By: Michelle Gunnin
“Saw a little girl touch a big bug and shout, “I conquered my fear! YES!” and calmly walk away.
Thinking back to childhood, I remember the apprehension at trying new things. Taking off the training wheels was horrifying until it was exhilarating. Same thing with jumping off the high dive, or splashing around in the deep end.
The element of danger is something that we weigh and measure before we take a risk. We may not think of it consciously, but our minds are continually calculating our surroundings for threat. The decisions we make 1,000 times a day are all made in sub-conscious awareness of our fears.
Children do not know these fears at first. They jump as high as possible on trampolines, not even thinking they might bounce right off. They swing higher and higher not considering what happens if they fall. Childhood is a time of adventure and exploration.
But, the first time a crawdad pinches, you adjust your willingness to risk looking under the next rock. Once you skin your knee trying to slide across the kitchen floor in socks, you will think before you act next time.
As we grow up, we take fewer risks because life teaches us that there is pain associated with taking chances. The underlying idea is to avoid discomfort. Sometimes, we don’t realize it is the reason for most of the decisions we make. Click To Tweet
If physical pain were not severe enough, emotional distress might be even worse. The feeling of shame when people laugh at you is horrifying. On the stage in 6th grade, I forgot my lines, they just took flight out of my head and did not come back. The silence as everyone stared at me made my face hot and my palms sweat. I stammered around, and no one came to my rescue. Tears pooled in my eyes, as my heart rate jack-hammered out of my chest.
Eventually, after what seemed hours, I ran off the stage, grabbed what I thought were my lines, and headed back out on the stage.
My character was a teacher, so thought I would “pretend” to read a book that was actually a script. Only what I grabbed, in my haste, was a math book. I was beet red when I realized I had no way out. The audience laughed. My friends on stage either laughed or gave me death stares. I simply said, “Class dismissed,” and the play was over and I retreated backstage to hide and cry. My friends made fun of me for months.
This traumatic experience kept me off of any stage and away from all microphones, well into adulthood. If I were going to express myself, it would be a private matter. Who knows, this experience may be one of the reasons I became a writer.
The idea that other people might dislike me still creates anxiety. I avoid conflict like the plague. I learned to care what others think, and being rejected used to be one of my biggest fears.
As I have aged, I worry less about what people think, but at the beginning of my writing, I wasn’t so nonchalant about it. When the time came for me to submit my first piece all the old anxiety resurfaced like a whale gasping for breath. I hesitated, procrastinated, made excuses and probably revised a thousand times. Anything to keep from pressing that button. I had to ask myself,
“What are you so afraid of? What is the worst that can happen?”
When We Lack Confidence
There is a particular fear that comes with being a writer. If you do not feel it, in all likelihood, you are not taking many risks. Beginning writers hesitate to think anything they write will be good enough for public consumption. They have ideas floating around in their heads, which never make it to publishing, and maybe not even on paper. Confidence is sorely lacking, and courage seems to have taken a holiday.
The answers to these two questions can set you free if you are honest with yourself. I was afraid of rejection. I thought people would not like what I wrote, or even worse, they would think it was stupid. I could hear the old laughter in my head. To put myself out there seemed a silly thing, yet, I had things I wanted to say, but why publish them?
Private Writing is a Start
I started writing in my journal. It never occurred to me to share what I wrote. It was my private thoughts. When I moved to letters, and stories for friends, I didn’t think of it as ‘real’ writing. I wrote a newsletter for my job, and in a rush to meet a deadline, I grabbed something from my journal which gained an audience. I was shocked that people liked it. Somehow, my confidence was bolstered, but it was still several years before I would proclaim myself a writer.
I wrote letters to the editor in newspapers. I wrote for magazines. Honestly, it was the editor of the local newspaper who wrote in my bio that I was a writer. I thought it was a misprint! By the time I realized he was telling the truth, I was embarrassed by the whole thing and didn’t dare speak it out loud myself.
Going Public Was Like Touching the Bug
I started my blog during my cancer journey, at a friend’s request so that she could read about what was happening without “bothering” me. I found it an excellent way to process both the bad and the good of the daily journey.
Publishing my first book came out of that place of pain. It seems my fears of rejection were unfounded. Does everyone agree with what I am always writing? No. Does that deter me from writing? Not anymore.
My concern that readers can not relate, or that what I write isn’t relevant has dropped by the wayside. With each step, anxiety about the next one was lessened. Life experience works the same with writing as it does with any other area. The more you have, the better you are and the less ruffled you get when trying something new.
Are You Ready to Touch the Bug?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What is the worst thing that can happen? Someone doesn’t like it? You don’t get published? It’s not good enough? I believe as humans our deepest desire is to be known just as we are and to belong, but we’re sometimes too afraid to put ourselves ‘out there’.
Instead of letting those things stop you, let them inform you. The more information you have about your writing, the better you get. The more tries you take, the more refined you become.
The most important part of writing is allowing your voice to be strong enough to overcome your fears. The world needs to hear from you. No one else will say it the way you can. Hit that submit button. What are you afraid of?
Bio: Michelle Gunnin
Michelle Gunnin is an everyday woman who is a writer, a wife, a mom of four adult children, a former teacher, a colleague, a missionary, a sister, and a daughter. She is also a cancer survivor, a caregiver, and a recovering Pharisee.
With more questions than answers, Michelle writes to explore both. She is determined to be in the moment and live fully…both things life has taught her.
You can follow her blog at michellesmosaic.wordpress.com
Michelle has an extensive amount of published work on Two Drops of Ink. Click this link for all of her posts: Michelle Gunnin
What are your greatest fears as a writer? How did you overcome them? When you help us overcome our fears as writers, you’re doing us a favor. Send in that submission to educate, entertain, or enchant us. Touch the bug.