One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that amidst the pandemic I’ve started worrying a ton about very small things.
Tiny intricacies of my business. Whether I should have used this or that word in an email. Whether I took too long to respond to a text.
I have plenty of big things to worry about! But for some reason these little nuisances are the things that keep me up at night.
It’s almost like my brain is grasping to find things to worry about that are actually within my control. All of my stress about the gigantic stuff that’s out of my hands is being dumped onto things that really don’t merit the weight.
On the one hand, this is a recipe for feeling super crazy. I know these aren’t things I would be worrying about in a more normal time and that disconnect can be maddening.
On the other hand… it’s actually kind of useful. It’s motivating me to make changes that will hopefully improve my business and make me a better person.
Fears can be useful
One of the things I learned when I was writing the Jacob Wonderbar series was that fear can be a really useful tool.
I feared being someone who never pursued their dreams. I feared I wasn’t good enough.
Those fears became great motivating tools. Whenever I didn’t feel like writing, I reminded myself that I would forever regret it if I didn’t do it. Whenever I sensed what I was writing wasn’t good enough, I edited the heck out of it and kept working extremely hard to improve my craft.
Some fears are good. There’s something to them, and your anxiety may well push you to improve and be better.
The danger of indulging fears and using them as a motivational tool is that we have a strange tendency to make them come true.
For a long time I feared I wasn’t a creative person. And that just… became true for as long as I indulged that fear.
Instead of indulging fears I try to remind myself to harness the fear. They’re useful, I tell myself. They come from somewhere. Use them. Just don’t give in.
Easier said than done. And honestly, I’m writing this post today because I need this reminder right now as much as anyone who’s reading it.
What’s your strategy for beating back the fear in your life? How are you managing your stress these days?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes, my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Art: The Great Wave at Kanagawa by Nishimura Yohachi
Dana Bailey says
This reminds me of my favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Fear Itself. SPOILER – I love that fear ends up being an itty, bitty demon that she steps on. Most of the time, worries and fear are bigger than reality.
When I was younger I missed out on a lot of opportunities because of fear. I try not to do that anymore by facing it head-on as much as possible. Making plans with smart goals and concentrating on what I can change and do in the moment helps. And sometimes, deciding to worry about it tomorrow helps. Sleep and time are magic healers.
I believe the spirit of fear is not our friend. I know ‘he’ is not. When we’re fearful, we’re not rational and not in complete control of our emotions, attitudes, actions or lives. It permeates our thoughts and dictates our emotional reactions and decisions. Deciding to ignore the thoughts of fear and do the opposite is the way to go–as you described, Nathan. When younger, I discovered that anger stopped the stagnation of fear. However, it was just swapping one demon for another. Both leave us without control, rationality or empathy for others. Or energy. These prolonged negative states usually result in depression where even more energy goes out.
Our most powerful tool is our minds. But it needs to be aware of what to avoid and what to embrace. The best attitude to take is believing in the positive: in our potential, in the goodness of others despite the constant struggle against the voice of negativity, and a future where we can achieve anything.. This eliminates stress and paranoia and gives us energy and hope–and enables us to have a more rational approach to life and to retain understanding and compassion.
In fact, I belief that faith in the positive, plus understanding and kindness, give us energy and confidence, and they are the building blocks of life. And endless creativity. They set our spirits free to soar to unimaginable heights while the negative states keep us in bondage to misery and limitation.
Ken Hughes says
I like to treat fear as just a reminder to make decisions. If there’s a choice or a change I can make that improves things, I do it — or I research what I could do. After I’ve done what I can, or decided there are no options left that are worth the effort (“accept the things I cannot change”), I’ve done my part, and everything else is remembering that fact. When the steps I’ve taken are “good enough”… they’re good enough.
JOHN T. SHEA says
But Nathan! Tiny intricacies of your business could be the harbingers of doom for the entire Human Race!
Now I’m really worried…
Focusing on what I can control and what’s right in front of me. Like you, I think fear can be helpful for motivation. Fear of failure, however, can also be paralyzing. I guess it’s a balance (like all things). Evolutionary wise, fear is important. Saved our lives. Made us build better tools and shelters. So it’s interesting to think how we can harness it now when we don’t necessarily have to fear the lion eating us or the storm wiping out our shelter. Maybe it can help us be more disciplined and give us energy to challenge ourselves. But if we let it overwhelm us to the point where we are stuck in an endless loop of fear of fear which leads to avoidance and too many “what ifs”, then we are only hurting ourselves. I fear never doing, never finishing, so I will find a way to do. But if I follow the fear for too far, it leads to hopelessness and helplessness. So have boundaries. Focus on what you can control. Try to stay as much as possible in the present. Be in tune with what is a fear born of negative (and untruthful) core beliefs (I am a failure or I’m not useful) and fear that can be healthy and motivating. Basically, what you said. 🙂
Thank you so much for this. Such useful and inspiration advice. I relate to all of it!
I’ll try and keep this in mind when I think (at least a hundred times a day): “I’ll do that tomorrow.”
Marlene Cullen says
Exactly what I need to hear write now. Thank you for posting.