Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.
Last week one of my new Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life™ one-on-one clients wrote me an email in response to the 6-month mentorship schedule I’d just sent her. Uh, oh: she felt like she might @#$$ her pants, she said, and wondered if someone else—surely not she—had made this commitment. She confided: “The writer I was in your class feels backstage and I’m scared sitting here tonight!”
This from a woman who has worked as a firefighter, has earned a doctoral degree in philosophy, and is the mother of three children, among many other life accomplishments. She’s a mindful woman committed to living a conscious and creative life. She has done her share of personal development and inner healing work.
So why this reaction?
Well, first, her reaction is natural. As Pema Chödrön says in the quote at the top of this article, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
Memoir is a true story. The very nature of writing memoir, then, brings you closer to your truth.
As we move closer to the truth of our own experience—the truth of what we know, the truth of who we are—we inevitably bump up against fear.
No matter how accomplished we are in our lives, once we commit—really commit, like my client has done—to writing the story that wants to be told, we have to write past the fear that will try to silence us.
Writing past fear is exactly where craft meets consciousness. No matter how much craft we have under our belt, there comes a point—the point at which we commit to our truth—when we have to write past fear.
When I begin working with a writer one-on-one, I have her complete what I call a Foundation of Consciousness packet.
This packet consists of conscious writing exercises that help her—and me—distinguish the truth of who she is—her voice, her subject, her vision—from fear.
When you commit to writing the story that wants to be told, you are also committing to seeing the truth of who you are and to becoming your true self, both on the page and off the page.
In her seminal work Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “Your job [as a writer] is to see people as they really are, and to do this, you have to know who you are in the most compassionate possible sense.”
Emphasis mine to underscore the consciousness work that writing demands.
See, consciousness work is compassionate work. An integral part of this work is learning to distinguish fear and its many guises from the truth of who you are.
In other words, to become a conscious, fear-savvy writer, you have to see yourself through true eyes, not through eyes of fear.
Fear is never the truth of who you are. It is nothing more or less than “a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
Which is to say, your truth, your voice, your vision.
“I assume I’m not the only one to mess her pants when it’s time to begin,” my client wrote in her email.
I smiled when I read this. Not because I want my clients to mess their pants! But because pants-messing is an indication of commitment. And commitment is a sign of a fear-savvy woman who will dare to see the truth of who she is in the most compassionate possible sense.
I pointed her in the direction of the first conscious writing exercise in her Foundation of Consciousness packet, an exercise that would help her begin to distinguish the fear she was feeling in the face of her commitment from the truth of who she is as a writer.
Fear is not going to magically go away. Quite the opposite. The more we commit to our writing, the louder fear becomes. But by naming it, we begin to shift our relationship to it.
And make no mistake, shifting your relationship to fear is an act of compassion toward yourself that honors your writing.
So, how does fear show up in your writing practice? Let us know in the comments below so that you can name it and, in so doing, see your writing truth in the most compassionate possible sense.