What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?
by Ann Ferguson
I have been afraid to write for years. When I was a senior in high school, I had a devastating experience with a research paper. Through that experience, a belief was created that my writing isn’t acceptable or valuable. Eventually, that belief became a story. I told myself the story so often that evidence of my weakness became a reality. My freshman year of college, I took an English placement exam and tested out of English 101, I was placed in a composition class. That should have bolstered my confidence, but instead, I held firm to the belief that I could not write. When the words did not flow easily into my mind, and I struggled to complete the assignments, I froze. Then I fled.
Instead of asking my professor for support, I felt ashamed of my weakness and slunk silently away. I stopped going to class and repeated the story of the research paper over and over. When I received the “F” for the course, I had all the evidence I needed to prove my story as fact for the next two decades. I never returned to college. Any time I entertained the thought of going back to get my degree, I told myself the story of the “F” to make sure I stayed safe in the reality that it wasn’t for me.
Twenty years later, after some excruciating life events, I received a prompting to write a book. I was returning home from a seminar on forgiveness, and was feeling very inspired and enlightened. The prompting came out of nowhere, and it was intense. Panic hit me, and I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. I could feel in my heart and soul that writing a book was in my future, and I could not shut it down. I didn’t want to believe it. Not me. I’m not an author. I reminded God over and over that there was evidence to support that I was the wrong candidate. He honored my fear and allowed me to believe in my story for another thirteen years.
During that time, I experienced some pretty big life events. Including children struggling with the aftermath of a divorce and new marriage, homelessness due to a natural disaster, and a health crisis that threatened to silence my story for good. In those thirteen years, I also had exponential growth. My trust that God knows me, loves me, and wants me to experience joy in this life increased significantly. He offered support and instruction, and I gained knowledge, patience and wisdom. He gave me insight into my experiences and inspired me to create programs to teach what I have learned.
Recently the prompting to write a book resurfaced. I didn’t have the same reaction as the first time. Doubt, fear, and inadequacy surfaced but not panic. Now, I have evidence that He wants to walk with me as we co-create my life. I didn’t freeze or deny the possibility, and trust that I will have help.
The “F” happened, but it no longer needs to be my story. I am safe. I can change the story anytime I would like to. Am I brave enough? Am I ready? Am I willing to allow God to make my perceived weakness become a strength? I asked myself these questions and answered yes. As soon as I did, he started changing me.
He placed people in my life who are excited and are holding the vision of a book for me. He put into my path an opportunity that I deeply desire to accept. The only way for me to be eligible to seize this opportunity is to write nine articles. My desire has become more significant than my fear and resistance.
The truth is, I still do not want to write a book, but I do want to have written a book! And because of that, God is preparing me to accomplish it. With his help, I have developed some mind games and tricks to get the required writing completed. I would love to share what I have done to make it possible for me to keep doubts and resistance at bay, my behind on the chair, and my mind focused on my work.
Step 1: I put a picture on my vision board of a woman signing a book. It is a placeholder for the moment I am at my first book signing. The signer is holding a leopard pen. My friend sent me a leopard pen, just like in the picture. Sometimes I take it out, close my eyes, and envision someone handing me my book to sign for them. This keeps my dream in focus and all that I need moving toward me.
Step 2: I crafted some declarations that sit in front of my computer. My eyes have landed on them every day for the past six months. Each statement addresses a different negative belief I have held about my writing. They speak to what I want to experience. I read them every day. They are so familiar now that they do not incite the same feelings of imposter syndrome that they used to. Just in case they may help you, I’ll share them. Here’s what they say.
“I love to write. I make time daily to get down on paper the thoughts and feelings of my mind and heart.”
“I easily find time to write. I enjoy every moment in this creative activity.”
“I am a gifted and inspired writer. Words flow easily through me and onto the page”.”
“My writing helps people find their personal connection to Christ and, therefore, a joyful connection to themselves and others.”
Step 3: I invite divine inspiration to be in the room with me as I write. When I was going through my daily cancer-fighting protocols, I listened to the same album of hymns on piano day after day. As I rested, I envisioned, holding my granddaughter’s hand as we walked along a beach. That music connects me to heaven and the visions of my future. Because I listened while resting peacefully, my brain tunes out distractions. It puts me into a focused space and the words flow through me and onto the page.
Step 4: I allow myself to be really really messy as I write. I no longer need to have it perfect as the words flow out of me. I get them onto the page and go back to edit and shape my message. Taking the perfectionistic expectations off of me has made all the difference.
Step 5: I use a powerful grammar checker when I edit. It catches things that may be confusing or not punctuated correctly. It gives me confidence that my finished product is presentable to the public.
Step 6: I tell someone that I am dedicating time to write and ask for accountability. Sometimes I open up a zoom room so that others have space and time to write with me. I find that writing with someone writing next to me helps me stay engaged. Even if no one shows up to these writing sessions, I feel accountable to anyone who may want to join in. It tricks my brain into believing that someone else is counting on me, so I need to show up.
Step 7: I share my writing with someone else once I get it to a place that I like it. Their feedback helps reinforce that I am really doing this. I am writing, and they understand what I’m trying to convey. It is a beautiful feeling to listen to others to express how my words impacted the way they see things.
Step 8: I have to have snacks!! If it is a more extended writing session, this is especially important. Pistachios seem to be the snack of choice right now. They keep my mind awake and working.
Step 9: I write as long as the flow of ideas are coming. When they stop, I stop. If I try to push or force insight, it reminds me of my old unproductive story: doubt, fear, and inadequacy surface. It is not good for me, so I have a rule that I walk away when I feel those things. When I write with inspiration flowing through me, I am motivated. I love the time I spend in this creative activity. If I honor this pattern, I produce better work and feel great about it.
Using these steps has made it possible for me to move closer to becoming a published author with a powerful, impactful, fun, and loved book. They have also made it possible for me to finish my writing requirement and seize the opportunity that has been presented to me.
This is my ninth article. I am finished and I have a new story. I am an author, and I love to write!