A: I’ll use an excerpt adapted from my memoir. This comes from a section titled “Put Your Fist into Fear.”
I dried my tears and arm’d my fears/With two thousand shields and spears.
-from “The Angel” by William Blake
Like moonshine made in a radiator, fear kills. That’s why you have to put your fist into it first. Otherwise it will destroy every possibility of moving forward. Fears feed on you until nothing is left but a bony carcass. ... My crazy Aunt Carrier is a good figurative and literal example of this. Bless her blackened, shriveled heart.
As we catch glimpses of our authentic selves, we have less and less fear because we see past the worries of the physical world, the inauthentic realm. We see we are fine and will continue to be OK. That we are enough and we have enough.
So why do we allow ourselves to live a miserable existence infused with and informed by fear? Well, of course you know the answer: Staring down a fear just seems too daunting. It feels more comfortable and safe to maintain the world you’ve known. To face the fear would be to eliminate it, and then what would we do? We decide it’s far too much to take on, so we retreat. And if you’re a slow learner like me, maybe it takes some time to believe in what’s authentic.
I’ve had glimmers of my authentic self as long as I can remember, but fear was always loitering nearby, jerking the curtains back in place so I couldn’t see. Never underestimate fear’s power; he’s one persistent, pernicious deceiver.
For nearly 20 years I was scared about making a serious attempt at a writing career. Even though I knew deep down that I was meant to do it, I contrived every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t.
Here’s a small sampling of my excuses:
1. I have a day job and don’t have time to write.
2. I will fail.
3. I will fail in spectacular fashion and end up destitute.
4. Once destitute, I will become homeless and go insane as a result of having my dream destroyed.
5. Even if I don’t become a crazy bag lady, I’ll still need a writing room, and I can’t afford to build or buy one. If only I had a special place in which to write…
6. I’m a crap writer anyway.
7. Why bother when the immortal poets and writers have produced such luminous work?
8. Everybody wants to be a writer. What makes me think I could make it?
9. The odds of finding an agent and getting a book deal are slimmer than nil.
10. I shouldn’t be wasting my time and energy on something that will never happen.
11. Writing will have to be a hobby because I must keep my secure day job in order to survive. I don’t have any other option. I should go back to graduate school and pursue a safe career goal.
As you see, I was firmly in fear’s clutches, to the point of irrational thinking and major delusion. My reptilian brain, the area that houses the fight-or-flight mechanism, was the size of an anaconda and kept me fleeing. This fear denies access to the feast of life. Nothing is sadder than that.
‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ I keep this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt on my desk. Each time I follow Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice, I am made stronger and less afraid of the next thing. It has a cascading effect, because boldness itself generates momentum that turbo-charges your life in the right direction.
Go gunning for whatever frightens you. Take it head-on. That’s the surefire way to get unstuck. When I first made the leap and started writing seriously, I felt like a fool, like I’d put my neck on the chopping block. Instead of losing my head, I gained my freedom.
One final caveat: I acknowledge some fears are prudent, such as fears of bears in the wild, cigarettes lit next to oxygen tanks, and Lynyrd Skynyrd cover bands.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at www.thecrackerqueen.com.