Facing Our Fears

Have you ever driven in a rain storm? During a recent nine hour van ride to West Virginia to visit my mom, we had to drive about half of it in heavy rain.

At one point, we were speeding along at 55 mph with the rain pounding against the windshield, and even though we had our wipers on full blast, they couldn’t clear away the rivulets of water fast enough. The spray from the semi in front of us added to the blinding mist that enveloped our van.

I dug my fingers into my seat, leaned forward, every muscle in my body tense. “This is crazy,” I muttered. We couldn’t see two feet in front of us, and yet there we were flying full speed down the highway.

I couldn’t help thinking we should pull off until the storm was over, that we were fools to keep driving when we didn’t know what was coming.

Fear drenched me . . . fear as hard, cold, and sharp as the rain.

I realized that during my journey toward publication, I’ve often had a very similar sensation—that I’m racing forward but don’t know what’s ahead of me. Will all my efforts be worth it? Am I really good enough to have a book published? What if I don’t earn back my advance? How will I manage to find time for everything I need to do?

I’m driving through storms and fear hits me.

There are so many unknowns on the road to publication. No matter where we’re at, we all have those muscle-tensing moments when we just don’t know what’s coming next. Can we finish an entire manuscript? Will the agent like our story? What if the publication committee doesn’t accept our book? What if we’re going to all this work and it doesn’t pay off?

We’re flying ahead at full speed, but we can’t see what’s coming.

What should we do? How do we deal with our fears? I don’t like platitudes, and so I’m not going to give any to you. There are no easy answers to help us face our writerly fears. But here are a few ideas:

1. Surround ourselves with people who believe in us. We need traveling companions who share our vision. These are the kind of people who can see beyond the driving rain to where we’re headed. I have several people in my life like this.

One is my web designer, Kelli Standish of PulsePoint Design. As I’ve worked with Kelli over the past months, every time I talk with her, she has the vision for where God is taking me. She sees it, hones in on it, encourages me. We all need people like that who can see beyond the storms and give us their wisdom.

2. Persevere through the storms. And yes, the storms will come. I haven’t met a writer yet who hasn’t had to face difficulty. Some run into thunderstorms and others tornadoes. Expect them. But don’t let them detour us from writing.

Those who write because they’re passionate about writing won’t stop when the goal of publication isn’t within sight anymore. The journey toward publication might take a long time, but they keep going anyway, not because of the destination, but because they love the journey.

3. Know when to pull off or slow down. I’ve had periods (sometimes very long ones) when I’ve pulled to the side of the writing highway. I took some time off when my children were young, during the baby years. The time away enriched my life, so that when I started writing again, I could approach it with a wisdom and maturity I’d previously lacked.

We’ll all face times of personal heartache and hardship. And sometimes we just have to slow down before we end up crashing and burning. During those times we should give ourselves permission to soak in the emotions, live in the moment, and burn them into our memories and hearts. Later, when we hit the road again, those are the kinds of experiences we can draw from to add depth to our writing.

What do you fear? What storms are you heading through right now? What are some things you do that help you face your fears?

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