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April 19, 2010

We all live with fear on some level. As writers, however, the hum and murmur of fear is always beneath the storyline of our lives. We sit before a blank computer screen, fearing to take that first step, questioning: Where will these words, these characters, this plotline – where will they come from?

Then, perhaps, we fear we will never finish writing our novel or book. We fear we’ll never find an agent. We fear we’ll never be published. At bottom line: What if all our hard work has been for nothing?

What to do with those fears? I’m no expert, by any means. Ask any of my friends or family and they’ll tell you that I have my share of healthy and not-so healthy fears. But all I have read and studied tells me this: We have to face those fears. Embrace them. Easy to do? Hardly. Yet fear is an energy that propels us in one direction or the other – away from what we know is true and what we must do as writers, or toward it.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it well: You must do the thing you think you cannot do. I have that saying tacked on my bulletin board next to my computer as a gentle reminder. Another of my favorite sayings – at the opposite end of the spectrum — is one in the Star Trek series, a mandate by the Borg. These cybernetic beings assimilate alien cultures into their hive-like collective with the dire warning: Resistance is futile.

The truth is: Resistance is futile. When we resist our fears, they weigh us down and suck up our energy. But when we accept and embrace that which is difficult – that is “do the thing we think we cannot do” — an odd and miraculous shift takes place. We are a bit freer. We find the seedlings of faith take root. In that faith is the knowledge that the book we are shaping is there, even if we can’t see it yet.

Even better, each time we embrace a particular fear in our writing process, we become more real. Authentic. We discover that the stories we create are part of our shared humanity. We reach out with our writing from our truest selves, to let others know they are not alone. And isn’t that what all great writing does? Accompany us as a friend, touching our hearts?

If I’m honest, my fears often outweigh my faith. Many days I don’t think I can take another rejection from yet another agent. Many days I want to give up. Then something deep within me stirs, the seeds of faith pushing me up out of the harsh muck of creative struggle. I continue. I go forward. I do the thing I think I cannot do. I do it not knowing the outcome. This, I believe, is the struggle of all writers. This, in the end, is faith.

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