Fear 101

We’ve talked about fear on Miss Demeanors and promised to delve more deeply into a topic familiar to most writers and all human beings. Indeed, there are countless bestselling books written about fear. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh are examples.

            Writers seem to be particularly susceptible to fear. Fear of failure, fear the words will stop flowing, fear of bad reviews, fear of no reviews. Even fear of success. There are unlimited kinds of fear it seems.

So this week, as I face back surgery I have feared and avoided for twenty years, I decided to tackle the topic of fear and how it can be crippling and irrational. Today will be an introduction to the subject that really needs no introduction, but since some readers may be afraid to read about fear, I’m doing one anyway. Tomorrow and Thursday, I’ll talk about two irrational fears I’ve had and what I’ve learned from them. Friday, I’ll treat you to some of the fascinating fears and experiences conquering them my fellow Miss Demeanors have had. On Wednesday, I’ll give you a break from fear with a delightful guest blog with Marni Graff.

Fear can be realistic. People who have faced the horrific hurricanes and flooding, devastating forest fires, and endless mass shootings in recent years know this only too well. But many of us experience fear with no rational basis, especially those that don’t have any risk of bodily harm. I’ll share my fear of knitting tomorrow. Yes, knitting.

Remember, fear can lead to procrastination, which is another force writers are familiar with. The consequences of procrastination, especially when missed deadlines result, fuel the flames of fear.

There are a number of ways to deal with fear. Many people turn to meditation and yoga. Others engage in sports that challenge them. A simple suggestion offered is to simply take the time to breathe.

I think the shame and secrecy of fear is how it is perpetuated. We worry the admission of fear will lessen us in the eyes of our colleagues and critics. Add the fear of sharing we are afraid to the list of our fears. When someone in the writing community shares a fear, there is generally a quiet pause, then a collective sigh of relief, followed by sharing. This is a healing and healthy way to dissipate fear.

I’ll end my introduction to the topic of fear by sharing some inspirational quotes by people who have felt the fear and done it anyway to paraphrase Susan Jeffries. Please share quotes that will invite us all to face our fears.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.” Lily Tomlin

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.” Mia Hamm

“The only failure is not to try.” George Clooney

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Japanese Proverb

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” Bertrand Russell

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” Malcolm Forbes

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

“He knows the water best who has waded through it.” Danish Proverb

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” Anonymous

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert

“Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.” Zig Ziglar

“Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal.” Mike Ditka

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” George Herman “Babe” Ruth

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” Buddha

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard






  1. Michele, what a timely topic. I’m working on a new book, wondering “Can I do it again?”–“What if I don’t get that contract?”–“What if book sales aren’t good enough?”So much that we fear in life is beyond our control. What I can control is my response. When I settle down and think clearly, I know two things:1. I can’t fail if I don’t try 2. I can’t win if I don’t tryThe first has always been my default setting. The second is what I aspire to–the courage to put myself out there, win or lose.

    1. Connie, those are the exact fears we all have as writers and so counterproductive when we are writing, which is why I love your two very clear and grounding thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

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