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Breaking the Habit of Hiding: Visibility on and off the page

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery and courage and what those things mean for me. I’ve written in recent weeks about my fear of being seen, which has been showing up a lot as I’ve begun to submit my writing for publication and also to work on my very first book. (Well my first-and-a-half book if we’re counting the 100 pages of a YA fantasy story I wrote when I was 12…)

Breaking the habit of hiding is something I’ve been talking about for a couple of weeks in my email newsletter. And it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about for months as I’ve been working up the courage to start writing my book (and now I have!).

There’s a piece of writing advice that circulates and which I’ve seen most recently in the article Writing from a Place of Fear over at Writer Unboxed. The advice implores us writers to “write the stories that scare us” — and I don’t think it’s bad advice.

But here’s what I do think:

  • I think that writing is hard.
  • I think writing that scares us is harder.
  • I think that writing our scariest stories takes more courage than we may be capable of.

And so I don’t think it’s enough to suggest glibly that all we need to do is “write the stories that scare us”. Perhaps this is the destination, the goal.

But between here and there is a whole lot of scary ground to cover. Before we can contemplate the visibility “on the page” required to write our scariest stories we must first work on our fear of visibility “off the page” in our everyday lives.

We must get used to the terror of being seen.

Terror is frightening and recognizing that we’re afraid doesn’t do much to make the situation feel less scary. So in order to work through the fear of being seen “off the page” we must do more than just recognize the fear is present. We have to take action to adjust and adapt and to face our fear squarely in the arena.

And, I think there are a handful of concrete steps that we can take to make the process go a little easier:

  1. Start slowly. Start very, very slowly. It’s important not to start with steps that feel too big; it gets harder to start over every time fear beats us.
  2. Begin by releasing old attachments and beliefs. You have to make space for new beliefs and habits.
  3. Build trust step-by-step. There’s no shame in spending a while jumping off the low-dive before tackling the high-dive.
  4. Make sure you’re ready. You’ll know you’re ready when the fear is almost (but not quite) outweighed by your excitement for what might happen next.
  5. Jump a little before you’re ready. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting forever because you’re not “ready enough”.

I’ve done all these things in preparing to start writing my book.

  1. I started slowly by writing and publishing short stories and poems here on my blog.
  2. I done a lot of work on my limiting beliefs and developed strong habits around cultivating courage and supporting my writing practice.
  3. I built trust by putting my work out there and watching as my world did not in fact fall apart.
  4. I  made sure I was ready by starting slowly and building trust.
  5. And then I jumped before I was ready (when I still felt like screaming “aaaah!” even as I splashed the very first words across the page).

I’ll keep you posted on how it pays off! The hope is that if I grow my “off the page” courage by publishing here on the blog and submitting my work elsewhere for publication, I will simultaneously grow my courage “on the page” when I sit down at my desk to write.

So far it feels like the strategy is going to be a stunning success 🙂 (After all, I’ve just started writing a book! That’s a feat of tremendous “on the page” courage.)

If you’d like to read more about overcoming fear in your life, I highly recommend Lissa Rankin’s article, “Five Steps from Fear to Freedom”.

I’d love to know: How do you prepare when faced with something scary?

 

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