As my last day drew closer, I vacillated between excitement and paralyzing fear. There were moments I felt a deep peace, like for the first time I was actually headed in the right direction. I was leaving my job to pursue writing full time, something I had wanted to do ever since graduating college. I was finally trusting that still, small voice in my heart to just go for it.
And then out of the blue, a wave of doubt and anxiety would crush me. I’d feel stuck, unable to move.
Can I be honest with you? Sometimes, it still feels this way. There are moments of complete peace and content. I keep in my lane, eyes straight ahead, one foot swiftly in front of the other. The words flow freely. An encouraging email comes my way telling me to keep going or an opportunity presents a glimmer of hope. I fight back the lies in my head and refuse to give fear extra room at the table. It might always pull up a seat but we choose how it makes us feel.
“Your fear should always be allowed to have a voice, and a seat in the vehicle of your life. But whatever you do — don't let your fear drive.” –Elizabeth Gilbert
I often let fear drive. I’ll back down, sit this one out, figure it’d be best if I just stayed on the bench and kept real quiet. Forget the art, forget all of it.
Anytime we walk in the direction of our dreams there will be pushback. Some friends might cheer us on while others don’t really understand. Colleagues could be both proud and disappointed. Family may offer advice that leaves us restless and confused.
I get it friend, I’m right there with you.
My hope is that you and I would keep going. That we wouldn’t give up just yet. That we’d keep walking forward, one shaky step at a time. Easier said than done right? But it’s possible, I know it is. As I waver between peace and fear, there are three practices that keep me going.
First, find what keeps you tethered. It’s much easier to trip when we aren’t walking on solid ground. I find so much of my fear stems from forgetting who I am and how I was made. When I’m secure in that place, the words flow. I’m less wrecked by criticism or negativity. For me, that looks like morning pages and quiet meditation. It means sitting on my couch with palms faced up and open, asking God to meet me there. Often, I have to do this multiple times a day to remember I’m capable, fiercely loved, and wonderfully made.
Sometimes it takes repeating you’re enough, just as you are, with or without making a single piece of art again. The art that dwells deep inside might be an outpouring of your gifts but the vessel that makes it -- your own body, mind, and spirit, matters a heck of a lot more.
Second, prioritize the things that keep you well. We live in a world that celebrates hustle and success. We measure worth and importance by busyness and outputs. There are seasons of hustle but most often, we do the best we can with the few hours we’ve got.
I need movement and community. That looks like long walks and a yoga class, coffee with a dear friend or eating lunch at my table. These things keep me grounded. I’m a better friend, wife, and neighbor when I invest in my own heart space. And all of that makes me a better writer. In fact, I can’t write without living a full life. My life is the very place stories are birthed.
Find what keeps you well and do it on repeat. Mark your place there. Put a stake in the ground. It’s yours to keep.
Third, keep investing in your craft amidst all the pressure. As we move into our vocation more seriously, particularly when it becomes our full time pursuit, it’s easy to allow the pressure of “shoulds” and “by nows” and “do it this way” become our mantra. At least it did for me. I started focusing so much on the business side that I completely forgot why I began writing in the first place. I forgot why I loved it, why it mattered to me at all. I lost the sheer thrill of putting words to page. Of course, there will always be aspects of our work we do not enjoy, parts that feel tiresome and grueling but when we start forsaking calling for competition and enjoyment with excelling, it leaves us frazzled and anxious. We stand motionless. We have to remember our why and fight to keep it.
Write words for keeps, take pictures because it makes you feel good, splatter paint on a canvas just to remember how it feels.
Fear will always be there lurking but it doesn’t have to make our decisions for us. It doesn't have to win. What if instead of standing motionless, we placed one foot in front of the other, walking towards the fear, not around it?
I’m finding that’s the sweet spot, a collision of all the best things, our sacred place on the map. You’re standing smack dab in the middle of it all, right in the thick of inadequacy and surrender, of abiding and veering off course. Hang tight. We’re in this together. Light is just around the corner, we just have to keep walking forward.
And that art you make, the one that tugs at your heart and keeps you up at night, is needed and necessary here.