David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Facing fear”

Sticky Notes (2015-05-06 Daily)

Reality is such an inconvenience. It’s a hill shaped like an elephant, colored white. Have you ever noticed how it seems to pull out in front of you the instant you’ve finally regained your momentum, how it demonstrates Newton’s First Law by lobbing its bowling ball squarely at your humble cue? Reality can be such a bummer, the rationalizations for your deviated trajectory so overused—not enough time,  not enough money, not enough breaks, not enough talent—but always plenty of excuses worn thin from not enough fresh. Oh my God, they killed Kenny, your little voice screams as you shake the ragdoll of your calling until fluff spills from its ears. It’s no longer listening. No one is. Those bastards. But you keep trying to breathe life into it, even if what you’re attempting to resurrect hocks a loogie into your face. Some things are better left lying on Victor Frankenstein’s table, you think. But no, not this time. Not ever. Keep calm and carry on, they say. “If life is a bowl of cherries,” Erma Bombeck lamented, “what am I doing in the pits?” I’ve heard you can make liqueur from cherry pits. Hmm. …

Reality can be a psychopathic torturer of lucid dreams. Lucky dreams, those—at least you had the opportunity to carry them around with you, maybe for months, years, decades, gestating them, gesticulating, ingesting. Guessing. Always keeping you guessing. But isn’t that what it’s all about? Fantasy Island in real time, complete with Kool-Aid-colored cocktails in cone-shaped cups? Avoiding alliteration—and clichés—like the plague? Ha! You laugh, but have you ever wondered what’s behind curtain number one as you pull the rope to open number three? And so you persist—nay, you thrive—consider yourself lucky, even blessed, as once again you dump the grist into the grinder and turn the crank to blend life’s experiences into something someone—anyone—might want to sample.

Sticky notes

I look around my office, at the swirl of sticky notes defining what I do—who I am—as if I have a clue about how to execute this dream that for four decades has so passionately wrapped its hands around my heart. And my throat. I didn’t ask for it: it just showed up, along with puberty, creativity, a sense of humor, and the sudden realization that my arms were too skinny. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Right? “Is there anybody in there?” Pink Floyd asked. “Just nod if you can hear me.” Because I’ve come this close to dying and I lived to tell about it—every moment of my existence has been lived to teach, instruct, share. With you. And share it gladly I do. Like Mr. Rogers implored, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Gotta dig the red cardigan.

Sticky notes

Please, won’t you listen? My sticky notes do. They start out blank, arranged in neat little piles, the same number of the same color in the same package, lined up just for me. They now parade across the front of my dusty in-box piled high with things to remember and even some things to forget, pink and yellow and orange squares, two-dimensional shouts cascading into three dimensions, even four, surrounding my mouse, calling. They overflow from my in-box and spew across my desk, angling toward me, a glacier of neon ideas resolutely inching toward my fingers, begging me to touch them, to manipulate them, to use them, to cast them into the world and see where they land. I’ve always said I have more ideas than I can use in a lifetime, but still they march in, and still I jot them down. Gotta get it where I can get it.

Sticky Notes

“Does anyone actually read books anymore?” one note whines as attention spans shrink, molded by the lightning strikes of flash-nonfiction scrolling across smart phones. “In Due Season” another one proclaims. Sure has been an awfully long season! I holler back. Snippets of Scripture, titles of essays, story ideas graze amongst the hopeful sheep lined up to throw themselves over the cliff, if only I lead them. They comfort me, nuzzle my shins, give me hope. They are my memory, my brain, my reminder that I am in the world but not of it. Thus I hold reality at bay with little more than the flat palm of tenaciousness pressed firmly against its insistent face. It growls. I growl back. Grr.

Reality is such an inconvenience. It’s a hill shaped like an elephant, colored white. As it collides with my avocation, I cringe but don’t shrink; I tighten my seatbelt and stare through the Plexiglas, waiting for the crash that may never come but one which I always survive. I’ve never cared for the sound of that collision, the subsonic boom of God’s calling plowing headlong into the world’s necessity. But, alas, this is our lot in this life. The squeal of my thin mettle being peeled back, the rush of bodies, the whoosh of air as reality clangs and whumps and snaps against the bulkheads of twisted dreams. …

I emerge then, from a silken cocoon, a wet, crinkled, formless thing that, only with a groan of unfairness, pumps its wings up under the heat lamp of domestication. But now, in this this great moment of “oh,” poetry has stepped in, pinching my wing spars and carrying me outside into the flood of sunlight. Sticky notes flutter around me as I perch on a folded purple coneflower. “Butterflies,” they shout.

Reality is once again subdued.

 

Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes

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Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 4 of 8)

FEAR IS THE MIND KILLER

So what holds you back? What are you afraid of? People are creatures of habit, slaves of fear. If we allow it, fear can and will rule over us, keeping us from breaking out of our comfort zones. If we venture too far into the realization of our dreams, fear will jump into our paths, growl at us, and bare its sharp teeth. And what do we do? We turn tail and crawl back into our self-imposed prisons of comfort. We’re satisfied to live out our lives within those confining walls because we hold ourselves bound by the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, the fear of lack, even the fear of success and the responsibility it brings with it.

I don’t remember exactly when I first read it, but the following quote by Marianne Williamson, spiritual author and lecturer, struck a chord in me that has resonated ever since. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”[i]

Two decades ago I lost my voice after developing a disease known as “spasmodic dysphonia,” a condition that lasted six grueling years (for those of you who listen to NPR, this is the same disease Diane Rehm suffers from). At that time I’d always wanted to learn how to speak better in public so I could teach, so despite my weak, tremulous voice (or maybe because of my determination to overcome this debilitating ailment), I joined Toastmasters International. I then began to conduct interviews for articles because the non-fiction material I was writing at the time had begun to sell. Then a junior college teacher asked me to teach a class on staying motivated as a writer. Despite sounding like a three-pack-a-day smoker, I stood in front of that room full of adults and delivered my talk. I refused to play small.

Each time I faced my fears—the fear of rejection by family and friends, the fear of talking and sounding like an incoherent idiot, the fear of public speaking, the fear of interviewing people—I grew. And over time I soundly trashed each one of those fears. Goethe once said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” Overcoming those long-suffered fears was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, despite the years of pain and suffering. I learned that fears can indeed be overcome, that they can be defeated. Facing those fears head on and moving forward despite them taught me I can do anything I set my mind to, with God’s help and blessing. It’s the same with the fears I’ve had—and still have—about writing.

Even if no one else believes in your writing, believe in it yourself, because when it comes right down to it, that’s all that matters anyway. Joan Lowery Nixon said, “You must believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself and in your ability to succeed, then you can’t expect others to believe in you.”[ii] Why would they?

Frank Herbert wrote about fear in his novel Dune. “Fear is the mind-killer,” he said. And the life killer. And the dream killer.

Marty Goldbeck, a psychologist and former police officer, spoke about fear at the October 1995 Beaumont Golden Triangle Writers Guild conference in Beaumont, Texas. “The thing that weighs us down is our own self,” he said. “What are the limitations that keep us from writing?” Goldbeck also said there are two things determining whether or not we can achieve our dreams. The first is attitude. “If I choose to have a creative, good attitude, my life is limitless,” said Goldbeck. And the second is choice. It’s your choice, every moment of every day, to do the things you want to do. Like the old king said in the introduction to this discussion, the decision is up to you.

 

[i] Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”. New York. Harper Collins, 1992. 190.

[ii] http://chichikir.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/there-is-no-one-right-way-to-write/

 

 (Next up: Persistence and Determination Alone are Omnipotent)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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