New year, old fear

What scares you most as a writer?

The start of a new year can bring as many anxieties as it does possibilities. Will this really be your year, the year you eat all the kale, write all the words, and run all the miles? Will you really call your grandmother every week and never, ever lose your temper? Is this the year of the big promotion, the dream relocation, or the finished novel? In short: Is this the year your dreams come true? Or – gulp – is it the year you start strong but fall short?

I think about fear a lot, both as a writer and as a human. I have to, because if I’m not careful, it will run my life.

The start of a new decade can multiply all these anxieties by 10.

I think about fear a lot, both as a writer and as a human. I have to, because if I’m not careful, it will run my life. I may not be smarter than the average bear, but I’m a hell of a lot more anxious than your average writer, and sometimes it’s easier to let Fear take the wheel. See, when Fear drives, you tend to stay in your lane. You drive the same safe roads you’ve always driven. It’s kind of nice, circling that familiar loop. The scenery never changes.

And neither do you.

Writers can’t really grow if they see the same stuff all the time, circling the same material like suds circle the drain. Our work can’t reach new heights if we never stretch our arms into the unfamiliar. But I’ve learned my fearful heart doesn’t panic at the sight of the unfamiliar. It could care less about the horrors outside the window. No, my fear – and a lot of people’s, I’d wager – rests more in the internal than the external.

Writers can’t really grow if they see the same stuff all the time, circling the same material like suds circle the drain.

It’s not a promotion’s workload but the concern that I can’t handle it. It’s not a big move but rather the suspicion that I’m not strong enough to adapt. It’s not the revision itself but the worry that I can’t fix the problem.

I don’t fear the mountain, I fear the climb.

So I don’t tend to make many New Year’s resolutions. I have enough inner wars waging over my long-term goals without worrying over my daily dark chocolate intake. But this year, I am making a New Decade resolution. It’s as simple and as difficult as anything I’ll ever promise myself, and if you’ve hunted around for a resolution this year and come up empty, I’d encourage you to take up the same:

I will finally write the story I’ve been afraid to write.

Every single person has a story we’re afraid to tell. But these are the stories that must be told. These are the mountains that we need to climb.

So, dear reader, promise to grab Fear by the collar with both hands in 2020. Haul him out of the driver’s seat. Take your rightful place behind the wheel and start driving. It may take a year, and it may take 10. It’s your journey, and only you know how long it will take.

Just know you’re firmly on the path you’re meant to be on. And when you see Fear hitchhiking ahead in the distance, keep both eyes on the road and speed right by. Leave him in the dust where he belongs. Rip out the rearview and drive on – and when your story is published, no one need ever know he was there.

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