Sometimes, in the lives of writers, even when things are going well, we become fearful. I see this in myself and also in my clients and students. No matter what’s going on, the inner critic rears its—predictable—ugly head and says things like, “I can’t do this!” and “Who do you think you are?”
When my students and clients come to me with these worries I tell them what I try to remember to tell myself when I’m struggling in this way: Just because you hear those words in your head doesn’t mean that they are true. Leave those thoughts alone. They are not personal. It’s universal doubt and we all have it. Just let those thoughts be. It’s normal to have them. But you don’t have to feed them, or engage them, or believe them. Think of limiting thoughts as clouds—bad weather—that has nothing to do with who you are or what you’re capable of. You are the unobstructed, blue sky.
Your feelings come from your thinking. You may not be aware of your fearful thoughts but your body is a wonderful barometer. Let it be okay to feel what you feel. Move toward your uncomfortable feelings, rather than trying to resist them or push them away. Put one hand over your heart and another over your belly. Breathe. Be with your physical sensations while simultaneously withdrawing your attention away from your thinking. Let the story of why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling fall away. Doing this allows you to feel your emotions and then let them go. They pass more quickly, and on their own. Don’t resist or fight them. Let them be. They will pass, as all thoughts and feelings do when we leave them alone.
Fear is good. It tells you that you are living fully, putting yourself out there and growing. I love what Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, says about fear. When she starts a new book she knows Fear is coming along for the ride. After all, she’s heading into unknown territory. She tells Fear that he can sit in the back seat of the car for the journey. If he behaves himself he may be allowed to sit in the passenger seat, but he’s not allowed to navigate. And under no circumstances is he to go anywhere near the steering wheel!
We don’t have to let fear drive the steering wheel of our lives. I once dreamed I was entering a sharply curved freeway off ramp when the steering wheel of my car came off in my hands. Oh, shit, I thought, I’m gonna crash. But I didn’t. That’s when I realized I didn’t have to try so hard. I could let go a little—okay, a lot—with both my writing and my life. And as I started loosening my grip, things became easier, more spacious, and slowly, over time, I became freer. It’s a practice. One worth cultivating if you’re looking for freedom and peace within your own body/mind.
How do you relate to your fear? I’d love to hear from you!
Recently a client in her mid-sixties, who was feeling daunted by the work involved with writing, publishing, and promoting a book, asked, “Am I too old to write a book?”
“Absolutely not,” I told her.
I have another client, Irene Sardanis, who published her first book, Out of The Bronx, a memoir, this past spring, at the age of eighty-five. She’s having the time of her life celebrating and promoting it. Has it been challenging? Yes. Has it been hard and scary at times? Yes. Did she have moments when she didn’t think she could do it? Absolutely! But writing and publishing this book has been a highlight of her life. She has grown on multiple levels. The experience has enriched her and has provided wonderful opportunities she hadn’t previously imagined.
It’s not surprising that many women hit their stride and make some of their most meaningful contributions later in life. Many have been taking care of the needs of their families while also working outside the house, which leaves little time for reflection, or the time, space, and quiet that writing requires.
The trick when beginning any new project is to take it one step at a time. Allow yourself to be a beginner. This means opening up to not knowing. It probably means asking for help. It will require you to show up in whatever ways make sense in any given moment.
This will likely feel scary, but that’s a good sign. Fear tells you you’re living fully, putting yourself out there and growing! It’s exciting to expand—and who says we have to stop learning at a particular age! There is no cut-off number for creative productivity unless we ourselves create one. Older women have wisdom and valuable experiences to share.
Writing, publishing, and promoting a book is multi-faceted. Savvy authors know themselves, their values, and their audience. They study the business of writing as well as the art and craft. Some even discover that they enjoy it all! Worlds expand and careers may take off at any age.
It’s not about what we cannot do; it’s about what we can do. And more often than not we’re capable of much more than we think—because we are unlimited beings. Be gentle with yourself as you reach beyond your comfort zone. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll be guided—and holding your finished book in your hand will bring you unimaginable satisfaction, gratitude, and joy! And that will be just the beginning . . .
For more inspiration check out this article on women who published their first book after the age of seventy! https://www.bustle.com/p/women-writers-who-published-their-first-book-after-they-turned-70-18701995