Fear. Search and Destroy.

“That suggests that what you fear most of all is – fear. Very wise, Harry.”  Professor Lupin, “The Prisoner of Azkaban”

I don’t fear ‘scary movie’ fear. I dread it. I avoid it. I scuttle around it. But I understand it.

I fear the type of fear that lurks in the corners of your brain and affects decisions before you realize it’s present. This type of fear stops you in your tracks. It convinces you that you’re not ready to take the next step. It motivates you to slow down, think twice, consider whether you’re strong enough. Sure, I know you’re thinking that these qualities don’t sound all that bad on the surface, and you’re right. Think twice before you buy the ridiculous stiletto-heeled shoes to wear to that wedding…on the beach….in the sand.

The fear I’m describing is the fear that slowly and surely reinforces the idea that really, you’re not quite good enough for the task at hand.  And that’s the fear we battle in the night, that’s the fear that demands attention and respect. I say respect because if you ignore this type of fear, it can control you forever. Silent, lurking, unrecognizable. It’s known as caution. Sensibility. A conservative nature. Smart.

Being a writer, especially an unpublished writer, means that at some point, you need to stand up and search out Fear to face him head-on. It means you need to crawl through the damp corners of your mind to find that voice which says, “You’re not a writer until you’re published.” Then you must brand “FEAR” on his forehead, and kick his ass. A fear smack-down is not for the faint of heart.

That story that got rejected…are you going to let Fear convince you that it’s not worthy of publication? Once you’ve done you’re homework as a writer, once you’ve drafted and revised and feel confident, are you going to let Fear steal this certainty from your grasp? Are you going to let him join up with the nay-sayers and take residence in your soul? Will you let Fear dictate when you send out your query letters? Will you let Fear step onto the pages of your novel and make choices for your characters? “No,” he’ll purr, “she can’t do that. Nobody want’s to read about a girl who does that.”

The YA books that I admire are the books with characters I aspire to be. Characters who conquer the sources of their outer and inner fears in the face of true peril. Harry Potter, Katniss in “The Hunger Games”, Melinda of “Speak” — these characters choose their destinies. Even when the events of their lives spiral out of control in dangerous ways, they never cease stumbling after Fear in the dark to tag him and call him ‘it.’

This is what we all need to do. Be bold in our writing, and in our choices. Let Fear step in to remind us about the perils of stiletto shoes, but not to push us away from the path that leads to both success and failure. The surest way to miss success is to avoid the road entirely. So conquer Fear, push him aside, and get on with your journey.

Wear the shoes if you want to.

Shannon Marshall, Assistant EditorShannon Marshall is YARN’s Assistant Editor. She’s not afraid of those birds, either.

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