Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

1 Comment

Slaying the Dragon of Fear

I had a crisis of faith the other day (actually, it lasted 3 days). It was triggered by someone offering me an opportunity of a lifetime, and me answering, YES. As soon as I hung up the phone, I thought, “Oh shit.”

I spent the rest of that day and the next two days questioning whether I had made the right decision. What had it meant to say YES? What had I gotten myself into? Was I really ready for this commitment?? The more I thought and talked about it, the more I realized I AM READY. And that all my doubts were about FEAR.

Let’s talk about Fear. A lot of people think that the opposite of fear is Courage, and that Courage is being “fearless.” Let me tell you something. No one is fearless. NO ONE. Unless they’re delusional.

Fear is natural. It’s one of the most natural emotions out there – probably every living thing on this earth feels fear at some point. It’s a self-preservation tool. Our brains tells us to fear something because it wants to protect us from danger or pain, or more complex emotions like embarrassment or ridicule.

I have a friend who admitted her greatest fear is WASTING TIME. So, it’s very difficult for her to start something new because she is afraid it will be all in vain.

One of the greatest fears we commonly have is the fear of FAILURE. What we don’t talk about nearly as much is the FEAR OF SUCCESS. You know that phrase, “Be careful what you wish for”? Fear of success is a real thing.

We’re told to envision what we want and strive for it with all our being. What happens when you get what you want? There’s a real possibility that you might freak out. And THAT’S OKAY. How you move through a moment like this is crucial.

The first thing to do is BREATHE. Don’t panic. Don’t do anything sudden. Take a moment – or a few days – to analyze the situation from all sides.

You might want to seek advice from loved ones and close confidants. But only reach out to people who know you really well and that you 100% trust to be both honest and discreet (a crisis of faith is a vulnerable moment and the wrong type of person can take advantage of that). Finally, be ready to hear what people tell you.

When I reached out to my closest friends, each one had different advice.

“It sounds like you’re looking for permission to let yourself off the hook,” one observed.

Another told me to write the Pros and Cons of my decision down and call her back. Ironically, my Cons list was longer! But the Pros were more compelling. And, on further reflection, I realized that everything I’d listed in the Cons was fear-based. And I had vowed to not make my decision based on fear.

The most consistent thing people told me was, “That’s the Fear talking.”

The most important thing is to let yourself have this moment without berating yourself. FEEL IT. Let it move through you. It’s normal. It’s healthy! It means you realize the gravity of the situation, the stakes. And it’s good to think things through.

Back to the word Courage.

The definition of Courage is doing something DESPITE your fear. Put another way, Courage is about overcoming fear. This is a huge part of drama, right? We want our heroines to slay the dragon even though they’re afraid. We want to see them push through it and come out the other side victorious. Even if they fail, it’s far more satisfying to see someone overcome their fears than not to.

And how do we overcome fear? With PREPARATION.

With the right preparation – doing your homework – you can do anything you set your mind to. After I had made up my mind to go forward, I texted one of the people I’d spoken with. She wrote back, “Be prepared.”

There is no getting around putting in the time and work. So, if you’re not willing to do that, maybe you should walk away. But if you ARE… the world is yours.

So, go ahead and slay that dragon.


Fear Is The Mind-Killer

Do you ever wonder what would happen if your dreams came true? I don’t mean your dreams of winning the lottery. I mean the dreams that you’re pursuing at this very moment, or the dreams that you would be pursuing if you had the time. For me, the dream is to write and make movies for a living. I don’t necessarily desire to be filthy rich, but I wouldn’t mind owning a house with a few acres of land so my dog can run around. Mostly though, I want to be working at what I love to do, creating work that affects people in a meaningful way.

To achieve my dream I am currently writing a memoir, a screenplay and two television pilots, all in my spare time. I’m taking a gamble on myself, investing hours upon hours of time and energy on projects which might, or might not, see the light of day. Sometimes I think what’s the point, why keep going, what are the chances of making it now at 42, almost 43 years old? Then I think, what if I do make it? What if I become a successful writer/filmmaker, one who has to navigate the business, talk to the press, give interviews, promote my work, promote myself, manage people and so on?

My therapist once pointed out that I have this habit of not finishing projects, or rather not following through on them enough. I get them to a good place, but I don’t do what’s necessary to take them to GREAT place, or to get them produced. It’s like I run out of steam at some point. Another way of looking at it is I actually have a fear of success. I want to be successful, but I also don’t want to be successful because I don’t want to be judged, held accountable or  scrutinized. I don’t look forward to the added attention that comes with success.

Some people crave attention and are masters of composure in the spotlight. Not me. I can be very social and fun, but also very shy and guarded. People have often said that when they first met me, I came across as aloof and standoffish. I used to be shocked to hear this, but now I sort of understand. I am not the type to be your best friend, or spill my guts, upon meeting you.  I’m more of a sit back and observe type of person until I feel comfortable enough to share my goofy self. Sometimes I am painfully inarticulate. I find it difficult to think clearly when under pressure (except when I’m on set or in a crisis). I am 100% more articulate and open on this blog than I am in real life. Okay, maybe not 100% but at least 75%.

Maybe I’ll never have to face my fears because I won’t be successful. If the opposite is true, maybe it won’t be so bad. One can be trained for public speaking and coached for interviews and so on. As Kaz would say, “That would be one of them good problems.”

This is one of my favorite quotes about fear from the book DUNE by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Can you relate to the fear of success? Or is the fear of failure scarier?