Stowing cargo…

“Fear is the major cargo that American writers must stow away when called to the writing life.” — Pat Conroy

I call myself a collector of quotes. I can’t help it. I love finding clever, pithy sayings that make me laugh out loud, encourage me to think deeply, or speak to me on a subconscious level. Today’s quotation by Pat Conroy is near the top of my list. Conroy was one of my favorite authors and the sentiment in this statement reminds me exactly what I need to do to make my writing endeavor a successful one. His recent passing made me take time to write about the effect of fear on my own life.

For most of my adult life, I have suffered from a series of fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of getting stuck in a rut
  • and so on

These fears often conflict with each other, producing a battle in my head that ends up keeping me in the same place. Remember in the first post where I mentioned that long-time job? I definitely was not happy there. I liked the people, but hated the actual job.

I had a serious fear of failure when it came to trying anything new. My previous attempt at a major career decision (attending grad school to become a history professor) ended up going down in flames. To be fair, I experienced some personal issues at the time that sapped my mental and emotional reserves and made studying near impossible. But the results were what they were. I felt awful about myself and my self-esteem went out the window. I did not want to go through that again. So, I stayed where I was, going through the motions and grumbling about being miserable all the while.

In parallel with that fear of failure, I was also harboring a fear of success. I don’t think I actually knew that at the time, though. I was so beaten down by having my hopes dashed to the ground before that I became afraid of trying something and having it go well. “What if it actually worked?” I asked myself time and again. I always got scared of finding out.

Take these two competing fears and add in generous dashes of many others and you will come up with a rather stinky emotional stew. That was how I lived for the better part of two decades. Not happy about the situation, certainly not proud of it. But it was.

So, this is where I find myself now. I am stashing away the cargo that consists of these fears into the far recesses of my mind, leaving the majority of the hold open to be filled with ideas, inspiration, motivation, and activity.

To Mr. Conroy, I say a heartfelt thank-you for putting so clearly into words what I know in my heart.

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