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Dealing with Fear

To deal with fear, I use two techniques–one, EMDR, is also called rapid eye therapy. I either go to my psychotherapist and have her walk me through it, or if I think I can do it myself, I simply go for a long walk, keeping my mind focused on the problem, while my eyes take in the vista.

I learned the second technique from Neil Fiore, who wrote The Now Habit that we quote at length. The fear-busting technique comes from his new book, Awaken Your Strongest Self.

Fiore invites us to list our fear first, then list all the thoughts, sensations and feeling related to it.

For example, if I am afraid of finishing the novel, I would list the fear of getting an agent, dealing with a publisher, making more edits, publication and criticism. I would also list my thoughts–that I am not good enough, that I couldn’t handle public ridicule, remembering how my father ridiculed me and said I could never write a novel, and so on.

Then Fiore suggests that we take each on in order and spend at least 30 seconds breathing and allowing the feelings, whatever they are, to come up to the top. I find that I get desensitized to the first item and the relief spills over to the second, then the second makes all the rest of them lighter. So, I go to the next and the next until I reach the end of the list. Sometimes I give it a second round or last more than 30 seconds if I’m OK with the fear and discomfort.

Fear narrows our attention, make it difficult to think clearly, to work at all. So I find cutting fears down does a lot to help me write.

Another book to deal with fear is Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear. He thinks that a couple of writer’s conferences are a good idea– but not more. That’s advice that appears in several of our sources. But he does think that writers can benefit from a good writer’s group. We’ll have more about that in another section.

He also recommends that we adopt writing rituals that work for us– no matter how eccentric. Schiller the poet, had red curtains in his office, kept rotting apples to inspire him and sometimes put his feet in cold water to keep him awake.

Keyes thinks that fear is often a very useful tool in itself. It has motivated both Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Lots of successful writers live with it as part of the job. Keyes thinks that fear can be turned into excitement. The internal feelings are the same, some psychologists think.

One of the most interesting anecdotes was about Willa Cather. She said she wrote her novels when she stopped trying to write and remembered instead.

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