Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Fear

Years ago, in the days of LISTSERVs, I participated in an email discussion that focused on the intersection of feminism and ecology. The posts were intense. We were writing about matters close to our hearts, and things would get very heated.

I got to the point where I dreaded opening my email because the criticisms that landed in my inbox felt so personal. And sometimes they were personal. After a few weeks I quit the list. It was too much for me.

Maybe you’ve gone through something similar.

I live an unconventional life. I hold some unconventional opinions, and sometimes I like to write about them. I don’t want my fear of harsh judgment to stop me from writing.

I know that fear can't be conquered, not really, that all I can do as a writer is put fear in my pocket and carry it along with me. But sometimes I don’t do that. Sometimes I let fear stop me in my tracks.

Maybe you do that, too.

For the past several weeks I’ve been working on a piece of writing that scares me.
The subject matter is, again, close to my heart, and again I hear the harsh voice of criticism every time I sit down to work. But this time it’s not in my inbox, it’s in my head.

The voice demands to know who the hell I think I am, tackling this subject. The voice tells me I’m no expert, that I lack credentials, that I have no business expressing an opinion. The voice is like a shadow on the wall that swells to monster size the more I duck my head and try to ignore it.

I don’t know how to silence that voice, how to vanquish that shadow. So I’m writing about it here, in the hope that by shining a light on it, it will shrink back to a manageable size, and I can get some work done.

And maybe, knowing you’re not alone in feeling similar fears, you can take heart, and get some work done, too.

Okay, then. Thanks for your indulgence. Carry on.


  1. Well, PS, in all my (mumble mumble) years, I have seen very few things that were as inspiring and brave as a high school sophomore that was willing to stand up and refuse to blindly repeat the cant that her crypto-fascist homeroom teacher demanded of her, even though she knew she'd get in trouble for it.

    Your opinion is your opinion, right or wrong, and you've always been forthright enough to express it. Go 'head on and say it. (And @#$% 'em if they can't take a joke.)


  2. O my. Reilly, you have made my day. And reminded me of how far I've come. Dang, old friend, it's good to hear from you.

  3. I know this fear you speak of! ;) Recently though, I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got to speaking up on a list that I'm on. I was sure that I would be attacked for speaking up in opposition to one of the most admired members of the list. The topic was FEAR! I spoke out against all the fear-mongering surrounding this election. The person I addressed it to appreciated that I spoke up, and someone else e-mailed me a private thank-you for saying what others were thinking! :O

    Now as I type this, I just remembered the one other time I spoke up on the same list. I was hotly debated, but again, I received a private thank-you from one of the members.

    I guess I just wanted to encourage you (and others, and myself) in knowing that there may be someone who needs to hear what you have to say, in the way only you can say it. Also, I have really enjoyed reading what you have already shared and look forward to what else you have to offer. ;)

  4. [wink] Yeah, my day was pretty much made when I stumbled across your blog (there's a story there), and even more serendipitous that I stumbled across it on the very day that you'd posted the one thing that I felt at least marginally qualified to comment on. Or not, I guess that's up to you.

    Be well, kiddo.

  5. Oh, I can relate only too well. I wish it weren't so, but it is. My fear often stops me from even dreaming of what I really want. I do live my life of choice, but I know it could be even more without that fear. I feel it just inside my lower ribs and I haven't yet figured out how to get through it most of the time.

    I'm always grateful when I manage to work through it and do it anyway. I always feel so good after. I hope that's your experience with this...


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