Fearless Writing: Running Toward the Dog

“[I]ronically, the woman who appears well adapted may be the one who has simply become most comfortable being governed by her fears, while the ‘neurotic’ one is still gamely struggling to reach fearlessness.” ~ Becoming Fearless, Arianna Huffington

Serendipity. My favorite word of all time. It happened a couple of times this week.

First, on Thursday I read a terrific short story by Annie Proulx and wanted to share the very beginning here in a blog post. I thought it would also be good to include something more about Annie, and the first thing I found was a Paris Review interview. When I got to the last section of the interview and saw how it related to the opening sentence I’d planned to share, I felt a little shiver—the good kind.

picture of inner critic personifiedSecond, I’ve been musing lately on the idea of living and writing fearlessly, what that really means, especially how I’d mistakenly thought of being fearless as just for people who want to parachute from airplanes or scale physical mountains. I’m only now realizing that some mountains (and heights from which to fall) are in our minds. Serendipitously, fellow Breepod peas D.M. Cunningham and Kelsey Ketch (The Fear of Writing, Part I) and Rebekah Joy Plett (Fear) all wrote about the topic of fear this week, and I knew my thoughts—and fears—are just where they are meant to be.

Why does this kind of serendipity make me so happy? I think it’s because there is so much in our lives we can’t control, and serendipity is the universe’s way of saying that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes what we can’t control is just what we need, or what we want, or at least what is most interesting.

What does writing fearlessly mean to you? Could it be that we create much of our own fear? In a BusinessWeek video, Arianna Huffington writes of the inner critic that fuels our fears:

“We have this inner critic in our heads. I call the inner critic the obnoxious roommate. It’s constantly tearing us down, and it’s never too far away from us. It’s judging us, and it’s doing this whole negative self-talk. And I believe that is part of why our fears are so magnified, and we need to silence that voice of the inner critic.” Watch Video

In another short video on beliefnet, Buddhist author Susan Piver describes fearlessness not as a lack of fear, but as a state of openness and receptivity, of “running toward the dog.”

Finally, Jon Kabat Zinn offers a bit of another perspective. Instead of running toward our fears in an assertive way, “what if it were possible to hold the whole of it in awareness and allow it to be, just as it already is?”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fpLGpeeW5c]

11 thoughts on “Fearless Writing: Running Toward the Dog

  1. Talking of serendipity, I read this not 5 minutes after I had chosen to do something that I knew would be good for me and my writing but that scared me. If I hadn’t just sent the email, this would have pushed me to do it.

    • Sandy, that’s a very good point. It’s interesting how the fear of failure can be THE motivating factor for so many people and utterly debilitating for others. I wish I understood it all better.

    • Rebecca, I know what you mean! I find that I have the best personal growth when life is telling (sometimes yelling) me all the things that are beyond my control.

      Thank goodness for serendipitous moments. 🙂

  2. Lisa,

    I love that quote at the beginning! For me, writing fearlessly means writing even when I am full of doubt. I always want everything to come out perfect the first time — cohesive and well-versed. But, it never does. I have to remind myself of that and push on through, because I can’t rewrite something if I don’t have a “something” to work with. You know?

    Great post!

  3. Christi, what a great reminder: that if we are waiting to be doubt-free or to know our work is good enough without a doubt, we are waiting in vain.

    “I can’t rewrite something if I don’t have a ‘something’ to work with.” OMG, you should put that on a coffee mug and market it! 😀

  4. This post is a bit of serendipity for me, especially the quote at the beginning. I have been resisting submission of my latest manuscript because of fear. This is exactly what I needed to get me going on sending out those queries. Thanks for posting 😀

  5. Awesome post, Lisa!! It is amazing how we are all thinking about our fears and how it relates to our writing. Fear is such a huge driving emotion to us all. I’m glad we are facing them head on and going for the tackle.

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