My Super Grown-up Anti-Fear Technique

Sometimes when fear shouts, we shout back. Sometimes when it throws things, we . . . duck. |

Sometimes I fight fear by being louder than it is. By snarling back. By singing fight songs and shouting rah-rah-rah and doing a few high kicks. Sometimes that's what works.

But sometimes, when fear throws itself at me, I duck.

A few years ago, I was ready to walk away from writing. I'd tried, I'd failed (or so I thought). I wouldn't miss writing, and writing wouldn't miss me.

And in the midst of my certainty that I was done-done-done... I got this beautiful novel idea.

A middle-grade fantasy meets magical realism meets historical meets I'm still not very sure what.

I fell completely in love with this story. 

But for some reason, every time I worked on the draft, I panicked.

I got all skittish. Twitchy. I found myself backing away from the desk. 

Something about this project ignites all kinds of fear for me. And I'm still not 100% sure why. 

Maybe because it's full of the things I care most about: moments of beautiful truth, light versus dark, what it means to be a family, and finally a bunch of outcasts fighting for the sake of a city (which seems to be what I write about, time and time again). 

It's quirky, funny, very dark, very bright. It haunts me.

I was terrified to write it.

After a few weeks of "writing"--which was really me wandering around and doing anything but write--I figured out what to do.

I didn't get serious about making progress no matter how I felt. I didn't post motivational quotes all over my work space. I didn't make a big show of cheering myself on.

I went to bed.

I glanced over at my desk, over at fear, and I said, "oh, don't mind me." I dragged my papers over to my bed, arranging all my reference material. Off-handedly. Casually.

This isn't a big deal, I told myself. Probably I'm just going to nap. 

But I didn't. I snuggled under those covers, I turned my bed into a writing cave, and I wrote that story. 

I coaxed myself forward, one page at a time, one paragraph at a time. "I will just write this next sentence," I'd say. "And isn't it nice and cozy in here?"

Fear was still nosing around at my computer, so I just stayed in bed. I stayed in the place where I felt like I was whispering my story, like I was telling secrets. I ate cookies. I said, "We'll just see what comes next."

And that's how I got the draft done.

Ducking fear every step of the way.

I know that I tend to take the opposite route. After all, fear bullies us around plenty. I like bullying back, when I can.

But some manuscripts are too fragile for shouting.

When things are hard--when they are really hard, when it's storming inside--here's what you do. 

Be ridiculously nice to yourself. Do outrageously kind things for you and your writing life. 

Do whatever it is that makes a safe zone around you. Tell yourself whatever it is that you need to keep you safe. 

What would that look like for you? Light some candles. Crawl under your coziest blankets. Buy yourself a few armloads of fresh flowers and put them all over your office.

Maybe you surround yourself with photographs of everyone who believes in you. Or maybe you eat all the chocolate, or maybe all the cheese. (And then have some carrots with dinner, okay, because health and stuff.)

Create a safe place. Tell yourself it's okay. And believe it, when you say it.

And from that safe place, with the blankets around you and the candles lit and the good music on:

From that place, you write.