Releasing Fear’s Menagerie
In lieu of editing the last fifty pages of my book, here I am. To honor the interest of full transparency, editing has not been taking up all of my daylight hours. In fact, a myriad of other activities have been simultaneously occurring, which have allowed for me to both justify not writing on the website while concurrently avoiding How to Write a Love Song. This is, in my refined personal opinion, “quite dumb.” Writing is my purposeful passion. I love writing. I love reading. I love words. I love coercing my words into collaboration, aiding in the construction of beautiful sentences; the kind of sentences you feel compelled to frame or highlight in your book or post on Instagram or commit to memory or engrave on your tombstone (or some combination thereof). This work is effortless because my dedication is pure. It is not my ego’s work. It is not Allie Becker’s work. It is the soul’s work. I’m just a vessel to help it along the way.
Or so I try to remind myself.
You see, these sentences (and my ego) can be problematic. Sometimes I have a hard time drawing the line between the words on the page and the heart in my chest. On “good days,” I’m completely detached from my writing. Occasionally though, the words seem to course through my veins. That means every accolade, criticism, and deafening silence mainlines itself into my self-worth. When I perceive things are going well in the outside world, the “praise drug” creates a euphoric high. I feel amazing. “I am a prolific author,” I scream into my bathroom mirror. But when it’s not—when the manuscript is rejected, the unique visitors are down, the pitch goes unanswered— that’s when the malaise sets in and the creativity seeps out. When my old fears of not being good enough for this work creep back, I notice myself attempting to change the outside world in order to protect myself.
I’ve been listening to The Untethered Soul, and it’s been mentioned, quite frequently, that we fruitlessly try to create conditions, as souls in human bodies, that limit the opportunity for our hearts to be hurt.
Our labor then becomes directed at bending the outside world to our will, and our purpose skews towards maintaining a quiet, complacent homeostasis where nothing has the opportunity to cause us harm. Our eyes dart wildly, searching for the darkness, the nightmares, the possibilities of failure, and all the reasons why it’s just not safe. We must protect ourselves. This work is not effortless. This work is Sysiphian. It is a hard, laborious journey.
Doubt feeds on our attention to it. The only way a well-placed fear can survive is if our mind tends to its menagerie, feeding it and caring for it, until this zoo mutates into the centerpiece of our existence.
What is to be done with a mind full of nightmarish fears? There are two choices. We can continue to pay them reverence and homage, bowing each time we bump against something in our outside world that disturbs the beasts, the things that may wake those fears and disrupt our day, potentially causing us pain in the process.
Or, we can free the creatures. We can let that fear go, and though it may hurt, pain, just like the pleasure we love, is transient. It is a tough lesson, but an important one—when we allow praise and compliment, the plaudits of others, to bring us joy—we are also welcoming their criticism and judgment to live alongside it.
Somehow, we must find the strength deep within to stoke the fire ourselves. Once that fire begins burning, on our own accord—not kindled by the whims of others—that is when our joy becomes inextinguishable.
So there we have it. Now what does this have to do with my editing, my writing, and my creative projects?
Instead of stoking my own creative fire, I’ve been feeding the fear beasts, rattling their cages, and unwittingly letting them take control of the reins once again.
These clandestine creatures have snuck in, and have caused me to divert my purpose towards the exterior, to the places I might get stuck in, hurt at, or rejected.
I can tell when fear is running my show, because the days get noticeably shorter. I get lost in my thoughts. I’m consuming far more than I am creating. Time slips by and I spend less and less of it on the projects that really matter to me. “Tomorrow,” I whisper to my soul. “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
What I fail to mention to my dear soul is this: there is no tomorrow. There is only right now.
Now is the challenge. Now is the triumph. Now is the moment to feel the fear you hold inside, release it, and move on.
In the end, I suppose it’s alright that some of the words I write run deep, very deep. I can hold a connection to them. This piece, along with countless others, is a testament to that. As long as I am burning my own fire brightly enough, and keeping the beasts at bay, it won’t matter if one or one billion people read, and love—or loathe—my work.