Episode 016 | The Value of Fear Lists
Recently, I feel like everywhere I go I’m seeing references to Stoicism. Tim Ferris has a bunch of great TED Talks on this. (My favorite is: Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals). He’s a huge fan of Stoicism, describing it as “a comprehensive system for doing many, many things.” He doesn’t really expand much on what the “many, many things” are, but he does offer one really relevant feature of Stoicism for our purposes:
It helps you to train yourself to separate what you can control from what you cannot control and then to focus on what you can control.
If you can do this, you’ll be able to keep your irrational emotional responses more in check. This will allow you to make decisions and move forward with more clarity and purpose. Okay, I know, yada yada yada. Let’s go with an example.
Let’s say you’ve been waiting for a response from an agent or journal who has had your work under review. You’re really hoping this is going to be a game-changer for you. It’s easy to get locked up while you wait, to obsessively check your email, to spend lots of time analyzing what the length of time could mean, etc. If you apply the stoicism approach to this situation, you would recognize that once they have it in their hands:
you have no control over how long the review process will take or whether or not they choose to accept it at all, but that
you do have control over what you do with your writing time. So you could be sending it out to other outlets or agents or starting a new piece of work altogether.
One response (the understandably emotional one) stalls you, the other, more stoic one moves you forward.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you may be thinking, “Ah, but that’s once they have it in their hands, right?! What about all the many things you could do before you send it?! What about all the things I need to know and/or do so that my work can be perfect and therefore impervious to rejection of any kind?!
When Fear plays dress up, its favorite costume is Perfectionism. It seems so…virtuous. And so easily confused with Professionalism, which actually is virtuous.
You already know what I’m going to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: Your work is going to get rejected and bashed and have all kinds of terrible things thrown at it. If you’re a writer, you’ll do the work anyway, because that’s who you are. That’s one of the reasons you’re here.
I offer this heartfelt plea: Please, please, please don’t let your fears stop you from working or from submitting your work.
I’m a huge fan of tools. Below are a couple of my favorite for helping manage fears. Equip yourself with either or both of these tools and see if they help you manage yours:
Okay, muster up some courage and go face those fears! You’ll likely find there are a lot more harmless chipmunks scurrying around and making a bunch of noise in your mind’s Forest of Fear than dragons. Besides, even if there are dragons out there, what’s the big deal? You were born to slay dragons.
Happy writing, people!