monday #110: fear.
I love when you answer questions in Monday morning emails. It's my new favorite thing you are doing, and today I was thinking about something I wished I could have some advice on, so I thought I'd ask you.
I can't put myself on paper. It's the thing I want most to be able to do in this world, and I just can't.
I've been writing since I was ten, originally just for myself, but then I started writing for people: I studied writing in school, I got a degree for it in college. I've made my money since then by being a "good writer". But I want to write like my heroes, I want to write like you and Jenna Bednarsky, and Jamie Tworkowski, and Shauna Niequist and Elizabeth Gilbert; I want to put myself on paper. I want to write every little thought I have. I want to have my writing be good because it is me, and somebody else was able to say, "hey, me too." But I'd be okay with nobody ever seeing a word of mine again if it meant I could really put myself on the paper. I'd be happy doing that in journals for the rest of my life. I don't want to copy or mimic or do it just to please - I want to do it because I love it. Because there is a voice inside of me that needs to come out.
But there's a block. There's a fear. There's a discouragement. An inability to believe I can. A worry that I"ll unleash a monster I can't control. A fear of not being good enough. A worry that if I don't write for others, it's not worth doing. These thoughts stop me every time.
Can you help?
wishing you the very best,
I am writing this email to myself today. As much as I am writing for you, I am writing for me. It might come off in a tough love fashion but I think we can all handle it today.
You listed a bunch of authors in which you wish you could write like. I couldn't help but notice the common thread strung between all of them: vulnerability and transparency. Each author you listed is someone I've looked up to for their ability to be honest and unapologetic.
I have to believe today that this is your problem. The problem isn't that you cannot write. You are already a writer. The problem is that you are afraid to put your whole self out there-- the good and the bad-- because you are afraid that you won't be taken as you are.
Writer or not, I think that is one of the biggest fears we face as we go about this life: the fear that someone will misinterpret us, write us off, or decide they don't want us. And D? That's life. Life is capable of holding just as much rejection as it does bravery. I wish I could say something different than that but every reader of this Monday Morning Email has faced, and will face, rejection. Rejection is normal. The sting of it never ceases but you can absolutely learn to push past it.
I spoke in front of a crowd of 2,700 women this weekend. In the weeks leading up to giving my talk, I was given one piece of feedback for the editing process. I was asked to edit anxiety out from the beginning of the talk and, instead, establish myself as an authority. I was asked to be confident. I was asked to be bold and to understand that I had a reason for standing up on that stage.
Do you know how hard that was for me? That editor was basically telling me that I could no longer hide behind my fear anymore. I had to establish myself as an authority.
D, our fear gets old. Would you still drink curdled and chunky milk in your fridge right now if it had expired 6 months ago? Doubtful. Then why are you still consuming your fear? Your fear has expired. You've exposed it to the world in an email to me and now your fear has expired. That doesn't mean it isn't there. That doesn't mean it will not tempt you. But it does mean that things like fear come with an expiration date and we need to honor that and act accordingly.
I love what Liz Gilbert says in her book Big Magic, “Here’s what I’m going to tell you about your fear: It’s the most boring thing about you. The most interesting thing about you is your creativity, your passion, your love, your joy, your faith — all that stuff is fascinating.”
D, I will close by telling you the very same thing that I must repeat to myself. You cannot allow fear to write for you. Fear will be the kind of writer that wants you to keep your words stocked up in a diary. Fear will tell you how you don't have a voice, you don't have a purpose, you don't have a reason to write.
Each writer reaches the juncture between deciding to let fear write or allowing something bigger write, something more powerful. If they do not cross that threshold then I am afraid they either never write or they write something they will never be fully proud of.
There is braver stuff inside of you than you fear, D. It's begging like a half-starved mutt to get out from your rib cage and see the world. People need the stuff inside of you that isn't fear. They need your love. They need your faith. That's how people will grow and change from the things you write-- when you start owning what you have to say and choosing to move towards the path of authority.
Stop holding your writing on a leash. Sit down. Write a page of honest and good words. Tell that page, "I cannot keep you to myself." Share it with someone. Take it from there.
tying you closer than most,