Fear is the Mind-Killer

The creative life is, at its heart, the continuous overcoming of fear. I'm afraid of so very many things:

Maybe this is the best idea I've ever had 
 And I'll ruin it 
  Or after this there will be no more ideas at all 
 Maybe my work isn't any good  
Maybe this isn't even as good as anything I've done before 
 Maybe everyone will laugh at me 
  Or whisper about me 
Maybe it's been done before, and far better 
Maybe my work is confusing 
 Or predictable 
  Or stupid 
Maybe it's boring 
 Or self-indulgent 
Maybe I'll get terrible reviews 
 And never work again
Maybe I don't have what it takes 
 Maybe I'll never succeed 
  Or I will and I'll burn out 
 Maybe somebody will hate it 
  And hate me.

I am not a special snowflake. These fears are not unique to me. To the contrary, I'm pretty sure these are the precise fears facing every writer, every filmmaker, every sculptor and photographer and painter and composer, in this century and all others.

In late 2001, a new proverb sprang into existence: "If you don't (insert action here), then the terrorists have won." It's a common joke, to this day. Haha! The terrorists win if you don't have another plate of nachos!

The heart of it, though, is a true thing. There are a lot of ways to make a choice -- convenience, money, desire. At the end of the day, fear is a pretty poor decision-maker. And yet sometimes, we allow fear to keep us from doing the work we love.

So what? So what if you try and you fail? Failing is a mark of honor; a badge of courage. The only shame comes when you stop trying to do, and do better. This year, during Heroes Week, I realized that the common thread in my heroes was fearlessness; not that they have no fear, but that they don't let their fear call the shots. They keep working anyway. It's an endless battle, and you will never win, but the only way to lose is to give up.

Every day you let fear keep you from the work, the terror has won.

Keep working.


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