Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

Fear is a funny thing. We all experience it. Fear can be positive. It can keep us out of danger. It can stop us from making a super dumb decision, like getting in a car with a driver who’s been drinking too much. Fear can drive us to change for the better. At the same time, fear can cripple and, in extreme cases, can be deadly (I.e. suicide). Fear kills more dreams than failure ever has.

Fear is something we have to understand and respect. It’s a feeling and feelings do lie. Are feelings useful? Of course. But they can be affected by so many outside influences we are foolish to solely rely on them for guidance. Feelings can be affected by weather, diet, lack of exercise, a flat tire, a pile of unopened mail, stress, and on and on and on. Same thing with fear.

Fear of Heredity—Am I My Father’s Daughter?

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

Dad, little brother and me, circa 1979.

My father was genius smart. He probably had an IQ off the charts. Yet, when he passed away at the young age of 50, he was working for minimum wage repairing bicycles. Though a fun, kind and generous man, he had no friends and lived a very lonely life. The only thing he left me of value was an antique bed that wasn’t even his. It was my great-grandmother’s.

Shortly after the funeral, we had to clean out his home. It looked like a bad episode of Hoarders. When I opened the front door, I broke down crying. Not just because of my father’s sudden death. The daunting task of sorting through endless piles to see if anything could be saved was enough to make me short-circuit. Almost everything he owned was set out on a curb for the trash.

That was the sum of his life.

Though he was a prolific and talented writer, I never managed to find any of his writing in all the days sorting through mounds of clothes, gadgets, books, papers, and trash. The only work I have of his are the ones I memorized and a handful of notebooks with unfinished stories or poems.

In the case of my father’s passing, fear became a double-edged sword. Fear I’d end up like him was stronger than fear of failure or being mocked by others to pursue being a writer. It saddened me that someone of so much talent left nothing. He never focused, never finished, never believed in the dream enough to take it seriously. Bluntly, he did more whining than working.

This fear drove me to examine where he went wrong and make corrections in my character. I was a lot like him both in good ways and in bad.

The good? He was intelligent, generous, kind, loved to read and he was the most fun person anyone could know. Neighborhood kids who friend me on Facebook tell stories of my father dropping everything to fix their bikes because their families were to poor to replace the shot gears or the trashed tires. Thirty years later these kids (now adults) still remember my father fondly.

My dad’s passion for reading and writing was passed to me at a VERY young age. While other kids were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Tolkien. I was published the first time at age eight in a popular children’s magazine.

My father was also very humble and fun and rarely serious. It was NOT uncommon for me to come home from college only to be attacked from the bushes with a long-range high-powered water gun. Here’s this 49 year-old man who was goofy enough to ambush his daughter with a toy.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Dad gave me fuzzy dice for my first car. Ha ha ha ha ha.

The bad?

My father wanted to please his family more than he wanted to be a writer. He wilted in the face of any criticism. In wanting to please everyone, he pleased no one, including himself and the consequences were steep. He feared failure so much he never tried, thus sealing he would fail anyway.

I was doing the same thing. I was in a job I hated because “it paid great money” and had lots of perks and made my family Oh so proud. Let’s just ignore that I had to pull over to puke on the side of the road every day because of the stress, because I hated my job with every fiber of my being. It was a fabulous job…for someone else.

I was paralyzed by the fear of failure to the point I was willing to work a job the world believed was “acceptable.” I crumbled at any hint of criticism. I lived my life by committee and was a wreck because of it.

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The fear of ending up like my dad served its purpose for a time. It helped me stand up to family when I decided to leave the corporate world to become an author. I studied my father’s missteps then did the opposite. Where he retreated, I plunged ahead. My father was all about escape—music, books, books, books, TV. Ignore the real world and get lost in a fantasy. He neglected his writing, his home, his dog, his life to be…elsewhere. Like the grasshopper and all play no work.

This drove me to become self-directed, self-motivated, disciplined…and neurotic.

While it’s good to examine what we fear, we risk going to the other extreme. Fear, in many ways, is like a family dog. Trained properly it can defend us and keep us from harm. Yet, if we don’t keep it leashed and make it “heel,” it will chew on our souls and pee on our dreams.

Fear of Ourselves

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

When I examined my father’s strengths and weaknesses I witnessed my own. Yes, I was blessed with a sharp mind and talent. But, I let others have too much sway in my life. Why? The only one who’d face the consequences was ME. It’s hard to share this, but I was lazy. I believed more in luck and opportunity than hard work. My locus of focus was external. I blamed people and circumstances for where I was or wasn’t.

If I had a computer then I could write.

If I didn’t have to work a day job then I could finish the novel.

If others would take me seriously, then I’d be more “inspired.”

I relied too much on inspiration and underestimated the power of perspiration. I wanted the “Seal of Approval” from the outside world before I could do anything.

Lately, I have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. I’ve realized that fear has chewed through its leash and gutted my couch self-esteem. I can accomplish a hundred things in a day, yet have come to see I’m only noticing the ten I missed. Self-examination has shifted to self-deprecation.

And this will happen. It’s natural. But why I’m blogging about this is I want you (and even me) to be alert. Watch for the read flags that good fear has turned on us.

My family had the Autumn from Hell in 2013. Two family members with MAJOR surgeries. My mom had a hernia so bad they almost thought they couldn’t repair it. My sister-in-law nearly went blind and had to undergo one of the most horrific and painful surgeries anyone could endure to repair her detached retinas. My grandmother passed away. I’d just about come up for air and then something else would knock me to my knees.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

At the beginning of the year, we thought we’d be able to recuperate. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. The big trucks where my husband works all went down at the same time. No trucks? The company goes under and the company has only one mechanic.

My husband is trained in diesel engines. He’s worked 60-70 hours a week for the past month with one day off, meaning I’ve had one day off. Since Hubby’s gone most of the time, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping on top of running a business and writing…with virtually NO break from The Spawn.

To add a new layer of difficulty the washer died. Hubby can repair it, but he doesn’t have time. This has left me lugging loads and loads of laundry to a nearby laundromat. Also, a few days ago, my other grandmother was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening and unknown infection. The stress has been crushing (part of why I added in vigorous exercise).

I’ve been working my tail off. Any time I sit down for five minutes, I hear the voices. You’re just not trying hard enough. That ten minutes you sat down? You could have been cleaning, working, writing, coming up with a cure for cancer.

I recognize that one of my early character flaws was laziness. But in the past couple days, I’ve come to recognize that I’m teetering on the other extreme. It’s great to be a hard worker, to be disciplined. But rest and play are vital to maintain balance, mental health and joy.

Fear Will Drag Us To Extremes If We Permit It

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Fear is a riptide. Swim with it or allow it to drag us under. I can be so afraid of being lazy I become a workaholic. So afraid of being irresponsible I become over-responsible and even controlling. Fear can drive kids of obese parents to eating disorders, children of abusive parents to being far too permissive, offspring of broke parents to be obsessed with accumulation of money and on and on.

The trick is to face what we fear and see it for what it IS. Almost all of us fear failure, but failure is the tuition we pay for success. We can fear criticism, but criticism is a fact of life. Fear of criticism can lead to perfectionism or passivity. Conversely, criticism can help us toughen up or even become stronger, better or more resolved.

What’s the answer? First, be self-aware. Many of us bee-bop through life going through the motions without inspecting the why behind our choices. This is dangerous. Fear is both good and bad. What changes the nature of fear is how we are using it. Are we using fear to be proactive or are we being reactive? When we’re proactive, we’re acknowledging fear and taking positive steps. We hold the leash. When we are reactive? Fear has a leash on us.

Fear is a feeling, which means it can lie. F.E.A.R. can be False Evidence Appearing Real. Evidence requires examination. Do we hold onto it or dismiss it? I feared ending up like my dad. That I would value pleasing others so much I’d live an empty life.

We cannot live the dreams of others and be fulfilled. This was positive fear. The evidence of my father’s choices showed me the truth of what happens to someone too afraid to fail. That evidence was real and worth holding onto. I also had to examine what he did right and grab hold.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

WHAT??? Yes, I am an adult. Most of the time.

Unexamined fear can become The Hamster Wheel of Doom. The HWOD tells me I suck because I’m not a fitness model with an immaculate Martha-Stewart-decorated-home, twenty best-selling books, a mansion and I’ve failed to travel to Africa twice a year to feed the starving children.

That’s false fear. 

"Meet Spiffy the Hamster." He's DEAD. Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

“Meet Spiffy the Hamster.” He’s DEAD.
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

If I asked any of you right now to take out a piece of paper and write down all that’s wrong with you, I’d wager most would have twenty pages. But what if I asked what’s right with you? Bet you’re stumped, too.

We all struggle. Struggle can be good. Resistance is what makes us grow. But if we only focus on what’s wrong with us, we’ll just get more. We are what we focus on.

In racing, part of how they train drivers to win is teaching the driver to acknowledge the wall, but never look at it. The car goes where the driver looks. Look at the wall and you’ll hit the wall. Focus on the finish line.

All of us have our “wall.” Mine is laziness, people-pleasing, blind loyalty, procrastination, and I could list even more. I recognize them. I respect them. But I must focus on the positive. I am also disciplined, kind, generous and passionate and these qualities deserve my attention. If we focus enough on developing the positive, it will eventually crowd out the negative.

We also must learn to focus on the realistic. I am human. It’s okay to take a nap, play some video games, or read a book. There will always be more laundry, more dishes. But at the end of my days will I remember the clean dishes or the hour I spent running through the house with The Spawn with NERF guns “hunting zombies”? I can focus on the negative legacy my father left, but that might cost me the positive legacy he gave me.

I will never be too old to enjoy a bounce house.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a "serious" business after all.

I rented a bounce house for the WANAs in LA. Writing is a “serious” business after all.

What are your thoughts? Who has the leash? You or your fears? Do you find yourself being reactive? Too hard on yourself? Do you struggle to list what’s good about who you are? Is it hard to have fun? Do you feel guilty for rest? Is it tough to cut yourself slack? Do you find yourself maybe going to extremes because you fear being like a parent or other adult influence? Or maybe you’ve made positive changes and you’re afraid if you take one day off you’ll slip back into what you worked so hard to change?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World


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    • denissea on March 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing Kristen! I always love reading your blog posts. I always share them. You are right. Fear can be a powerful things, but I think people can get past it and do what you want. Life isn’t about pleasing everyone, its about doing what you feel is right. Everyone makes mistakes, we just have to learn from them.

  1. Thanks for the blog post and insightful questions. I’ve been on a quest for years to strengthen my strengths and fix or minimize my flaws, but it’s hard. It’s so hard to see ourselves objectively. That said, I have a HUGE fear of disappointing people and this spills into my writing. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’m not good at middle of the pack or mediocre and I’m sooooo afraid of being mediocre. Many blogs ask us to embrace the fact that we won’t be BEST SELLERS, which I know is different than mediocrity, but I equate the too. Thank you for reminding me to examine my fears and work with them.

  2. Thanks for writing this…I feel the honesty and rawness in it…for a long time I have been facing my own fears and insecurities…It comes as a relief and also a lesson…

  3. Oh you so “nailed it!” Bang on target!

  4. Insightful, helpful, and brilliant.

  5. All of the above lol. I love the part about being proactive, I’m so easily influenced naughty me.

    • kathalsey on March 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm
    • Reply

    You are FEARLESS to have written this! Your dad sounds like a beautiful human being and father. TY for sharing this intimate story!

  6. I get overwhelmed by fear and aggravation often… Often it’s fear that the best I can do isn’t half good enough.

    But the best I can do is all I can do, and it usually is good enough.

  7. Excellent post, Kristen. I have been feeling so depressed lately in my quest to do several creative things with my life, because at the same time I’m applying for jobs that offer a paycheck, benefits and a retirement fund, in other words, security. I’m getting rejected right and left for these secure jobs, so I try to focus also on my creative endeavors, much more fun but with unknown outcomes. I know I am crippled sometimes by fear and depression. This is a great post to help us see what’s running our lives. Thanks.

  8. Wow, this post was really thought provoking and just what I needed! And it’s so nice to hear someone else admit they are lazy! I can sooooo relate to that. I have guilt about feeling lazy almost everyday, even when I’ve worked my tail off! But you have really given me some important tips to deal with all my “million” fears. And thanks for reminding us all that we need to concentrate on strengthening the good things about ourselves and stop obsessing about the bad.

    Sorry about all the crappy things that have happened in your life the last year. I hope 2014 will prove to be much better for you!

  9. Reblogged this on Laura’s Word Press and commented:
    Money quote: “Unexamined fear can become The Hamster Wheel of Doom.”


  10. It took years before I started forging my path (not someone else’s). And it’s the path I started out on, before everyone told me it was wrong. Along the way I managed to lay a support system that serves me well now and frees me to do what I’m meant to do. But first I had to meet my true self — yoga helped me along that pathway. More than anything, we must never give up on ourselves — and your blog, Kristen, helps readers remember that.

    • annerallen on March 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm
    • Reply

    What a poignant story, Kristen. So many people are paralysed by fear. And a good deal of the evil that happens in the world is generated from fear–of the unknown, of change, of shame, of “the other.”

    My fear was writing nonfiction. Both my parents were academics who wrote “important” nonfiction books. So for decades I was convinced I couldn’t write nonfiction because it wasn’t as “good” as theirs. Then when the company publishing my novels went under, financial necessity forced me to start writing feature articles and columns–and a blog, which took off like a rocket. Turned out the very thing I was most afraid of was what I was meant to do.

  11. Great post Kristen.
    It took me until I was 50 to stop dancing to everyone else’ s tune for fear they would disapprove. Because time is shorter as you age I was determined to follow my dreams of writing and I have. At 52 I published and I have two more on the go and every day I learn something new that makes me a better writer and person I hope.:-)

    • Trish Loye Elliott on March 5, 2014 at 12:43 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I too often focus on the fear and the negative. I share a lot of your father’s traits. Now I can start to refocus myself. Thank you.

  12. “Failure is the tuition we pay for success.”

    Brilliant, Kristen. This post really resonated with me, thank you.

    I have recently learned two things that help me through tough times:
    • When we can’t stand criticism, we become perfectionists (that doesn’t turn out well).
    • These days I strive for progress, not perfection (It makes the Learning Curve much easier to climb).


  13. I think it is very easy to allow fear to cripple us. If we don’t try, then we can tell ourselves we never really failed. Thanks for sharing your father’s story. It’s definitely a great reminder that by not living to our potential, we pretty much “fail” anyway.

    • The Right Word on March 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    “Its” not “it’s”. One is a possessive. The other is a contraction for “it is”.

    1. Correction noted. My apologies.

  14. Hi Kristen, How you do so get into my head! Let’s do the numbers: I am a 55 year old woman. I’m also a mom to two complicated young men, aged 21 and 24. My father is still alive at 92, still trying to call the shots. My mother is with us too at 85, but she lives in another province and never calls. I graduated after 5 years of college with a degree in creative writing and one in psychology. I’m a prolific writer, with over 400 stories on file–but none sent anywhere. I do at least have a website and blog, but I haven’t written in it in some time. I have one young adult fiction story that’s been approved by a local publisher, but who wants me to try writing it in the 1st person instead, so they can use it for their reluctant reader category. That was three years ago. I was published regularly in the student newspaper for 4 years, eventually becoming the only paid volunteer writer. Why I can’t even take one of my many stories, polish it and send it out, I don’t know, but I think I’m getting a clue. I’ve decided to put some things in place that shift my life towards a place of no more excuses. Last December I decided to shut down my two bedroom apartment to stop having roommates, (what is it with roommates and their ability to torture?) to live alone so I could write. Now I’m in a friend’s basement, living in one room–with most of my stuff in a storage locker because I can’t afford a place on my own. As you know, I also work as an organizer, I’m very good at it and with school finished I “should” focus on that and get back to a solid client base. But that job can make me physically and emotionally exhausted and I’ve used it as a reason not to write. Excuses, excuses and more excuses. I am your Dad. Two days ago, my old Dad called me a lost cause. On the surface this looks true, broke, alone, living in a basement off a friend’s charity. Not even that motivated me to sit down this morning and write for a couple of hours on one story. But lost causes give up. I don’t.

  15. Oh my gosh – I’ve always tried to explain to people why I would self-sabotage every time it came to singing in front of others for an audition (even though I was accepted into a prestigious musical theater program) and know I have a beautiful voice. I was just like your father: “He feared failure so much he never tried, thus sealing he would fail anyway.” The reason I had so much fear was because I feared failing in something I loved so much. Thank you for writing this!!! It really struck a chord with me!

  16. Most excellent post, Kristen. There comes a point where you have to just say, “I’m doing this and I don’t care what you think.” I think the fear of criticism for (usually introverted) creatives is the most paralyzing fear because what we do is put our souls out into the world.

    When we don’t live our lives according to others’ demands/values/ideas, they feel free to criticize. I decided several years ago to stop listening to people who don’t know anything about the life and career of a writer or artist. (I’m both.) My advice to other creative people is just don’t listen to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. When people have told me that you can’t make money or a living as a writer or artist, I just think, “How would you know? Have you ever tried? No? Then you’re not in the position to comment.”

  17. Love this post because it is SO true. I had a lot of fear in me while growing up, mostly based around my powerful desire for approval. I wanted my parents to be proud of me, I wanted my teachers to adore me, I wanted my friends to think I was the best thing since sliced bread, and I wanted the world in general to think that I was pretty, smart, talented, and all-around wonderful… And yet at the same time I thought I was ugly, stupid, talentLESS, and all-around pathetic. I desired for the world to tell me how perfect I was because I personally believed I was worthless in a million ways.

    As I grew up I learned to care more about what I thought of myself than what other people thought of me, and that turnaround has helped quite a bit in banishing my fear…the fear of rejection. I now don’t concern myself with worries of failures, publisher rejections, bad reviews, and the like. I focus my concerns on what will make me happy, and that’s finishing manuscripts, getting them in print, and being able to finally call myself a published writer. 🙂

  18. I really appreciate you opening up like this. I can relate. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll become like my mother. (I’m 45 so I think I’m probably safe, but the fear just never dies.) She was a slightly unhinged individual who made life difficult for most of her 8 children. I was the baby of the family and made it out mostly unscathed, except in regards to self image.

    Listing my positives is something that I find difficult to do. I was brought up to believe that if you expounded on your virtues then you were a “braggart.” Logically, I know there’s a line between someone who is confident and someone who is being obnoxious, but I always fear overstepping that line. Taking a compliment is difficult for me. I deflect. I downplay. I joke. And if all else fails, I blush and mumble, “Thank you.” Of course, I want to reach people with my artwork and my writing, so I share it. I “put myself out there,” but marketing myself makes me uncomfortable. I know that I’m going to have to change that, though, if I want writing to be my career and not just a hobby. It’s not easy, but I’m working on it.

  19. Another excellent post. You inspire me!

  20. Reblogged this on L.D. Sargent and commented:
    This was a long blog that I will read have to again later. But, it spoke to me literally. What a wonderful thing to find…that I am NOT alone.

  21. So very true! Happy to have found this post that I will have to read again at another time; I want to make sure I get everything in. But thanks for sharing. I am not alone. :c)

  22. This is such an incredible post. I cried at some parts because I saw a bit of my dad in there….his great talent yet sabotaged by so many things. I loved this post more than words can say. Thank you so much.

  23. For me, this was your most meaningful post yet. For WAY too long, my life was restricted to what I had been told I SHOULD do. Although I am still often confused about which way to turn and how to find the best path to success as an author, I am much happier following my creative heart and trying that road than I ever was when I had a more traditional job.

  24. What a great post. I can’t begin to tell you how perfectly your words align with what I’m doing in my own life right now. Thank you!

  25. Reblogged this on Letters to Kathryn and commented:
    Sometimes, that perfect little thing comes across your path just when you need it.

  26. Reblogged this on Mrs C Writes's Blog and commented:
    Fear… It’s an interesting one. I think it’s either one of those things you’re hyper aware of or one of those things that sits deep within us, perhaps never consciously reaching the surface. Really interesting post!

    • Sarah_Madison on March 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm
    • Reply

    This turned out to be a very timely post! I went to see Frozen last weekend, and found that the song “Let it Go” really spoke to something in me. I’ve probably listened to it a thousand times now. A few days ago, I found myself questioning what it was that *I* needed to let go of–and the answers astonished me. I keep listening to the song to give me courage–and to remind me not to let my fears control me. 🙂

  27. Excellent post! I find, with me, there is a thin line between taking a break from writing and outright procrastination. ‘Failure is the tuition we pay for success’ – brilliant! I read your blog every day and this one has been so thought-provoking and helpful. Thank you!

  28. “We are what we focus on.” Truer words… It’s a bit like you’ve climbed into my head, heart, and soul lately. Maybe it’s just because these are all universal things we creative types constantly face, but it seems like your posts in the last week or so have been incredibly relevant and timely to the things I’m currently going through in (therapy) my life. Again, could just be the same things we all go through on a fairly constant basis. Either way, thank you for reminding us to be mindful. Very important. And crikey, woman, take a nap. I’m exhausted for you just reading this. 🙂

  29. Yep, fear can paralyze us or drive us off the deep end of stupidity. At the moment, I have the beast wrestled into submission, but tomorrow could be a whole different story.
    Thanks for baring your soul and sharing your wisdom with all of us.

  30. Kristen, I think this is one of your best posts. Very poignant and packed full of powerful words and great analogies. Cool photos, too! I struggle to find the perfect balance. It’s an ongoing battle. Yes, you sure had a hell of a year in 2013. Still, you kicked butt with your writing. I didn’t realize your father was so young when he died. 🙁 I’m so sorry. I love that quality, fun time you have with The Spawn. Those are the moments that shape our kids. You took the best of your father’s life and you’re applying it to your life and you learned from his mistakes. I can relate to so much in this post. I hope those trucks are getting repaired and hubby gets some days off. And you, too. Geez, you guys are well overdue for a vacation and some R&R. I, too, will never be too old for a bounce house! Take care, WANA Mama.

  31. Oh, I forgot to say that I’m sure my whole family would throw a party to celebrate if I ever decide to quit writing. Ain’t gonna happen!

  32. Wonderful perspective and so true… you wrote much of my thinking today… fear and boundaries are boppin’ around in my head. Trying to sort things and organize them and see them for what they are… I think your post helped me with some of those things. Thank you :).

  33. Dear Kristen, I loved your post, It is funny how we can see ourselves someone else’s story. Your road has a familiar path that I recognized. Big corporate job. Lots of perks. Travel to many places. I too left for my dream. My dream to write. The people that think I am nuts are tenfold. Only my sibling and offspring have faith in me.
    After reading your post, though, I think I can muster up all my good qualities and proceed down the path of SELF. Writing is hard, and writing great is harder. But at least I love writing! I won’t stop. Did I mention, I am a novice! lol. Wish me luck.

    1. I fixed it :D.

      1. Oh, I’m not sure what I was supposed to do when replying, to my comment
        reply, but I LOVED your post!!! It rings so true with so many pieces of my life!

    • Claire Fogel on March 5, 2014 at 3:39 pm
    • Reply

    We can all relate to fear of one kind or another. For me it was fear I didn’t have the talent to write a novel, even though I was a skilled business writer. That fear, reinforced by all the adults important in my life as a kid, stopped me from trying until I was 70! Yes, until I was 70. Sad, right? However, after years of encouragement from my husband and my talented daughter, I started writing and found that I loved it. And after five, yes five, drafts, it’s really not bad. I’m looking for a talented editor now who’s experienced with YA novels. Fear isn’t controlling me anymore. I’m 72 and this year I will publish my first book. I don’t even fear that some people won’t like it. I like it and I’m proud of it. That’s what counts. That lifetime of fear has finally left town!

    • Sarah Brentyn on March 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm
    • Reply

    Oh! Pick me!

    Just reading the title, I will say dragging me under. Now. I will go read this undoubtedly wonderful post.

  34. Thanks for this great reminder! I need to make that list of what I am doing right and what I am good at. I had this same revelation that I needed rest time a couple of months ago. I realized that I was working myself to the bone at a job I hate in order to feel like I have integrity plus taking online publishing courses and maintaining a blog to help with my career transition…all this not including my personal life. I realized I need to take a breather at work and slow down! I know take a brief walk around the office every hour and force myself to leave my desk. I do stretches and read through a prayer devotional on my afternoon break to bring some life back into my muscles and my soul. And I am introducing a rest afternoon on Sundays where I am not allowed to do any cleaning, cooking, hanging out with people, or schoolwork. I only do the things I really want to do that is restful like reading, yoga, writing, or chilling with a movie. Creating space for rest is very important!

  35. Hi Kristen, I was so moved by your post that I had to comment. I too spent a good portion of my life trying to sort through the life lesson’s from my father and avoid the mistakes. Our parent’s imprint holds fast and it is sometimes difficult to break away. I spent the first fifty years of my life “playing it safe”, but now I am pursuing my dream of writing. Thanks for the feelings.

  36. Kristen, I wish you could see my face right now. (There are tears going down my face.) Your message couldn’t have come at a better time in my life then at this exact moment. (A lot of self-reflection today.) It’s easier, at least for me, to acknowledge my negatives. I have quite a few.

    I have this dream…and it’s a good dream. I have this plan that I want to do. But I’m so afraid that it’s not the right choice. Right now, things are easier – they make sense. Wanting to change all that for the unknown is not only scary, but feels selfish as well.

    I feel like a part of me is blocking who I am meant to be becacuse it is not the “easy choice” to make. (I’ll probably message you more later.) Thanks again for posting this – it was exactly what I needed.

    • Sarah Brentyn on March 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm
    • Reply

    Okay, I was right. 😉

    I am self-aware. Always have been. But I examine the “why” too much, over-thinking everything. Adding to the fear. I am also reactive. I am leashed for sure. And I hear ” you are too hard on yourself” more than once a week. Thanks for posting this.

    P.S. This detail is so not your point but I love it and it hit home: “It was a fabulous job…for someone else.”

  37. Funny – this is the third time in a week that the subject of fear has come up. I guess it’s a matter of is the fear alerting you to an actual danger, or is it crippling you with what-ifs? A sobering thought.

  38. carl jung said that the unlived life of the parent is the most profound legacy that can be left to a child. it makes you realize (and quake if you’re a parent) the importance of really plunging yourself into life, despite the anxiety and paralysis fear causes. how comforting to know that we all struggle with these issues. on the upside, it’s these struggles that enrich our writing. : )

  39. Thank you for sharing this! I appreciate how you incorporate your personal experiences with your writing theme to inspire others. Especially where you talk about the job and how stressful that was for you and how you think you might end up stuck there forever. Who can’t relate?!

    I spent years whining about not writing and wanting to be a writer but not actually writing. One day my sister and I realized we were doing this and made changes. Today I have 3 novels drafted . . . and am completing edits on the first which is almost ready to publish.

    Fear is definitely creeping in with the onset of rejection and failure. There is also the hope of success, but fear does speak loudly.

    This post gave me some encouragement. Thank you!

  40. Kristen, I admire you so much.I hope your child appreciates you, and remembers. You are special. I, too, can be an adult, but it still doesn’t feel natural. Silent

  41. I am SO your sister when it comes to fear and wanting to please others. I recognize myself in a lot of what you spoke of. I, too, tried to hold down a “real” job that almost destroyed my life. Thankfully, I started putting myself back on track with the help of God. Not that I don’t still have fears, but I pray about them and work through them. I’m seeing that when it comes to writing, I often go out of my way to please others I have read my work to and although sometimes that’s good when I need to know what has to be fixed, it’s not always good to change my vision, my story to what someone else thinks it should be. Definitely working on this!!

  42. My family is super supportive of my writing, but always comes back to say things like, “you have a degree and certification to teach elementary school…why don’t you find a nice job teaching creative writing to fourth graders?” My Dad writes…he’s also a minister and teaches. We have all acknowledged that Dad and I share a Fear of Success.

    What would happen if I actually pushed and got all this done and published and became a great success?? Then you dream but don’t push yourself to finish in time for the contest, or publisher, or whatever it is you think of doing. There were, after all, dishes to wash.

    Thanks for the post, I think it spoke to a lot of people!

  43. Hi Kristen,

    “That was the sum of his life.” No, you and your brother are. What a great dad and how lucky he was to have you and vice versa.

    Great post!

  44. I’m reminded of a quote from Frank Hertbert’s ‘Dune’: “Fear is the mind killer…”

    1. I used to quote that aloud. I have it memorized.

  45. I had always wanted to write a book. I came up with every excuse as to why I couldn’t. I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t know how to type. I had no college credentials. I’ll never forget the day I went to go meet my father for lunch. I was 40 years old. Your post reminded me of my father. My father is such an intelligent man. He was a high school teacher for 25 years, but he probably should’ve taught in a college where the students would’ve been interested in what he had to say LOL. During this lunch date my father started sharing with me some of the regrets that he had. “I should’ve done this and I should’ve done that. ” While I was driving home I became extremely depressed. When I got home I decided I was going to buy the laptop and try to make a go of things. Now, it’s seven years later and I have fourteen romance novellas published through two different e-book companies. I lost my husband last summer to AML leukemia. For the first time since that lunch with my father I was having trouble focusing on my writing. I started to panic, thinking it was all over! That fear led me down a different path with my writing. For the last seven months I have now been writing nonfiction and poetry. I’ve released two memoirs about my experience with my husband’s illness and how a catastrophic diagnosis effects a spouse and families. The last book in the series will focus on my new journey as a widow. Not to be long-winded, but I could really relate to this post today, thank you.

  46. I am so glad I chose to read your blog tonight. I fee like I am reading my own story … except … I am still on the lazy, excuse making side of the equation. You have given me help and hope. The thing I need to do is stop fearing and start flying. Thank you for your blog. It is an incredible help to me.

    1. We will always struggle with our greatest weaknesses. They don’t ever go away completely, which is why we need to be vigilant. It’s like bathing. Better to do daily. But we all have areas we struggle. All of us. And that’s okay. Just means we’re human :D.

  47. Awesome post. I hope thing settle down and get easier soon! I know what you mean about fear. I can write and draw and write and draw some more,but I’m continually hitting this wall of family expectations/opinion. They just don’t GET my interests and my father is forever telling me I should stop with the cartoony stuff and do some REAL art. To put myself out for strangers is fine, but to do it anywhere my family can find it flat out paralyzes me.

  48. EXCELLENT post.

  49. Bounce house? They’re bouncy castles, dammit! lol

  50. Really, really good post Kristen! Thanks for sharing 🙂 x

  51. I’m not sure how to do the fancy link back and win option, but I’d like to comment anyways. This blog couldn’t have been more for me, literally. Thank you for telling your experiences and your thoughts of this part of your journey. While I’ve been feeling this increasingly growing anxiety of self-sabotage, and not feeling satisfied or accomplished in anything…I’ve never looked at it as fear. And it makes total sense. My dad and mom have the same curse, and I’ve been bound to be anything but them… And shockingly, I haven’t gotten anywhere. And I guess I could say I have a lot of thinking to do, reversely I need to start doing. Your piece was extremely helpful and it really spoke to me. Thank you 🙂

    1. I think we all inherit the good, the bad and the ugly. What we use them for is our choice. And fear is a sneaky bugger, 😉 .

  52. So much of this is familiar to me. I trod other people’s paths for far too long out of fear. I’m trying trying to get out of it. But I am so hamster-wheel-of-dooming right now. Thanks for putting it all into such rousing words. Persistence. It’s going to pay off.

  53. More inspiration for me to Fight the Fear. Thank you.

  54. Reblogged this on DayDreams and commented:
    This was so inspiring for me. I can relate to so much of what this blog tells us about fear and its many faces. I fear so much in my life. I procrastinate, wallow in self pity, put off because of fear, and sometimes even give up before I’ve tried. To my credit, I believe I’m very self aware and striving to become more-so everyday of my life.
    Let this post help you re-evaluate you’re strengths and weaknesses and use them to your fullest advantage.
    Awesome insight of fear. Loved it.

  55. Another fantastic post. I believe that while the past does shape us, it should not define us. A life unexamined can become a tragedy.

  56. Reblogged this on Author Sean T. Smith and commented:
    Insightful article

    • M on March 6, 2014 at 9:52 am
    • Reply

    Awesome post. You said it all. After giving up writing for a couple of years i’ve finally started a blog. would love some input from readers here.

  57. I work with people who have chronic mental illness and we use what’s called the “Recovery Model” to help people achieve their goals of feeling better. They recently switched from a “treatment” focus to this “recovery” model because, for starters, nobody’s broken and they therefore can’t be fixed, but mostly because recovery can be applied to anything that a person wants to get better at in their life.
    What you’re saying sounds very much the same; we’re not broken, we’re gonna have good days and have bad days, but forgive ourselves and keep moving forward.
    It really does work!

  58. Thank you for sharing this intimate story Kristen.

    1. I think that my foolishness, pain, pride, missteps not only can help me grow, I hope they can help others, too. We are in this world where everyone is trying to put on a facade of perfection and it makes us feel like we are such screw-ups. Yet, often if another can say, “Hey, I blew that too” or “I’ve made bad decisions” it gives us permission to be imperfect and learn. ((HUGS))

  59. Okay, Kristen, I blogged about this very subject yesterday. Then I visited your blog today and saw that you were talking about the same thing. Is there something in the stars?

    I have learned, over the years, to treat fear as a natural part of the creative process. It becomes destructive if we feed it and allow it to stop us, as your father did, from pursuing our dream or our calling. If we’re stuck and not moving forward, then fear is controlling us. But it can also simply be acknowledged as a natural “byproduct” (I know, that’s a yucky, yucky word!) of the creative process. And then we acknowledge its presence, realize that all artists face fear from time to time, and we can move forward.

    Like you, I stayed in a job that was an awesome job for all the wrong reasons. It was a good job that allowed me to write and provided a steady paycheck, and I was surrounded by great people, but after I left, I realized that it definitely wasn’t the right place for me. I’m glad I worked up the nerve to pursue my passions. I’m a much healthier and happier person because of it!

  60. Some fears are there for a good purpose: lock the doors before going to bed, recheck the stove to make sure it’s turned off, don’t run out into the street, etc. The fears I know are from beliefs having no place in reality are the ones I strive to banish by either bulldozing my way through them or finding a way to go around them. I’m beginning to be long in the tooth, but here I am trying to write my first novel. It hasn’t been fear that has caused the delay though. I was just doing other things that I wanted to try my hand at.

    My wall is frustration instead.

  61. This was a very truthful, relatable, and encouraging post: the best you’ve written so far, in my opinion. I’m glad you could learn from your father, and by sharing this, others will too. You are an inspiration to me. Thanks

  62. What a great blog post! I found it really useful and encouraging.

  63. “If others would take me seriously, then I’d be more “inspired.”

    I relied too much on inspiration and underestimated the power of perspiration. I wanted the “Seal of Approval” from the outside world before I could do anything.”

    ^ That hit me right in the feels. I’ve always bounced from laziness to feeling like I have to constantly work on something. It’s hard to find a balance.

  64. I love how you weave your life into great lessons for us.This particular post resonated with me big time. Thank you.

  65. Hi Kristen, thank you. I have been having a massive slump in confidence over my writing lately – I think the adrenaline has gone out like a tide after coping for a year with my husband’s bout of stress-induced anxiety. Now, thank God, he is better and life is looking up again, but I am having my little slump. In a strange way it was good to know that someone as successful as you also has moments when the fear of failure threatens to overcome your determination to succeed. Onwards…

    1. Always. One day we feel like a Rockstar and another we feel like Stuff On a Shoe. But feelings lie and that was a HUGE revelation for me. Our lives are not one day or one mistake or one failure. We are an accumulation of countless events, good, fabulous, empty, heartbreaking. We need to keep eyes on the horizon and not at our feet. Happy to help inspire you ((HUGS))

    • Evelyn Berry on March 7, 2014 at 11:43 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for sharing, Kristen. I think most of my over-achieving comes from being the first child and having a father (like yours) who is a brilliant man, but mired in fear. I’ve strive not to be like him and learn from his mistakes, but to also give myself time and patience to learn the craft of writing. Yoga has taught me not to compare myself to other, but it’s difficult when everyone is making NYTimes or USAToday bestseller list and the seeds of doubt get planted. But I remind myself, anything worth doing (and I’m passionate about my dream of getting published), is worth doing well. Learning craft will take time, but as long as I keep writing, I’m one letter, one word, one sentence closer to my dream.

  66. Kristen, your heartfelt words put a lump in my throat. Honestly, you have touched on the core of what holds most of us back. Sharing our words with the world is terrifying. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful man who was there for you and no child could ask for anything more. I’ve seen my parents do the same and while it’s heartbreaking to watch their talents fall away, I’ve also been humbled by their choices. Sometimes love drives your dream, even if it’s to life a simple life. You’re a lucky girl to have had such a magnificent influence. And, we writers are thankful for you as a result! Keep sharing. Even if the posts bring me to tears, they also bring me to the keyboard, which is where we all need to be in the end. Fearless WANA. I love it!

    1. “Even if the posts bring me to tears, they also bring me to the keyboard…” AWWWW, I LOVE THAT! Thank you ((HUGS))

  67. Thank you for posting this, and being so open and honest in examining your life and sharing it with us. Sometimes I think this is a lesson we all need to hear.

  68. Its ironic and almost haunting really. The more i read your blog the more i see the machinations of my own life reflected back at me. You had the same type of father I did with the sadly almost identical outcome. My father is thankfully still with us but he has long since given up on achieving anything beyond his daily routine. Even now as a retired man he prefers to vanish into the realms of his favorite western or sci-fi flick than deal with his reality.

    I feel for you because we have lived the same life. I used to vomit before work everyday because i worked a job that I could not stand only to make everyone else around me smile while in reality i hated everything about myself and my life. But so long as everyone else acknowledged my worth then it was enough for me. No not really but it was a beautiful lie for awhile. I still work a crappy day job cause i’m not quite making the cut to live entirely by my writing then I’m only like 3 years into it so I still have lots of time. A wonderful blog that I feel deserves a wonderful comment and a definate reblog.

    1. Beautiful comment. I’m honored. Yeah, my dad was all about the sic-fi, fantasy, Western then TV. I can’t watch old Clint Eastwood movies or old war movies because my dad watched them over and over and, yes…over.

      1. Same with my dad. Actually, his love of Sci fi rubbed off on me so its one of many reasons i have such a talent/love of the sci fi genre and chose to make that my genre of choice to “break out” in.

        You’re welcome, just thought you should know that i mirror your experience and I’m glad we can share those experiences.

  69. Reblogged this on remnantscc and commented:
    For any aspiring writer or anyone, for that matter, who is seeking the horizon but is too afraid to cross the ominous swamp in between.

  70. This is a beautiful, intimate post. Thank you for sharing your insights into fear. I’m taking with me HWOD. I may stencil on my office wall – Don’t Get Caught on the Hamster Wheel of Doom!


      1. Ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Sticky note?

  71. As has been said by many, story of my life as well. It’s been the last couple of years I have had the realization that I want my kids to see a women who faced all those fears and put everything out there for the sake of what really matters. I don’t want to fear success or failure, and I think the former is often more potent. I think it was the combination of outliving my mother (while sharing her disease) and living through a bunch of other nasty stuff that spurred that realization. No matter–you’ve nailed the feeling.

  72. Reblogged this on jbiggarblog.

  73. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for an inspiring post once more.

  74. I am an author and a part-time practicing doctor (see what I did there? I used to say I’m a doctor and part-time writer!). The differences between those two careers couldn’t be greater. I have been told so many times “But how can you compare medicine to writing? Medicine is a vocation where you can do so much good! You’re a great doctor! We can’t afford to lose someone like you!” And more comments like that, along the lines that medicine is a “serious” job, while writing is a self-indulgent hobby that I can just do, you know, whenever.

    The perception that by committing to writing, I’m taking the “easy” option as compared to medicine, is sometimes in the air, unspoken but readable on faces. And yes, the comments of “If you can write a book, then I should be able to write one too” abound.

    There are days when I feel guilty for chasing this dream. I feel I’m too privileged, that I’m getting to have my cake and eat it. But then I look at what I’ve had to do to get to where I am today and I think, ‘Hell no. This is not freakin’ easy! Not everyone can do this!”

    What we do ISN’T easy. What we do IS important. The written word has shaped human civilizations, societies, and cultures for millennia and will continue to do so in the future.

    Without the written word, the lights of the world would go out. No newspapers, no books, no films, no TV, no plays, no education. People would go eat, sleep, and work.

    We might as well go back to being monkeys.

  75. Ooops, above reply was for your other post!!!

    1. Truer words my friend.

  76. I found this via Jami Gold’s blog, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been struggling with a lot of my own fears lately, and this post is just… amazing. Thank you, Kristen, for your honesty and for reminding me that fear only owns me if I let it. I’ve posted a link at my blog here:

  77. Hi Kristen,

    My name is Maximus. I’ve been following you and reading your blogs for quite a few months. You write great material and I would like to be a guest write on your blog. You can see some of my work on Please let me know your thoughts when your schedule permits.

  78. Reblogged this on inspiringlife444 and commented:
    Another inspirational from the author Kristen Lamb
    reblogged on

  79. Reblogged this on Sebastian dGV Goodman.

    • Alisa Callos on March 17, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    • Reply

    Just discovered your blog today…Thank-you! I so needed to read this…you’ve given me much to think about.

  80. Kristen, this spoke to me in ways I don’t even want to say here, but please know this went deep. Fear – my constant overwhelming companion for most of my life – still has tentacles hindering me at times. I am trying to break free to be who I am meant to be and do what I am made to do, but excuses are easy to come by. Life gets complicated and things for myself seem like guilty pleasures when there is so much else to consider.
    Thank you for sharing so boldly. I am going to make mention of this post on my own blog because I’m sure it will help many others. Blessings.

    1. I have directed my readers here from my blog:

      1. Thank you!

  81. Best post on Fear I have ever read!! I posted the link for readers of my small biz blog to read as well…this is the link if you want to read it, . THANKYOU FOR WRITING THIS PEICE!!!

  82. This is very insightful and helpful. I have a tendency to want to please people too, and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, as you pointed out taken to the extreme it’s not healthy. That’s the case with anything really. I am in the process of finding balance. 🙂

    • Dianna Wallace on February 11, 2015 at 7:23 pm
    • Reply

    Just recently, I was diagnosed with anxiety. This post has made me think more about being proactive vs reactive. Thank you. I need to see the way I’m looking at life differently and this has given me another outlook.

  83. Great article, thanks. I found it via Jodie Davis “The Wisdom of Fear: Lessons from my Horses.” I’ve conquered my riding fear–almost–but the writing fear is an even bigger city of walls. I fear I’m selfish and lazy by even trying to pursue this possibly pointless endeavor, terrified of failure and also of exposure. I wonder if that was your father’s problem–fear of success, of actually having to get out there and defend his work.

    1. My first recommendation is to redefine what you are doing. If it offers nothing other than money, likely not worth pursuing. Barring that? Nothing is ever pointless. We learn, grow, maybe move on, but it’s at the very least a training ground. Best of luck ((HUGS))

      1. So true about the learning and growing part, if you can get that from writing it’s never pointless! 🙂

  1. […] Lamb blogged yesterday about the danger of fear. Combined with the self-doubt that runs rampant in most writers, fear can turn our dreams into […]

  2. […] From Kristen Lamb – Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under? […]

  3. […] Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under? | Kristen Lamb’s Blog […]

  4. […] I found. Titled “Is Fear Driving You Forward or Dragging You Under?” it was written by Kristen Lamb  <—- so please take a few minutes to go there (just click on her name) and read it. She […]

  5. […] but don’t let it get me down. I keep going. Then I make more steps forward than I did back. As Kristen Lamb wrote in a fabulous blog post, “Unexamined fear can be the hamster wheel of doom.” I’m not trying to conquer it; rather […]

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