Fear, Reporting For Duty.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about fear the past few days.

The reason for this is that fear is the unwelcome but inevitable companion to any creative endeavour…

And this project is bringing up all kinds of nutty fears for me.

Here’s how I know that fear has reported for duty for the day:

  • Compulsive interest in doing housework and errands
  • Obsessively re-reading stuff I’ve written previously, often the same piece multiple times a day, with a vague sense that I’ll never be able to pull that off again
  • Sitting at my computer for long stretches, writing and deleting the same few things over and over
  • Organising daytime social events — coffee, lunch, calls — that use up time that would usually be protected for work
  • A climbing sense of physical agitation that I haven’t done anything useful and can’t think what I should do instead

None of these fit what we expect fear to look like — they’re just symptoms.

They mask the underlying fear, which, for me, is usually about judgement.

Some days it’s about failure, or success.

Some days it’s a fear of starting. Fear of stopping.

Fear of not writing enough. Fear of writing too much.

Fear of being lame. Fear of being needy. Fear of being needed.

Fear of not doing what people wanted from me, or from being watched when I’m stalled.

On and on and on and it’s BORING.

Fear is boring. It’s so predictable, you can see it coming a mile off.

And that, right there, is the fix.

When something is so predictable, you can plan for it. You can put preventative measures in place.

When you can identify fear as the root cause of a host of symptoms, you can observe it from a distance, impersonally, and decide what you’re going to do with it.

You can separate the fear from you — like ideas, fears come from within us, but they’re not us — and get to work even if it’s still present.

The fix is often simple. A walk in some brisk air. A nap. A run. A change of scenery.

Sometimes it takes a bit more time, and you need a moment of retreat, to get the distance you need.

That’s fine. Do what you need to in order to be able to put the fears aside: journal, meditate, text your therapist.

But do something. Don’t sit there stewing. Don’t let fear decide what you get to do with your life.