Facing and conquering fear in your writing practice… again and again

Some people get their bolt of inspiration in the shower or on a walk. I get all mine on the stationary bike.

I’ll be pedaling in the garage, huffing and puffing, AND BOOM.

I hear Van Wilder’s voice from that that terrible, awful National Lampoon movie from the early 2000s that I’ve seen a dozen times,

“Write that down.”

When I’m on the bike, I can’t write it down so I voice-record these lightning bolts. Today, I listened back to a few from back in January.

Turns out they’re not… genius.

They’re kind of like dreams you wake up from and try to write down immediately: you think you’re trying to capture the content, but you’re actually trying to capture the BOLT feeling.

And BOOM… again.

Except this BOOM is the lightning bolt instantly transforming into sand? Right through your fingers.

That’s frustrating when it comes to writing a book. To feel like you have it, and then you don’t. Fortunately, it’s also not actually the way good ideas get into your book.

You don’t have to HUSTLE nor rush to capture the lightning before it becomes sand (or whatever).

You get lots of chances. The whole book-writing process is just you giving yourself chance after chance after chance after chance to say the thing you want to say.

What a relief, right?

Yes. And.

I’ve started to notice my clients (and me too!) give up on our ideas far too soon. We get the bolt, but as soon as it gets “too complicated,” we junk the thing.

When I started to ask why we give up, the answer was not, “The process shouldn’t be this hard.” (We like working hard. We know working hard.)

It was more often, “The process shouldn’t be this scary.”

Or… maybe it’s OK if it’s scary once, but why is it scary OVER AND OVER? And over??

The repetition of the fear blindsides us.

When we start we’re like, “Right! Face the fear, conquer it, knock it down. I can do that!”

But… it’s not just about facing fear once and getting through it. It’s about facing fear dozens of times. Hundreds of times. Possibly, thousands of times?


Where were these search results when we Googled “How to write a book”?!

This weekend I was rewatching a much different, much better movie – Free Solo. It’s about a professional rock climber.

Throughout the film, he climbed the same scary sections of a rock over and over in preparation for an even more insane climbing feat.

He said something about how his practice climbs weren’t just skill practice but fear practice.

Something like, “the fear is always there but you just encounter it so often that you know where it is, you see it, and you just kind of step around it.”

You have to do the thing enough to expect the fear.


– Maggie

PS: When you decide you’re ready to write that book, read my detailed rundown of what it’s like to partner with a ghostwriter. What is a Ghostwriter and Why Do You Need One?

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