Facing Fears for the New Year

Racing heart, sweating palms, mouth starting to dry up as I lick my lips hopelessly trying to translate lacking moisture. It never seems to get any easier.

I’ve been told it’s foolish. People scoff at me when they find out, raise their eyebrows, chuckle as though wondering if it’s really a joke. It’s not everyday you meet someone who’s terrified of driving…

Fear is an unexplainable strange entity that few have ever been able to give voice to over centuries of pondering. No matter how irrational and odd it seems, there still remains something there, something that can inhibit people’s most basic abilities. Like mine with getting in a car and going a few blocks. It may seem foolish, but it’s there. Especially so with the fact I’m still figuring out how to drive stick.

My parents gave me a manual transmission car for Christmas. I’m grateful, to be sure. But nonetheless, it has been an adventure I’ve taken it up with a great deal of panic and a large number of tears and one too many meltdowns over stalling. Now, you have to understand I bawled the first day of my driver’s ed class, so this is nothing new for me. Every time I get into a supposedly terrifying situation I break down without real explanation. And most everyone looks at me like I’m acting ridiculous. What’s the big deal? People drive everyday!

Anxiety is a nasty beast to be sure, and one I’m still trying to conquer. And coming up to school in my new cute little car, I had trouble facing it without feeling my limbs start tensing up and my heart start acting like it wants to run a marathon. And as I struggled my first day in town to get it over the smallest little hump, I found myself losing hope. That is until my father spoke reason to my emotion ridden brain.

“You do this every single time,” my father said with a sigh. “I remember you crying and telling us you couldn’t go to college the first day you were here. And look at you now, you’re a senior…about to graduate. You have good grades, you’ve been very successful.”

And what he said was true as I recalled back to my tearful first orientation day at my college. And as I thought about it began to dawn on me my patterns of behavior. All throughout my life there have been hills I’ve had to take. And at the bottom of each one I’ve always been terrified, always been uncertain, always managed to stall a few times trying to get up them and sometimes panicked and decided I couldn’t do it. I thought back to my anxiety starting high school, or trying not to cry sitting on a plane going to France by myself, or bawling in the car on the way to volley ball camp because it just seemed too hard.

Life is full of hills. And for some reason I just can’t get it in my mind that it’s the same process for each one, no matter how high or steep or difficult they seem at first. I just need to keep calm and focus my attention on giving the engine enough gas to make it, pull off the clutch slowly without panicking and jerking off midway through.

The same applies to my life as a writer. In many ways when it comes to my writing I’m still that terrified little beginning driver. I have my car, I have my learned skills. But even with all this practice, sometimes it just seems like too much. Hence why I’ve backed down hills like editing my work, or submitting to publishers, or sharing with more people.

But what good is a car if you never drive it? And that has been my constant thought these last few weeks. It does no good to me, or to the car, or to anyone else for that matter. I’m hoping this last semester will be a good time to change that. And I’m starting big.

I’m writing a novella for my senior capstone class. Which means I’ll be sharing with my professors, and classmates, and I’ll have to pull myself out of my little shell and actually be vulnerable. And sure I’m scared, as I always am. But sometimes it’s necessary to face your fears. Again and again in life looking back I’ve wondered why I was so terrified of random moments. And sure, some of those fears never go away…like driving (although it’s somewhat easier), or traveling abroad, or even moving on to a new stage in life (like graduation *shudder*), but at the same time looking back I know now I can order food at a restaurant without getting too nervous (seriously, I was a really awkward kid), I can take my essays in for editing without being too afraid of the criticism, I can make myself do new forms of writing like journalism, or go eat at the cafeteria by myself and be just fine.

And just like I celebrated conquering the little hill near my house, I celebrate the small successes and look forward to conquering the bigger ones as well. So I encourage others to do as well. No matter how timid or shy or scared or anxious or anything else you are, never be afraid to take risks. After all, you miss every publishing opportunity you don’t try for (because hey, the soccer goal metaphor works for us too right?).

What are you afraid of (as a writer, or in life in general)? How have you conquered your fears? It’s a crazy semester but I’m hoping to be back on here from time to time, hopefully updating as I work through my process of actually putting a novella out in the open.

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6 Comments

Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Facing Fears for the New Year

  1. Lordy, can I identify! You name it, I’m afraid of it. I did discover one thing about writing, however. I just have to keep reminding myself when someone responds to or critiques my writing, it’s all about the process. I’m a novice, so it’s all about the learning. As long as I can focus on that, I’m really open to suggestions, etc. So just remember, it’s about the process, not about you personally or your talent. You’re a h*ll of a writer, girl!

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement! You have great thoughts and I really appreciate all of your feedback. Thanks for being such a dedicated reader. And I’m glad to know I’m not the only one afraid of lots of things. 🙂

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was afraid of ordering in restaurants. 🙂 I think the only way I’ve worked through my writing fears is to do the thing I’m afraid of repeatedly. It used to take me weeks to build up the courage to send anything I wrote off for feedback, even to my family. But the more I’ve done it, the less time it’s taken me to actually send the darn thing. Today, I finished a draft of something and sent it off to five people with minimal stressing. Granted, it still takes me a few days to get up the guts to hit send when it’s headed to an actual agent or editor, but baby steps, right?

  3. Simone Moore

    Great article or blog or whatever you call it. Great gains require great risks. But being able to capture your feelings and get other people to empathize is definitely a strong asset as a writer and as a human being. I felt the same way about my first car and even still manual transmissions are all different and a little scary. It is the loss of control and the realization of consequences that scares most of us out of trying new things. As I get older I get less scared for myself and more scared for other people I love. But I have found out that 95% of the things we are afraid of never actually happen and the 5% of things that do happen always turn out differently than I expected. I was terrified when my Mom got cancer but we got through it somehow and now we don’t even think about it. And the truly terrible things that have happened in my life were things I would have never dreamed of being scared of before they happened. Just have to face stuff and give yourself lots of credit on the other side of it. Also found out that most everyone has those feelings and it is your job as a writer to explore them and write them in a way that gives meaning to the rest of us.

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