Fear: It’s a Personal Thing

By George Angus

I spend a lot of time on Twitter.  I imagine it’s because of the type of folks I follow, but I see a lot of quotes tweeted that have to do with fear.  Specifically a lot of these quotes have to do with conquering fear, having courage, blah, blah, blah. They don’t mean a damned thing.

I’m not saying they’re not valid, I’m not saying they’re worthless. What I’m saying is that unless something resonates with you on a deep level, all of the wisdom in the world is worthless to you.  The problem is that if you read these quotes and they mean nothing to you, the tendency is to self judge. “Why can’t I take this and apply it to my life, my writing? I truly must be a failure.” Let the self-loathing begin.

No one can pull you out of your fear-funk. Sorry, but it’s all on you. If you want to win this battle, you need to stand up and fight. You might have to fight a lot.  Some folks have a battle or two with their inner fear demons and are able to lay the smackdown on them the first round.  Others may have to go the full twelve rounds. If you don’t win the first round, so be it.   Go to your corner, get a rubdown, spit in a bucket and come back out swinging.

These fights may be as simple as a blinking cursor on a white screen.  For some, that little blinking bastard is Muhammad Ali.  Others might find it to be no more threatening than a 98 pound weakling, glasses held together with medical tape.  The important thing is that you understand that every writer has fought in that ring.  Anyone who tells you different specializes in fiction.

Other fights are much more internal and personal. Fear is like that: Internal and Personal. I don’t know your fears.  I don’t know their intensity.  I know my own fears.  I know they are very real to me, just as I’m sure your fears are very real for you. No one is ever able to really know how your fears live inside you. This is the very reason that quotes about fear may or may not strike a chord with you. For that matter, advice about fear may bounce right off of you.  That’s okay too. Let it bounce.

With all of that said, you owe it to yourself to embark on a little journey of self discovery.  Rather than throw your hands up in frustration about how no one understands (because truly, they don’t) spend a little time examining your fear.  Take it out of the box and hang out with it for an evening.  Buy it a beer. Treat it like a first date, if you will.  Try and find out where it came from, its sign, what it wants out of life – everything you can. Woo it.  Try to get it in bed. Yes, you want to be intimate with your fear. Maybe it will still be there in the morning, maybe it won’t. Either way, you’ll have a deeper understanding of it.  Understanding is the first step in conquering.

Fear means something different to each person.  The experience is never the same for any two people, especially any two writers.  Your experience is unique.  It’s also valid.  For these reasons, fearisms may or may not apply to you. Accept these terms as given and you are on the path to laying your fear down for good.


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.

7 Responses to Fear: It’s a Personal Thing
  1. kathy
    February 7, 2011 | 10:52 AM


  2. j
    February 7, 2011 | 12:26 PM

    It’s true. One size doesn’t fit all. Think I’ll take my fear out dancing and see what unfolds…

  3. Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear)
    February 7, 2011 | 4:05 PM

    The timing of this post is serendipitous. I read another post re: fear this morning and was pondering the topic as I walked my pooches.

    My first thought – no lie – was, “Fear, like grief, is very personal. No one can tell anyone else how to handle their fear. If you try, odds are you will make the other person feel like there is something wrong with them.”

    I do, however, think that talking to others about your fear can be very helpful if you do not understand it as intimately as you advise. (That was great advice, by the way. “Know thine enemy.” came to mind. Of course, fear thinks it’s doing you a favor, so treating it like an enemy can hurt it’s feelings, but that could be ok, too.) Talking with folks who a) know you well and b) can truly listen w/o prescribing a “fix” can help you become more intimate with your fear.

    Looking back on my “before and after” re: understanding my fear taught me this – If I understand my fear I have a much better chance of making a different choice than I did in the past. I may still feel the fear (and likely will), but having the intel on my fear at least gives me a chance to do something differently.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Milli & j, Kellie Walker. Kellie Walker said: Lovely post on fear from @fearofwriting today. http://ow.ly/3RY1V […]

  5. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    February 7, 2011 | 4:48 PM

    I love the idea of figuring out what sign of the zodiac my fear is. And what kind of drink it prefers. And how good it is in bed. I feel better already, now that your post helped me visualize my fear as a story. I know I can really do some numbers on it now that it’s a character in my next story (wicked grin).

  6. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    February 9, 2011 | 9:51 AM

    I used to be afraid of swimming in the ocean. My mind would flip a switch, and a tiny voice in there would go “sharks.”

    Although there couldn’t possibly be any sharks there. Wrong habitat.

    It didn’t get any better until I went to Africa for the first time and forced myself to swim in waters where I knew there were sharks.
    No, it wasn’t easy. But I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t done it.

    I’ve come to believe that all fears are connected. And indeed, fear is always processed by that part of our brains we have in common with reptiles.

    The reason fear is so hard to overcome is, it’s been around for a very long time, and it’s helped us survive. Sometimes fear keeps you safe, others it blocks the road to success. It’s hard to tell which is which.

  7. Luan
    May 15, 2014 | 7:55 PM

    Totally agreed. People develop specific fears as a result of learning. This has been studied in psychology as fear conditioning, beginning with John B. Watson’s Little Albert experiment in 1920.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?