Quoting Natalie: Tolerating fear

“First recognize that you’re afraid and slowly build your tolerance for fear…

… You may still feel it, but you become willing to bear it as you write. You keep your hand moving, you stay there, you move closer and closer to the edge of what scares you.” – Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I have been working on an article for the past couple of months. It’s a biggie for me – the first one for one of the “Glossys” – and I am petrified. First I had to write the query and that scared the bejeezus outta me. But I wrote it and it was accepted. Toe in water. But now I have to swim, and swim damn well. The fear of writing something mediocre and having it rejected has me swearing never to call myself a writer again. I admit I am afraid that I’m not really a writer.

My daughter starts a belly dancing class tonight but she’s scared. What if they don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? It hurts my belly when I hula-hoop – won’t this hurt too? What if I can’t do it right? I try to convince her that everyone has to start somewhere (and sometimes hurt somewhere, like those en pointe ballet dancers who suffer through bloody toes for the love of their craft). I ask her, do you really want to not try this just in case you will have a bad experience? Why are you scared about something you don’t even know about yet?

Um, Mom? Do you hear the words coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to be having this pep talk with yourself!

Natalie Goldberg was of course referring to writing in the above quote, but isn’t there a message for us all, for our life?  Get close to fear and experience it, feel it. Splash around in it. Like the ocean, its chill eventually becomes tolerable, even enjoyable. Run into a cold sea enough times and you get to know it will get better. Fear turns to “Frust” (faith + trust). And once you have faith there can be no fear.

Recently I experienced some Serendipity that slapped Fear right out the door and allowed Faith back in.

Anxiety and exhaustion over self-promotion, high-achievement, perfectionism, and self-doubt found me standing at the sink blubbering what-ifs over the dirty dishes. The lack of response from one particular cold contact and my insatiable need to save the world ten workshops at a time had triggered the melt-down. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities and by my own potential to make a difference. What if I was missing opportunities to help people by not following up on every collaboration suggestion? Was I failing at my work by not contacting all the non-profits in town? It was suddenly all too much.

The networking and marketing was taking too much time and producing far too much stress. My name and work was getting known. So, I decided to let it go. To let people come to me.

And they did.

Four days later two lovely ladies walked in to the coffee shop where I was running an informal writing circle. They were from the very non-profit that had unintentionally instigated my fears. And the most amazing thing is that they weren’t there because they had received my email but just because they had seen my brochure somewhere and thought my work would be a good fit for one of their projects.

As I write my article for the “Glossy” I am thoroughly submerging myself in the Fear of it not being good enough. As I slowly let go and just write for the pure joy of writing and spreading my message, the Fear becomes more tolerable and starts to feel a little more like “Frust.” I have to trust that I do have talent and something important to say, and the faith to know that even if the article is rejected it is not a personal failure – rather a lesson for the next time.

Prompt: What are you afraid of? What are you willing to tolerate in order to move to a place of acceptance and growth?

(For my article based on this quote go to Examiner.com)

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7 thoughts on “Quoting Natalie: Tolerating fear

  1. the only “but” i have is that for me, “faith” is not a hard thing…it comes and goes in waves, some days it fills me up and other days, even if i think i am looking for it or open to it, i can’t find it anywhere.
    My therapist tells me that fear is not a good use of my imagination…and “SARK” says that “Fear is future thinking with a side order of ‘What if’?”…Yet fear is still my biggest stumbling block.

  2. Congratulations on your first article for a glossy! Woo-hoo! Just know that–fear or not– you’ll get it done, and do it well. The quality of your writing in this blog, and your willingness to be so honest in that writing, will serve you well. I began freelance writing in 1994 and have since written several hundred articles, mostly for smaller and niche publications, and some books, and this work has served me well. I fought through the fear, it did subside after a time, and confidence filled in the gap.

    But I recently made the decision, after months of procrastinating, to leave my old freelancing behind and throw all my efforts into journal instruction and related endeavors, including, I hope, a few more books. I’m a little nervous, but this is the first time I can truly follow a passion, so I’m also very excited! I’m sure I’ll need to replace fear with confidence this time around, too.

    • Thank you for your words and encouragement, Barbara. I wish you the best with your new focus. The journal work we do is needed and so important – we have no choice but to succeed!

  3. Hey Joanna,
    i am so looking forward to connecting with you at the cafe next month. But I wanted to share the following with you: have you seen What is Dying to Be Born, which is a free e-book @ http://www.lianneraymond.com/2010/03/a-international-womens-day-gift-a-free-ebook.html
    while I don’t think the issues are gender-specific, and I haven’t read the whole thing, I thought you might be interested…and, when I lived in NY, I participated in a writing circle called Herstory, http://www.herstorywriters.org/…I’m just wondering if maybe you and I can think about collaborating on something similar locally…
    best for now,

  4. Pingback: What is your Purpose? « wisdom within, ink

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