It's not writing that scares me. It's pressing publish for all to see.
Perhaps, I’m delusional. I know a few people who would happily agree with me, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is I regularly hold conversations with myself. Usually, the dialogue remains between me and myself. But sometimes, I decide to jump in, and it turns into a 3-way group chat.
But seriously, these inner dialogues are usually engaging, productive, and uplifting. They come and go and help me focus. However, there are a few I dread. The conversation about my fear of sharing my writing is my least favorite. I’ve been having this private conversation for years, actually decades. And this year, I’ve decided it’s time to end it.
The last time this conversation popped up was on a Wednesday. I distinctly remember because I was answering an email asking, What is your biggest challenge with writing online? Or something to that extent. That question was the trigger that sparked it all. It got my inner voice, my Kahuna (Hawaiian for teacher), going again.
On the odd chance others out there share my phobia, what follows is a revelation of the musings and arguments of my inner voice (my Kahuna) and me. Change-inducing material, be warned.
My inner voice: So, why are we still here and not out there?
Me: What do you mean, still here?
My inner voice: You know! Here, sitting, waiting in an endless loop. Stuck on this strip of beach called tomorrow, waves of doubt crashing in, courage receding like sand in the tide, feeling disconnected and defeated! What’s stopping you from diving in and swimming out?
Me: I’m not ready yet. I still need to perfect my stroke.
My inner voice: How do you plan on perfecting your stroke on dry land? You need to get into the water. Go on, jump in. Paddle past the break, out into the unknown. Hit publish and let your words swim into the deep blue digital sea. Give them a life of their own and watch their magic unfold like dolphins at play.
Me: But What if it’s no good? What if nobody gets it?
My inner voice: So what? Yes, your words may fall on deaf ears. Or get buried in blackness, elusive like long-forgotten mermaid ballads. Think of those as sunken treasures waiting to be unearthed, lost, but no less priceless.
Me: How so?
My inner voice: Listen to me. Writing is not enough. It is just the first step. Always remember that, like most things sacred, the value of the written word is threefold.
- Firstly, you call it into being by the creative act of writing.
- Secondly, you give it a life of its own by sharing it with others.
- Thirdly, your words are heard and internalized if unlocked through the mere yet magical and perhaps random act of reading. This act releases their power to transform, enlist, move, and more.
- Actually, Hawaiian lore tells us there is more, but that should do for starters.
Never underestimate the power of words to shape the course of destiny.
Me: That’s terrifying, humbling, and electrifying all at once!
My inner voice: I know. That is why native Hawaiians avoided the written word for so long. But that is a story for another place and time. The question is, what will you do here and now?
Me: I’m afraid.
My inner voice: Afraid, are you? Aren’t we all? But of what?
Me: I’m afraid to put my writing (and myself) out there. I’m afraid to share it. It scares me to bits. Yet at the same time, damming it up and holding back is just as frightening.
My inner voice: What do you mean?
Me: I fear that if I don’t let out what I’ve bottled up inside of me, I’ll burst and break. I’ll crack like glass. I see myself shattered into a thousand jagged pieces of luminous glass, all my words, an ocean of thoughts, senselessly scattered on the ground, all due to fear.
My inner voice: I understand. Did you know that words are like water?
Me: How so?
My inner voice: Both are dualistic, life-giving, and death-dealing. Words like water have the power to destroy or build. Both need to stay in motion. Well, them up, and it won’t take long before they find an outlet. It’s up to you to decide if that outlet will be constructive or destructive. The choice is yours and yours alone.
Me: I see.
My inner voice: You have a precious gift, a craft that you need to wield and share.
- It’s time to stop cowering. Stop selling yourself out to fear. It’s a false paradigm of enslavement created by your mind.
- It’s time to take a leap of faith. Plunge into the deep blue sea of possibilities and leave the desert island of tomorrow behind.
- It’s time to shine. Trust me. Swim into today. You never know what you might find.
And now, press publish.
I snapped out of the conversation and stared at the publish button, eyes wide open, afraid to even blink. My usual course of action would be to save my piece of writing in the odd folder. And file it away in the dark depths of my laptop’s memory for tomorrow.
The problem was: Tomorrow never came. That is, until that moment on that day, that Wednesday. Something changed. I experienced a shift, a ripple of thought with vast-reaching repercussions. I looked at my arm and saw my hair standing on end. “Moa ‘illi,” I said under my breath, what Hawaiians call chicken skin, better known as goosebumps.
Have you ever thought about the difference between asking a question and questioning something? It’s simple. The difference lies in wanting or not wanting an answer. It’s a slight but profound shift of thought. What changed was my attitude. I was finally ready for an active solution and not a complacent excuse.
I realized that I’d been duped. And what was worse, by my own hand. I’d spent decades gazing into a pool, dreaming of my craft instead of wielding it. All the while tuning out my inner voice. This time I had listened intently with purpose.
Here is what I heard and what I learned.
The list to turn to the next time fear raises its manipulatively ugly head.
- Waiting and hoping for one day to come is more damaging than taking action today. You will implode.
- You can only practice and perfect your craft if you place yourself smack dab in the middle of the arena, just like a gladiator. Rome, remember Rome.
- To create is both divine and human. Writing is one way to do that. Writing is an art, a form of articulation. What is the sense of articulating ideas if you refuse to share them with others? Holding back is a selfish and destructive act. It is detrimental to both the artist and the audience. Create and release is my mantra.
- Words are magical. Just because you write them does not mean that you own them. They merely flow through you. Stop getting in the way!
- Life is lived in the ocean, not at the shore. Dive in!
- FEAR is a false paradigm-False Evidence Appearing Real. Don’t be fooled.
Confidently, I pressed publish.
Sign up for her Substack newsletter, The Multicultural.