Posted by: cmtalbert | June 22, 2011

Constructive Fear

Jumping into the icy Pacific immerses you in pain.  An invisible fist squeezes your lungs, wringing the air out of you.  Your head is packed in a blue fog, freezing your brain from the outside in.  If you’re a guy, your you-know-whats feel like they were kicked by a bull.

Fear is the same.  It can stop you, peg you like a moth to a yellowed piece of styrofoam where your dreams will collect dust, trapped for eternity behind glass.  I’ve seen it happen to several would-be writers.  Their trembling hands won’t hold their papers, their voice won’t carry through the room.  They refuse to read or even be read.  I was once in their ranks too.

Fear cannot be a refuge for the would-be writer.  There is no sanctuary there.  We do not want to see our dreams collecting dust in some forgotten glass case showcasing what “might have been.”  We must take our stories in our hands and speak louder so that the audience won’t hear the trembling in our voices.

This week at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, I’ve watched many timid writers step to the front of the room, plunging into icy waters of critique after critique.  I celebrate them.  We will not be collected into the showcases of the unheard, the unread.  We will speak loudly and follow our dreams.

Being scared just means that you’re doing it right.



  1. Hi Clint!

    Just stopping by in the virtual universe! I just read your post and I can relate to the visceral metaphors–I could also say that your descriptions also remind me of panick attacks–at least when my mind spins so fast that I just break down and have to let go of everything I’ve been trying to do. Sometimes it takes me a few months to repair and get back up and running.

    I think sometimes the writer has to ask why he or she is writing. First of all, for selfish reasons. Self exploration. Self healing, etcerera. Secondly, for an audience beyond the self. Depending on how good the writing is, a certain size and shape audience will form around the source of the spoken word. It’s trial and error. I eliminated my fear of audiences by transforming the fear into a question, starting to see this whole process of interacting with others as a scientific experiment. What works? What doesn’t? Repeat what works, scrap what doesn’t. The more you experiment, the better you get! But it’s not that I myself am any good! 🙂

    Hope all is well, ~Victoria

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