Are you intimate with your fear? Do you have a name for it, or do you try to deny its existence?
Do you know the difference between hard and scary? Learning a new programming language is hard. Writing is hard. Waking up at 5 AM is hard. But none of these activities are necessarily scary by themselves.
You deal with the hard with self-discipline and wit by working harder or working smarter. But when it comes to fear, you often feel helpless. You tell yourself to "just do it." But your feet are refusing to take a step forward.
It's sometimes hard for me to write these weekly posts. There have been times when the words have not come to me. There have been times when I finished my weekly post at 2 AM–a time of night when I would much rather be catching Z's instead of editing my sentences.
However, none of this has been scary. I'm not scared of my computer. I'm not scared of my writing software. I'm not scared of typing.
What has been scary is to share my posts. It has been scary to send a link to my friends and say here's something I've written and believe in. It has been scary to share posts at my workplace. It has been scary to tweet at the people who have inspired my writing.
This same fear repeats itself in other areas of my personal and professional life. I get scared whenever I put myself out there for other people to judge, or whenever I need to ask other people for their time, attention, money, or social capital. I get scared when I risk myself being seen as someone who is reaching, or as someone who is desperate, unaccomplished, and incompetent.
This is social anxiety, fear of rejection, impostor syndrome, etc. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls it simply resistance. We all have it.
And because of resistance, we sometimes isolate ourselves. It can be more comfortable to work on things by yourself instead of dealing with the expectations and unpredictability of others. If you work solo and you don't ship until your work is perfect, you don't have to be vulnerable. You don't have to prepare for criticism because your work won't have rough edges.
Of course, you know by now that perfect takes forever. You know that build, ship, learn, and repeat is the fastest, albeit also the toughest, path to success. You probably have also learned that meaningful work divides opinions.
The Abortion by Richard Brautigan describes a fictional library that collects only unpublished books written by ordinary people. Every single book is accepted. But none of the books get checked out. Nobody ever reads them.
While the writers put in long hours to produce their manuscripts, do they actually create work that's risky? Instead of facing their fears, do they escape it? While bringing your manuscript to the library can give you a sense of accomplishment, deep down you are not able to tell yourself that you shipped like a real artist. There is no social risk. There will be no commentary. Since your work remains undiscovered, public failure is not possible.
So how do you crush your anxieties and live a fearless life? You can see how your fear stunts your potential. You can see how your sensitive ego is sometimes the greatest enemy of your work.
Pema Chödrön (writer and Buddhist) asked once a teacher of hers how does he deal with fear. The teacher replied "I agree with it."
There is no war against your fear that you can win. Therefore, maybe it's time for you to come to terms with the fact that you will live with your fears for the rest of your life. Instead of running away from fear, try getting intimate with it. The next time you get scared, listen to what your fear is telling you. It's saying you're making yourself vulnerable. It's saying you're doing something crazy. It's saying you're about to live life to the fullest.