Jumping into the icy Pacific immerses you in pain. An invisible fist squeezes your lungs, wringing the air out of you. Your head is packed in a blue fog, freezing your brain from the outside in. If you’re a guy, your you-know-whats feel like they were kicked by a bull.
Fear is the same. It can stop you, peg you like a moth to a yellowed piece of styrofoam where your dreams will collect dust, trapped for eternity behind glass. I’ve seen it happen to several would-be writers. Their trembling hands won’t hold their papers, their voice won’t carry through the room. They refuse to read or even be read. I was once in their ranks too.
Fear cannot be a refuge for the would-be writer. There is no sanctuary there. We do not want to see our dreams collecting dust in some forgotten glass case showcasing what “might have been.” We must take our stories in our hands and speak louder so that the audience won’t hear the trembling in our voices.
This week at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, I’ve watched many timid writers step to the front of the room, plunging into icy waters of critique after critique. I celebrate them. We will not be collected into the showcases of the unheard, the unread. We will speak loudly and follow our dreams.
Being scared just means that you’re doing it right.