Fear and I have been both good friends and bitter enemies all of my life.
When I made friends with fear, he helped me make poor decisions that allowed my life to shrink into a tiny box. There were things I didn't do and places I didn't go and experiences I didn't have because of fear. He kept me close, and for the most part, I allowed it.
Then there was a day I made the decision to live life differently. I decided that fear wasn't a good or true friend and the little box that was my life was restricting. Of course, it was fine to make that decision, but a painful process to start living it. It didn't change overnight, and there are times when I wonder if it has changed at all. It has, but fear is a jealous lover and keeps coming back and whispering in my ear. I know better. I know my true Friend, who calls me Courage and gives me the strength to fight. I know, but sometimes I stumble.
These days, fear is more insidious. It can't get to me through the old, blatant ways, so it creeps in the back door and starts to whisper. I'm ashamed to say, sometimes I listen. For a while.
For the last seven years, I have been learning, studying and working toward being a writer. I took courses, attended conferences, started this blog, attended webinars and wrote a novel. That's right. I wrote a novel. I worked with two writer friends and edited it until I had it as good as I felt it could be. At a writer's conference, I spoke to an editor about it, and she asked for my manuscript. I sent it.
You need to look at the last paragraph. Those are not the actions of a fearful person. There was lots of trepidation involved in signing up for my first course and attending my first conference, but I did it. I didn 't believe I could write fiction, but I did. I stood in a room crowded with other writers and signed up for interviews with editors and agents. I talked to them through nerves and jitters. I pushed send.
You would think by this time, fear would be no more than annoying twitches at the edge of my consciousness. A little mosquito to swat and go on with life. Not so.
I received my manuscript back from the editor with eleven chapters edited, which was a tremendous gift on her part. Her letter was complimentary and encouraging. She suggested I look at what she'd edited, apply it to the rest of the book and send it back to her. She said it was almost there. She said it was an important topic and I was the one to write it.
I should have been ecstatic. I was ecstatic, but fear started to whisper, and I listened. "What if you can't figure out what you're supposed to do? What if you send it to her and it's still not right? What if..?" The whispers turned to shouts, and before I knew it, I had been paralysed for two weeks.
Two weeks! I didn't read the edits, I didn't work on it at all. I didn't open the manuscript. Fear sat beside me, feeding me excuses. I was too tired. I needed to spend time with friends. My house needed cleaning.
Sometimes when the enemy tries to tie you up with fear, he blows it by going too far and doing something ridiculous. In the middle of cleaning and organising every cupboard in my kitchen, and the stove and fridge, a thought struck me.
I must be some kind of desperate to be cleaning instead of writing, because I unequivocally hate housework.
I began to think of all the people who invested in me as I learned, and those who stand in the wings and cheer. I thought of my story, which, although fiction, has an important message. I thought of the people I was hoping would read it.
It took a few more nights, but finally I sat down and opened the manuscript. I took notes, and it became clear. I tend to revert to passive voice, and I need to use more active verbs. There were a few times I told instead of showed. I began to get excited. Yes, I saw what needed to be done, it wasn't major, and I could do it.
And now I am. Chapter by chapter, I'm back on track.
I write this tonight because: Even though I am far along in this journey of fighting fear, it was able to render me ineffectual for two weeks. It's sneaky. It's paralysing. It's embarrassing.
The other reason is, I know I'm not the only one fighting this battle. The key is to listen, and to hopefully not take two weeks (or a lifetime) to do it.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes before you. He will never leave you or forsake you." Deat. 31:6