What are you really afraid of?
When I list my greatest fears, they include horrific monsters and existentially terrifying supernatural situations that threaten far more than my life. Those are the things I find objectively scary. Intellectually scary. And since I am a ridiculous person with a flimsy grasp on reality, I have spent many nights unable to sleep for thinking about these ludicrously unlikely entities.
But they’re not what I’m really afraid of.
90% of the embarrassingly large amount of time I spend being afraid, I’m not thinking about monsters or ghouls or the potential fate of the human soul. I’m thinking about potential. I’m thinking about dreams, and the uncomfortable steps required to run after those dreams.
These are the things that terrify me.
A few months ago, I knew I wanted to practice writing so that I could take a serious chance at doing in professionally in some capacity. I had been writing on and off during the previous decade, but I never showed anything I had written to anyone, with the very occasional exception of my wife. Of course I hadn’t! That would have been terrifying!
It was with enormous trepidation that I started a blog. That meant exposing my writing to others and that made my blood cells freeze into millions of sharp-edged ice blades slicing their way through my veins. Then I did it.
And the result was hilarious. Why the fuck was I so afraid?
I have no shame in public. During college, most of my friends saw me without my pants at one time or another. It’s not that I took them off deliberately. I’m not that particular guy. It’s just that life conspired to remove my pants, and I just didn’t care. It’s surprising how likely this is when you don’t take the normal polite human steps to prevent it.
Now I can I not only effortlessly share what I’ve written on my blog, but I can even tell the pants story. In fact, I would tell enormously more embarrassing stories about myself if I felt they were appropriate for this format. I’m not sure exactly what the content rating for this blog is, and I know it’s up to me, but I do think the bus story is on the other side of that line.
My fear of sharing my writing was just a terror of mist and shadow. I was afraid of something that wasn’t real. It was in my head. It didn’t make it any less terrifying. But unlike a malicious creature with a chainsaw tongue who can rip all of the lymph out of your body with a whisper, the terrors of mist and shadow are fragile. Their threat is wet and insubstantial. They are difficult to face, but effortless to conquer.
Now I want to move forward, and try to write for people and businesses that will pay for it. This involves talking to people who might reject me. It means writing in a whole new style that I would have to learn as I did it. I’ve studied, but that’s no substitute for trench-level experience. I have a plan, and I think it’s a good one. Not an easy one. But I don’t need it to be easy.
And it’s terrifying. When I think about it in the abstract I’m fine. But when I think about actual implementation it’s like my skin hardens into wax, and I can’t move lest I crack, and melt, and pool.
But these fears aren’t real. Their fangs are vapor, and they drip nothing but mist. Their looming shapes are nothing but the shadows I cast when I cast my eyes downward, instead of ahead. I’m stronger then they are. Because they are nothing.
I know this to be true. I know it.
Now if I can just make myself believe it.