Owning Your Fear

By George Angus

I used to have this thing about ladders.  Hated them.  Oh, not the physical object so much, it was more the act of using the darned things.  Climbing a ladder made me breathe fast and made my legs quiver.  In short, I was afraid of heights.  As far as I can remember, that particular fear had always been with me.  Not an unreasonable fear in my opinion.  I mean, it does involve the potential of bodily harm or death.

I could have chosen to not do anything about my fear.  It could languish away in some dark recess of my mind and only get pulled into the daylight when I had to hang Christmas lights.  Sure, but that would have been way too easy.  Instead, tackling my fear of heights became kind of a necessity.  I went and got hired as a paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department. In those days (circa 1984) paramedics were just that  – paramedics.  We didn’t have to fight fires.  We just had to save lives.

So imagine my fear and righteous indignation when I learned that as part of the 6-week new hire program I would have to climb a ladder.  Not just any ladder either, friends and neighbors.  Nope, I’m talking about the mother of all ladders – the 90 foot Aerial Ladder.  Crap.

The big day came.  The (way too gleeful in my opinion) ladder company raised the ladder to full height, 75 degree angle.  Each of us recruits had to climb to the top of the ladder sans any kind of safety harness.  When we reached the top, we had to peer over the top of the ladder, find the drill instructor and yell out our social security number.

I have never been so freaked out scared in my whole life.

But, wobbly legs and all, I did it.  I knew that not doing it would mean washing out from the academy and I wasn’t willing to do that.  I had worked a long time and had made some meaningful sacrifices to get hired by LAFD.

Climbing back down the last few rungs and setting foot on glorious solid earth was amazing.

Here’s the thing.  I didn’t stop there.  Once I got assigned to Fire Station 10 in downtown LA, I climbed a ladder at every opportunity.  I searched and found scenarios that would allow me to climb a ladder.  In short, I was a ladder-climbing fool.  Here’s the takeaway: The fear was still there.  It was mine and I had to own it.  By confronting it every day, I was forced to learn ways of dealing with the fear and not letting the fear control me.  I’m driving this damned boat.  If fear wants to come along then that is fine, it just needs to ride in the back.  Or on the poop deck.  Anywhere but the bridge.

Are you getting the point?

One more brief example about fear conquering.

In my twenties and thirties I flew a lot.  I lived in California and had family in Alaska.  Lots of trips.  I also had made my mark in EMS education and did a lot of flying to local and national conferences, speaking and chairing committees.  I seemed to be living on planes.

Oliver sudden, I developed this fear of flying.  I think the back of my mind found a calculator or abacus or something and started calculating odds.  I quickly started to hate flying.  I was a bundle of nerves, freaking out over each turbulent bump.  If I didn’t hear the landing gear thump down on final when I thought it should, it took all I had to not run up to the cockpit to tell the pilots to wake the hell up.

So, I decided to do something about it.  Anyone wanna take a guess?

That’s right.  I became a pilot.  It was painful.  I mean, falling off a ladder is one thing, but spinning a Cessna 172 into the ground is something else entirely.  I looked forward to my flying lessons with a mixture of trepidation and exhilaration.  It wasn’t quite so bad at first because I had the instructor in the plane with me in case I did something particularly stupid. But I tell you what, when that fateful day arrives and the instructor steps outside the plane to send you on your first solo flight, then you know it’s real and there’s no turning back.  I felt a lot like I did facing that damned aerial ladder.

I made it through my solo flight and amassed a bunch of hours and the more I did it, the more I enjoyed the challenge, the view and the sense of accomplishment.  And of course the side benefit is that I am a much more comfortable flier.  Though I still can’t sleep on a damned plane.

I’ll finish with this: Fear of writing is no different.  If you have a fear of writing that is just fine.  Own it, acknowledge it and know that it is yours.  The important thing is to not let it run your life.  Go a few rounds with it.  I bet you can take it two falls out of three.  Don’t let the damned thing win.  Make it sit in the corner sucking its thumb.  Make fun of it. Draw a goofy face and label it “My Fear of Writing.” Put it on the refrigerator.  That fear of writing has got nothing on you.  You are the boss.

Okay, your turn.  What kinds of fear do you have in your past?  How did you deal with them? Most importantly, what are your plans for conquering your fear of writing?


George is a writer slugging out an existence in Palmer, Alaska. AKA Tumblemoose, George keeps a blog, writes for some clients and works on his novels and picture books when he can.

8 Responses to Owning Your Fear
  1. j
    January 3, 2011 | 12:12 PM

    I love this! You’re so funny. I did NOT guess that you would become a pilot to get over a fear of flying. Holy cow! You are now my face-you-fear hero. I’m inspired. My fears are around the publishing world and shooting for higher and higher markets. That’s the plan now. Kicking fear’s ass. 😉

    • George Angus
      January 3, 2011 | 3:53 PM


      Right on. Go tackle those publishing yay-whos. I’m glad I could inspire.

      Take me along for the ride, wouldja?


  2. Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear)
    January 3, 2011 | 2:27 PM

    My husband addressed his fear of flying the same way. 🙂

  3. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    January 3, 2011 | 3:28 PM

    George, you’re a beacon of kick-assery. Your stories about overcoming your fears are so inspirational. And motivational! It makes me even more eager to chomp on mine for 2011.

    If I burrow down deep, I’d have to say that my fears are about doing it the perceived right way. The way the screenwriting experts say you’re sposta. I’m gonna try beating those fears by constantly reminding myself to enjoy my own writing. And my own unique journey.

    • George Angus
      January 3, 2011 | 3:55 PM

      Der Millstermeister:

      Thanks so much! My goal is to be the *Deacon* of kick-assery! It will look great on my mantle, right next to my Deacon of Smart-assery award. Hehe.

      Thanks for having me around!


  4. catherine
    January 3, 2011 | 6:16 PM

    Nice blog post George! I enjoyed reading how you have repeatedly knocked down the walls that have stood in front of you when you wanted something. Bravo!

    I was also blown away when the first thing you said was “I used to have this thing about ladders.” Years ago my husband and I wanted our website name to be our last name. Someone already owned it* and when I tracked him down, it turned out that he owns a business selling ladders. Only a few hours ago, I was going through old email correspondence on this subject and it lead me to look at his ladder website again. I just thought the ladder synchronicity was special and wanted to share that with you.

    20 years ago when I was at a seminar called “Warrior’s Wisdom” I found out we had to repel. I stood at the top of the cliff bawling my eyes out. But I did it anyway and on the way down I was cheering for joy because it turned out it was one of the funnest things I’d done in my life. Then after that, climbing a tree to do a zipline, then climbing another tree and jumping off to grab a ring was almost a piece of cake!

    *PS ~ I didn’t stop and get discouraged because the domain name was already owned and I knocked down a couple walls before I obtained that website. Turns out that the original owner is from Idaho and because I was born and raised there and he liked me he decided to sell me the website for way less than he thought it was worth. :~)

    Fear of making a move can be debilitating. But I’d rather take a risk than do nothing at all.

    cheers ~ catherine

  5. Lois
    January 4, 2011 | 11:02 AM

    My special fear is of editing. I guess I’m kind of afraid of the process. This year, however, I’m going to work hard on my screenplay. I plan to get input from readers to see what they like/ don’t like about it. And I plan to revise the hell out of it and make it something worthy of being produced for the big screen! 🙂

    Thanks for your words of inspiration, George. I love your style, your encouragement, and your wit! 😀


  6. proxybonanza Proxies
    February 8, 2012 | 12:33 PM

    Aw, this was a actually nice post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this additionally ?§C taking time and actual effort to create a very beneficial article?- but what can I say?- I procrastinate alot and by no indicates seem to get some thing carried out.

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