning. I look at the extraordinary artists, rock stars, sports stars, movie stars, novelists, screenwriters, and inventors as having a real talent.

A blog simply doesn’t fulfill those criteria of my generation. A blog is not a book. A blog is not a screenplay. A blog is not music. A blog is not considered an art.

But my blog is my music. It is my poetry. It is my book. I continue writing every week as an exercise, as a discipline, as an expression, as an art form… it is my art.

And yet, this is where the fear creeps in.  

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons, she had a beautiful description of fear:

Fear has a lot of shady disguises.

Fear shows up as perfectionism.

Fear shows up as insecurity.

Fear shows up as guilt.

Fear shows up as procrastination.

What if I work really hard and nothing comes of it? What if I have made a mistake in my new endeavor?

Fear is kryptonite to creativity.

But when things are quiet, why do I feel more fear coming up? Is fear generated by silence? Is that when we over-analyze everything because there is simply not enough distraction?

Does distraction quell fear? No.

Bravery quells fear. Doing quells fear.

So I tell myself:

Go and do. Keep writing because it makes you happy.  

Keep writing because you make a connection with others.

Keep writing because it just may lead to something unexpected.

Be brave and be passionate about what you are doing.

… and something beautiful will unfold.