“Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.”
– W.B. Yeats
Have no fear, Yeats said. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?, Sheryl Sandberg asks.
No fear? Not afraid?
How is that even possible? How is it possible to remove fear? Doesn’t everything come with a price? Aren’t there risks involved with anything of significance?
I sit at my computer, munch on my toast, and sip my coffee. I tap on the keys and I write. Each sentence, each word carries a certain weight. Will I choose the right ones? Will the sentence accurately depict what I am trying to say? And once those words are immortalized on the page, what consequences will they carry? What price will be paid for carving my name in the bedrock of creation?
I read what I have written. I cringe at some of the phrases on the page, nod at others. Yes, that’s fine, I concede at some parts. No, no, no, no, this part has to go, I cringe in other places. I erase words and move sentences. This is rubbish, absolute rubbish, I lament sometimes and delete the whole damn thing. I slash paragraphs, digging a trench hoping to find the nugget of Truth that answers that question, what would I write if I weren’t afraid?
What would I do if I weren’t afraid?, I ask myself. Maybe you have asked yourself this question too. Would you quit your job? Go back to school? Travel? Would you call the friend you haven’t talked to in ages? Would you apologize? Forgive? Would you let go? What would we do if we weren’t afraid?
But is that even the question we should be asking?
There are always risks – some of them valid, others inconsequential. And because of those risks, the price that must be paid, there will always be fear. There is no such thing as fearless. At least, not for me. I consider the risks and calculate the price. What is it that I am called to do? What should I do? What do I need to do? What do others need from me? What will others think – not just of my writing, but of me, of my choices, of my life? Will there be unintended victims of my quest for truth, my Truth? Will I get lost in the cacophony of voices until my voice is hoarse, my throat raw and aching? What will become of me in the process? What will happen if I try and fall, or worse, try and fail? Will the price to be paid be more than I can afford?
The risks are there. The fear is real. Maybe the most important question isn’t what would we do if we weren’t afraid, but rather, how will we do that thing in spite of the fear? How will we look fear in the eye, stare it down, and then push it to the side? Because with all due respect to Yeats, it’s not the absence of fear that matters, but the manifestation of courage that makes all the difference.
Be brave, dear friends. Be brave.
How do you move beyond your fear?
This post was created during the Creating Together Creativity Workshop, developed and lead with the help of Angie McMonigal Photography. As with most things in life, my fears are best conquered with the help of others. In this group, participants share work created in a variety of mediums ( including photography, poetry, drawing, and creative writing) in a small, supportive online group in order foster creativity and kick the shit out of our fears. Click here to register for or learn more about our online writing & creativity workshops.