The Benefit of Fear

Today I found myself on a Greyhound bus with Steven Pressfield‘s The War of Art in hand.  As I read page after page, everything seemed to fall into place.  Not just my difficulties with writing but almost every aspect of my life.

Pressfield had this to say about fear:

Are you paralyzed with fear?  That’s a good sign.

Fear is good.  Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator.  Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Pressfield defines the writer’s (or any creative individual’s) biggest enemy as Resistance.  Resistance is procrastination.  Resistance is disorder and chaos.  Resistance is self-doubt, and Resistance is fear.  Resistance is the voice inside that tells us to clean the house instead of writing the first few sentences of a story.  It’s even the force that subtly cripples us with fear and steers us far from the computer.

And there’s no easy way to defeat this Resistance fellow.  You just need to be aware of it and fight it daily.  Fight it constantly.  You need to recognize its disguises.  Why?  Because, as Pressfield explained, the more fear we feel before jumping into something, the more sure we can be that it must be done.

When it comes to writing – to writing and planning and shaping my idea for a novel – I get this knot in my stomach that appears every time I near a laptop.  And every time I explain to a stranger that my greatest ambition in life is to write and write well, I riddle my phrases with so much self-doubt that by the end of the conversation, I’m not even sure I should be a writer.  But according to Pressfield, all that fear is a good thing.

It reveals just how important writing is to me.  And judging by the vice-like grip with which fear often grabs hold of my heart, I need to write more than anything else in this world.

So with a three day holiday looming in sight, examine the fear in your life.  Are you afraid of writing?  Do you frequently employ self-doubt and self-criticism to rationalize another day away?