I’m in the transformation business. One of the things that excites me most about working with writers is seeing the “afters” from their “befores” as they absorb my feedback and hone their craft.
But transformation can be scary stuff. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not the kind of person who’ll volunteer to be scared. And pay good money for it? No thanks.
During the big storm that swept up the East Coast recently, a large plate-glass window at the back of my house tried to transform itself into a sail.
Scared? Uh, yes, I believe I screamed. Well, “exclaimed.” With growing urgency and volume each time I saw it bow in. Eventually we found some tape to support it. I’ve been through enough hurricanes to know you’re supposed to tape the windows, but this wasn’t supposed to be a hurricane!
After taping the window, we hung a blanket over it for good measure. My friend said it was to prevent the glass from blowing into my house if the window shattered. I think it was more to prevent me from screaming at each new shape the window assumed. She assured me the window was rated to withstand 100 mph winds—and she’s a builder; I figured she should know.
Transformation & Fear
My friend and I reacted differently to the window’s attempts to transform itself into a sail. I went straight to fear; she saw nothing amiss. That’s the thing with transformation. No two people approach it in the same way.
Something that’s routine for me—like writing—may scare the living daylights out of someone else.
Other people can sell ice to Alaskans (a phrase that packed a whole lot more punch before we destroyed the polar ice caps). But even thinking about selling can render me practically comatose with fear.
How do you move through the fear to transformation?
First, if it’s a rational fear—like shards of plate glass flying through your home to decapitate you—Take Appropriate Action. By the way, the local newscast said winds reached 93 mph in the town next door, which totally vindicated my fear. Then again, it wasn’t 100 and the window remained intact, so my builder friend was right too. But I was right-er. (Not that I’m competitive or anything.)
If it’s an irrational fear—if it’s not going to kill you—then by all means Take Appropriate Action. Action is the only thing that can banish fear.
I know, I know. I hate reading that too. I wish there were a pill you could pop, or a website where you could click a button and the thing you’re afraid of magically gets done for you. But really the thing you need to do is…suck it up and do the thing.
How? When you’re paralyzed with fear, how do you take even one step forward?
And I’m going to offer another suggestion based on my recent experience: Hang a blanket over it. Picture your fear on the other side of a big window and just tape up a blanket. Or draw the curtains if you’ve got ’em. And leave your fear standing outside.
If you’re feeling vindictive, you can imagine your fear standing out in the cold. If you’re a kinder person—and I feel certain Liz Gilbert is a kinder person—give it a lawn chair, a strong SPF sunblock, and a gossip magazine to keep itself occupied while you do that scary thing.
Then Take Appropriate Action
Writing isn’t going to kill you—not unless you do it while hanging off a mountain one-handed. And marketing hasn’t killed me yet. I have no doubt that one of these days, I’ll remember that.
Transformation can seem scary. But the more you can ignore the fear and do the thing that scares you, the less power that fear will have over you. At least that’s what they tell me.
Transform yourself into a more powerful storyteller. Join my one-day Anchor Your Ideas challenge, March 17th. (Blanket over the window optional.)
Also published on Medium.