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Fierce On The Page

We think a lot about horror and fright this time of year. Read an interesting article this week by Neil Strauss, who is someone I follow when I can. He discusses the difference between Fear and Anxiety. He’s been doing some studies on this with members of the scientific community and has come to some interesting conclusions. Some I’ve listed below, and I’ve added my notes about them.

Most of what you call fear is really anxiety.

He suggests that being willing to enter the doorway of no return, or facing fear head-on, is a precursor to achieving great success. Consider the number of people who go through near-death experiences and then discover in themselves some magic and walk away changed forever. Or pushing yourself to high performance, to the point of failure, without fear, to achieve a high degree of competency. We look to the BUD/S training our Navy SEALs go through, where less than 10% of the class actually graduates, where the recruit is tested mentally as well as physically. Part of the success of that training is in pushing to the limit while setting the fear of failure to the side.

Good decisions are made from this place.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating, and it is the response to uncertainty.

Uncertainty is so uncomfortable, most people will make bad decisions to create the illusion of certainty.

Uncertainty is defined as something that is unknown or doubtful. The opposite to this, of course, is certainty, or knowing something. And that requires, as a method for ending uncertainty, that something become known, studied or understood. We run away from uncertainty when that will only enhance it. Finding out about what is troubling is the path to diminishing the effects, eliminating the anxiety. We embrace the knowledge of the cause for it, rather than withdrawing from it.

Bad decisions are made from the state of anxiety.

I used to beat myself up about writing things at the last minute, when I actually love writing that way. Not everyone can, but I enjoy it. I call it Fierce Writing, writing with my hair on fire. Inspired writing. If I were writing memoir or poetry, perhaps I would take a lighter approach, do little bits and pieces every day to keep the muscle developed.

But writing fierce is feeling the story like an extreme movie in your head, where all the characters in your tale work together to create that play. Unexpected things sometimes happen and they thrill me. Other times, if I don’t feel the intensity of the story, I lay down tracks and then go back and polish the jewels to make it great. But for me, there is no great writing done until I feel the intensity and am actually living in that story, occupying the space right beside my characters, and in some cases inside their heads. I lose myself. I push my limits. I risk the point of no return.

Writing Fierce is also writing without worry. This is why Nanowrimo works for some writers. We write like our hair’s on fire for 30 days. We write intense, we embrace the fear and bust through the anxiety.

We would rather not lose than win.

Safety is not always safe. But we’ll do lots of things to “feel” safe, including lying to ourselves. We get excited when we gain something (except weight) but we don’t like the fear of losing something. Strauss talks about making sure we crunch the numbers, look at the upside and downside of the possible outcomes before making a decision, especially if we are coming from the place of anxiety. He also suggests that if we can’t make a decision, we haven’t found enough people to hang with that are divergent in their thinking. We could be spending too much time in the “group polarization” process with like-minded people. Change should be embraced. Or too much time is spent on outside forces we have no control over, like the internet or TV News. They tend not to give a person knowledge, but instead help a person feel small. He advises killing your TV. See the world through your own eyes.

I’ve just completed an exercise where I took a big step and decided to deal with an anxiety I was having about my writing. I had been worrying about it now for some two months. I finally decided to do the old Abe Lincoln investigation where I’d list pro’s on one side, and con’s on the other, and then look at the whole grid to make my final decision.

Surprising, even to me, and I’ve done a lot of this in my lifetime through all my careers, was how simple things looked when I took a good, close look at it. It made a couple of decisions I was worrying about much easier to accept, and I took action. I made the decisions with knowledge. I put into motion something that I needed to do. I called several people I trust, I asked questions and listened. I noticed the people who went into hiding and didn’t participate, and I kept researching until the answers came to me through my own eyes.

In the relative absence of fear. Amazing.


This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. I'm saving this and re-reading it and sharing it in a blog, or two. Life has thrown me a curveball, and I'm struggling with it. I've been living in a few hour blocks. Basics, eating, sleeping, and cleaning, are being done but not much else. I'm drowning in anxiety. I can't keep doing this. Thanks, Sharon; I'm grateful I was smart enough to include you as one of My Team. 🙂 I needed this, right now.

  2. Anxiety is one thing I'm unfortunately very familiar with and have been most of my life. Growing up with a Vietnam vet you learn to be anxietious about what kind of mood he would be in. I'm glad I've learned for the most part to learn to deal with my anxiety though this past week has been a lesson in it with having to put a beloved dog down as it was time. I'm actually dealing with this one better than my when my girl passed in February but this has brought back the fact that I stil miss my loyal companion who was alway by my side. This blog has helped me realize I"m not the only one dealing with issues right now and to help myself I need to reach out and help others as that as always been a comfort to me. Thank you for being part of my life and so glad you have worked out your anxiety on your writing. As always much love, prayers and hugs

    1. Oh, so sorry, Karen. Didn't know you had lost your companion. That is so difficult. But yes, anxiety and fear are sometimes muddled for me, and I found the article very illuminating and helpful. You have always been a wonderful part of my life as well, and I'm grateful for our friendship and your belief in me.

      I hope in time that you will be able to show your love for another little four-legged pal who will help with that comfort and joy you deserve. Hugs and blessings, Karen. And thanks for always being right beside me on the journey.

  3. Fear is the greatest wall and block to success, no matter what career you're in. Fear also paralyzes us in an emotional sense and this is where anxiety raises its nasty head. Between the two, most human beings freeze. Or they quit. They certainly don't take any risks. They back peddle and repeat or do what they have always done because it has worked before or it made them feel "safe." Only, they aren't safe when they allow fear to stop them from making a leap or taking a risk that their heart is telling them to do. Surround yourself with people who are risk takers. Or people who have been risk taking and are successful because of it. THAT is the crowd you want to run with. And the more you risk take and not allow the fear/anxiety to strangle you into silence? The more good things happen. The Universal Law is if you will risk everything and throw yourself into it (whether personal or career), you WILL be rewarded. The Universe doesn't reward those who stand and allow FEAR to stop them from any forward motion. I've been an author for 36 years and seen FEAR stop 99% of authors. The pattern I see is this: at 5 years, most authors are gone. At 7, 99% of them are gone. The only one's left are the risk takers, that 1%….and they go as far as they want without impunity because they have the "wind" at their back and they're continually pushing forward into new territory. And they're doing it on two levels: They're doing it within themselves (being self aware, fixing what is broken, wounded or no longer supporting us in a positive way OR they are pushing the boundaries of their career or personal life in this third dimensional world of ours. That's my experience. I was a born risk taker. I'm fearless by nature. MOST people are not like that. But I'm an entrepreneur and they, by classic standards, ARE the risk takers of the world. But anyone can LEARN to be a risk taker. It's scary at first–but do it anyway. And with each risk you take, it gets easier and easier. This was a great blog you wrote Sharon! Much love, Lindsay McKenna

    1. Thanks, Lindsay. I really appreciate that, coming from someone so fearless. I'm grateful you are one of the ones I choose to "hang" with, and you allow me into your circle. You are entirely right as one who has lived it and lived through it. I found this in real estate as well. We used to teach people, "You don't have to be better than everyone else, you just have to outlast them." LOL. Thanks for being here. Honored. I've never been a quitter and don't intend to be.

  4. Life is about experiencing the good and the bad and believing that the bad also teaches us a lesson. Tough lessons, but we must move along. Prayers and good thoughts help !

  5. I'm not afraid to take a risk, but sadly I'm the worlds worst worrier. At the moment life just chugging along fine. The Chinese believe everything happens for a perpose good or bad.

    1. I think you and the Chinese are right! Worry can be debilitating. I've learned that though scary, it is better to face my fears. But we all have different ones. And thank goodness for that. We all help each other.

  6. People think I'm fearless, I'm not. It's just that if I let anxiety take over, it has the power to cripple me. So I stand up to it and find my own ways to overcome it. It took a long time to get to this version of myself, and I've been through a lot. I believe that everything we go through is a life lesson, not just for ourselves but for others as well.

    1. Amen to that, Sandie. The facing our fears, creating the toughness, helps us survive. Being a creative, I have to guard that carefully. But everything I go through in life, my characters do too, so all is well in the end. Now if my own life turned out the same way?

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