Rising above Fear: A Writer’s Story

This morning I received a note from a friend I haven’t seen for a long time. She had just finished reading my book Fianna’s Story, and sent hearty thanks for this “wonderful piece of art.”

Her note brought me joy. But I thought, “Oh, my friend, you have no idea! My writing journey has been so confusing, so filled with fear and self-doubt.”

It’s time I confessed. It’s time I admitted my ambivalence about writing and my struggles with the simple idea of producing something that others would read. I need to tell the story of the Loving Presence that nudged and prodded, the One who grabbed me and gave me a shake when I wanted to hide.

This is the story. For many years, I had the same dream. Fast asleep, I watched a hand that was writing and tried to read the words it wrote. I could never read the message, but I always woke up thinking it was important. One night, as I watched this mysterious hand moving across the page, I suddenly realized the hand was attached to my own body. I still couldn’t read the message, but the hand belonged to me.

At that time, my waking self had never written much beyond letters. I occasionally thought of writing “something,” but I was afraid to try. Now I tentatively began to try a poem or two, and eventually discovered I was in love with words. I was still afraid though. It took years to let others read what I wrote. It took years to grow into the word author. (I still hesitate and take a deep breath before I click “publish” and send this monthly blog into the cybersphere.)

Self-doubt and fear are powerful. We all carry some inner giftedness we haven’t opened. It’s a big step to reveal the precious creative spirit within us and offer something to others who will see it, hear it, observe it, and judge it.

I never had that dream again, but I still had plenty of fear and self-doubt. I wanted to write something longer than a short article, but I was afraid to try. Could I write “something substantial”? I avoided the word book– too overwhelming.

Finally I was in my sixties, and I knew that I would always regret it if I never even tried. On my death bed, I wouldn’t wish I’d eaten more ice cream (I have that taken care of). I would wish I’d tried to write a — longer piece.

“OK,” I thought. “This is it.” I decided to write about spiritual discernment since I knew it well from classes I taught. Slowly I began to putter around the subject.

This time it wasn’t a dream, but a direct shove. A couple months into puttering, I received a phone call from SkyLight Paths inviting me to submit a book proposal for their series The Art of Spiritual Living. They’d heard of my teaching and wanted me to write a book on spiritual discernment.

Was I afraid? More than that, I was awed, dumbstruck, and terrified. Did I dare refuse the offer? After picking myself off the floor and finding my voice, I squeaked into the phone, “Yes, I’d like to do that.” And then I whispered, “God, this was your idea. It’s your book. Help!”

The experience of writing Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way (here) and now Fianna’s Story (here) has taught me to trust more fully this Mystery we call God. I’ve learned to take the risk of stretching myself to share more deeply, and I’m a little more courageous in speaking and writing than I was.

I’ve learned to name fear and pay attention to it, but not allow it to rule. I know I must live from love, not from fear, if the creative spirit within me is to thrive. I hold on to Paul’s wisdom in his letter to Timothy: Our God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and love and discipline. (2nd Tim. 1:7)

I offer Paul’s words to you, too. May your creative spirit rise freely and express more fully the unique gifts you carry within.

If this story has spoken to you, please share it with another.

6 thoughts on “Rising above Fear: A Writer’s Story”

    1. Dear Scott, You are right that experience and maturity do help to conquer fear. I find it easier to trust that what I write might be of service to someone else than I would have found it years ago. Since you are a musician and a writer of songs, I can understand that you also know about “putting yourself out there” and the challenge and reward about it.
      Thank you for writing.

  1. So grateful for your sharing–I’ve been a successful, award-winning professional writer for over 40 years and I still need God’s extra boost for the courage to approach a publisher to put something in print. Your column today was that boost. Thank you so very much. I will move forward. Ellen

  2. Dear Ellen,
    Thank you for writing and letting me know that I helped provide a ‘boost’. Your appreciation has returned the boost! I am grateful. Nancy

  3. I’ve read both of your books and I’m glad you overcame your fear to write them. Years ago I read your book,”Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment.” I still go back to it for guidance. Last year I read “Fianna’s Story,” and was moved by the way your grandmother and her young family faced her illness.

    This piece,”Rising Above Fear,”is helpful in all areas of our life. Thank you, Nancy.

    1. Laurie, I am grateful that you have read my books! And that they have been meaningful in your life. It’s been a privilege (although a scary one, as you know!) to give them and the truths they hold to others. Nancy

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