Friday, May 24, 2013

What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?

What would you do if you weren't afraid?  I've spent hours discussing this with friends walking in the hills and at the schoolgate and my bloggy friend Marlene just did a thought-provoking post on it.  The question, asked by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In, is the most challenging one we face in our lives. I'm cold-sweat, skin-searing pee-in-pants terrified of heights so you'd think forcing myself do bungy jumping, sky diving and climbing down Mooney Falls would have made me good to go. The truth is, my fear of writing seems much more unconquerable.

SkyJump: Jumping 740ft into Auckland City traffic should have been the hardest thing I've ever done...

A screen full of horseshite ...much more scary

For the past three years I've been working to get back into journalism. After a ten years break, trying to re-enter has been terrifying and humbling...and sometimes humiliating. I've started in a new country with few contacts and no influence. My initial emails and calls went largely unreturned even from the tiniest local newspaper in New Zealand. I'm still clueless how not to take it personally.

And like many women I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I tend not to take on something unless I can give it my all (or is that more fear of failing?) and the whatifitsawful is a damning tape always playing.(Blogging helps that a bit because you'd never post anything if you keep primping, though I'm often tempted to press the delete button.)

Since Christmas when I had the germ of an idea, I've written 20,000 words of a novel (at least 85,000 words are needed apparently) Cy, nine, is impressed "All those words!" he says. "But are they the right words?" I grumble. And then I wander into the abyss of: Even if I finish it, will I find an agent, publisher, readers...? Every day I plot to give up. But I don't, mostly because I have little else going on in the career side of things.

A seminal moment for me was reading the fabulously funny  "Be Wrong As Fast As You Can" a New York Times piece about how successful people are the ones who can drive though the mucky middle of  a project - the ugly, messy, lookslikeabloodybomb middle

Editor Hugo Lindgren recounts all the ideas he's had, including a Mama Mia-esque rock opera and a sitcom set in Brooklyn that inverts "I Love Lucy," some of which sparked a flurry of emails from Hollywood but in the end never go anywhere, while his lazy, less creative friends got things made. Everything looks bad when you first write it: "I was surprised how mortally embarrassed it can be writing something nobody else will read." Ideas and dialogue that are vivid and genius in your head are inert and alien on the page. Luxurious abstraction sinks into mediocrity and it takes work to pull your project out of that.

John Lasseter, a founder of Pixar (which is just down the road so I feel I know him) said "Every Pixar film was the worst motion picture ever made at one time or another....People don't believe it but it's true."

I found more inspiration today with Cy's book report on Stuart Little, the little mouse that could: "T is for tofness, never giveing up"

Cy's book report on Stuart Little, the mouse with "sofnifogent braverey"

What are you afraid of? How has it stopped you doing things - or are you working to make sure it doesn't? 

63 comments:

  1. I'm the same with the writing. Every time I start something, I read it through and think it's so awful that I abandon it. Then I read books by really awful writers and think "how did they manage to get published..?" I suppose I'm afraid that if I did complete a book, it would be rejected, and then I could never fantasize that I could be a novelist.

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    1. Mine is a hybrid mystery (whatever that means) about three scraping sisters. have just read a bickering sisters novel which was so bad it's spurred me on

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  2. I'm too afraid to tell you what I'm afraid of... you would think I was ever so silly.
    Sx

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    1. Do tell, afraid of antiques? they are the best fears. Thinks like 'fear of climbing Mt Everest' are just boring

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  3. I think a lot of women are afraid of working after being out of the formal workforce for a long, long time. I don't think I'll ever go back formally to Architecture - the thought of working in an office environment gives me the shivers. I do a lot of things out of my comfort zone though, so I like to think that even if I don't embrace one thing I'm scared of, I do a lot of other things that make me feel very uncomfortable and give me a euphoric high after for having completed them (like dancing on a stage in front of 750 people last year. I am not a dancer, I am actually quite terrible at dancing, and the lead up was the most miserable anxiety inducing month of my life so far. But I pulled it off, everyone clapped, I didn't embarrass myself, even my husband who had been very pessimistic was impressed, and I proved to myself I can do different things. But never again with the dancing!).

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    1. So so cool -what kind of dancing? 750 people!

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    2. Oh no, it was awful! Not cool at all!! I was on a Charity committee for a ball (yes, I'm a housewife cliche), and someone had the bright idea of getting the six of us on it to dance to a Frank Sinatra song in Pearl jewellery (sponsors product). We saved them $3500 in professional dancer fees. Hours of rehearsals for a 3 minute spot on stage. We have all said never again, there was suggestion that we do a CanCan for a moulin rouge themed ball in the future, in which case I will definitely be resigning from the committee!

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  4. Not afraid of much at my hall
    As I'm already off the wall
    Maybe catching some deadly disease
    From killer fleas
    But things I can control
    Pfft fear can go suck on coal

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    1. The ticks in our hood,
      are the things that could,
      put a damper on
      the freedom walk.

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  5. I knew someone who was afraid of buttons and had to wear socks inside out for fear of the little tails of cotton that lurk up at the toe end. Bizarre. I have had the same experiences as you in trying to get published and am similarly gobsmacked by the sheer awfulness of some stuff that does get into print. You could always self-publish...v easy these days.

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    1. Plus my friend keeps saying to me; "You're only one article away from feeling good about yourself!"

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  6. I still can't drive a car. I've had some lessons but the thought of making the wrong turn on a busy junction and slamming into another car or a pedestrian breaks me into a cold sweat. My efforts with a hairdryer aren't great so the thought of a bigger engine in my paws scares me. Of course this isn't cowardice - this (in my head) is me saving lives.

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    1. It took me forever to learn to drive and even when i reached England in my late twenties, started work in Gloucestershire, I was forced to get a car for my job, It was only those slow roundaboutts that saved me. Now try saying "round the roundabouts" with a Glos accent (because that's what we did all day long, it never got old...)

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  7. I'm afraid of standing out in a crowd or having an audience, and I'm afraid of not being liked (all connected I guess - I feel like I'm on a psychiatrists couch admitting that!)
    But right now I'm afraid of my 13 year old son going into another temper tantrum!!

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  8. And. What if you are afraid of fear itself....? :O Great blog Jody

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  9. I am so happy you are doing this! As you know, I am going through a similar journey! It is hard, but so rewarding. For me, the hardest thing I have ever done is quit the job to pursue the dream. But we will persevere! And I love Cy's Stuart Little report!

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    1. We'll get to the "85,000 words" together!

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  10. Good on you - there is so much shite out there that is published you've got to at least give it a go.
    As for me? I've always been the bread winner in my family and I hate it. I want to stay home these last precious years with my daughter but I am scared to death I will bankrupt my family leaving my job. I did it for almost half a year in 2011 but then a former employer called me saying "What's this shit we hear that you don't work anymore?!?!" and offered me a position they pretty much created with me in mind - how could I risk saying no????
    I dream all day of owning my own business and working on my own terms but am too scared to take the financial risks of walking away from my current job.

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    1. Love that your co-workers appreciate you that much - awesomness. What sort of business would you be thinking of? I know so many people with their own business and there is a different freedom and different responsibilities, it's all down to you and that means you get the credit and the rest.

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  11. I wish you the best. I know you will get it done. It's a hard road. I'm slowly trying to do the same thing in travel, and it's hard to get paid work. Free work, yes! But paid work is apparently challenging. :)

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  12. i adore this post. and you.

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  13. Jody- You are a wonderful, talented, natural writer and I believe good things will come your way!

    Loretta

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  14. I fear the usual stuff ... terrified of flying .. fear of rollercoasters. But I totally understand the writing. I also have about 20,000 words lurking somewhere. Afraid to show it to anyone in case they think its crap .. afraid to finish it cos then I'd actually have to do something with it ... afraid to send it out because of all the rejections that would come my way. Blogging is easier! But for the record, if you do publish a novel (see above comment re self publishing) I will be first in line to buy. I love reading your posts and could think of nothing nicer than curling up with a big glass of wine and a book written by you!

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    1. Thanks FF and I so agree with everything you write. Yes just thinking this through - maybe it's the fear of finishing that is the biggest fear. Easier just to think that maybe I could be a novelist and leave it in the air. i have the cover picture all set in my mind, but can't work out the 12th chapter!

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  15. Mmmm..well let me see, clowns and mimes...yikes, but this doesn't really affect my life much because really how often do you see them? Let's just say I don't hang around circus tents...or kids birthday parties..which are scary enough.

    I have a strong fear of vomiting...I know..who really likes it? But I have such a strong aversion to it that when my kids were little and they got sick I would kind of hover outside the bathroom door saying things like "you're ok, look how brave you are..." but I could barely bring myself to come into the bathroom with them. Luckily my husband doesn't have a vomit phobia so he looked after the sick kids..it is a partnership right?

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    1. Funnily enough most kids have a clown phobia too. I don't know where someone got the idea that clowns are fun

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  16. I always see little sayings about doing what you fear. I swear I just don't know what that may be?! Maybe that's a defense mechanism. I stick to what I know and what I'm good at. Which for now is making chocolate chip cookies and sitting by the pool sipping a dark and stormy.

    I can't wait to read your book!!! You always have the most interesting tales!! xoxo

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    1. Choc chip and dark and stormies poolside, you have mastered the meaning of life!

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  17. What am I afraid of? being 'me' for the rest of my life.

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  18. Crikey....didn't mean that to sound so dramatic and whiney.....just that I feel I have something in me that I am good at and just haven't found it yet.
    And I need to take a leaf from your book Jody...being scared of heights and doing the things you have done takes big balls....respect to you!

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    1. You're never whiney Libby - getting out of bed and going to work for decades of years takes courage.

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  19. Mine is pretty common, I hate flying, but for most trips abroad, it's the easy and quick option. Last year we had only just parked ourselves in our seats right at the back of the plane, as they announced take off. Quickly the hostess told me to put my handbag under my seat, as she they scooted off to fasten up herself. Imagine my horror as I put my hand under my seat to find a small case, tapped the man in front to ask if it was his, and asked the family opposite, nobody knew anything about it? We are climbing rapidly, and I have found a stray unattended bag.......rapid pulse, sweat, etc, etc. I Managed to catch the flight attendant's attention, probably by my impersonation of "The Scream". She did look a tad worried too, and rushed the bag off. By this time I virtually needed the oxygen mask! When she did return by what seemed like forever, she said in a very laid back way, "nothing to worry about", they had had such a quick flight turnaround, that one of the previous flight staff, had left their bag under there!!
    This year we are driving!x

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    1. My friend addresses that by flying first class. i didn't realise that was an option??

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  20. i'm afraid of heights, scales, motherhood, not working, blogging, capri pants, and republicans.

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    1. Capri pants is a biggy isn't it? My friends and I talked about that the other day. Loose is too roomy and tight is too scary.

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  21. Cy is wise beyond his years...

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  22. Fear--feel the fear and do it anyway!! Another one of my favorites is "If not now...when?". You are a fabulous writer and your sense of humor grabs me every, single time I stop by. Now IS the time for you!!! I so understand this since I'm doing exactly that in launching my online Stylemindchic.com Boutique. As a School Psychologist with no business background I sometimes question myself but--I'm doing it anyway and I'm loving the challenge. I will buy ALL of your books. Can't Wait!! :)
    xx, Heather

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    1. Heather, I think if you've been a school psychologist you can do anything. You have heard it all and back again and dealt with it! Here's cheers with your online boutique - good on you! online seems the way to go as everyone is so free to step into your doors from all over the world! Thanks for saying 'all" your books..

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  23. I'm sure we would all buy your book so please get it finished!! Heights don't worry me too much and I love flying but I hate confined spaces such as underground tunnels (I can't even watch them on TV) I'd always wanted to visit the Pyramids in Egypt but when we got there and bought the tickets I just couldn't go in!

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    1. Pyramids, I find it hard to get into a elevator, but strangely enough was okay about the Pyramids (I know what you mean though - it was roomy in with King Tut but the other narrow passage entry was really scary.)

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  24. This is my favorite post you've ever written Jody, and there have been so many good ones! The first thought that popped into my head was 'can't wait to read the book' - no doubt it will be fun, funny and very good! Please finish it. I have been right in the middle of that bloody mess you mention for the last 3 weeks, slogging away at a new website that felt like a dismal failure during photoshopping 75 products at an hour or two a piece. Hoping I have the tofeness to finish it :)
    xo Mary Jo

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    1. Keep wading Mary Jo, bet the new website will be as incandescent as your silver tote on a bright day in Laguna.

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  25. Wonderful post!! Well, I wasn't always afraid of much really. After I was assaulted, I became afraid of everything...even going outside. I would freak out. It caused me to not really be living. I had to go and talk to someone about it which wasn't so easy. But, after talking weeks and weeks. I worked on all the fears I had and realized that I was giving them their power really and once I took it away, there wasn't so much to be afraid of. I was even afraid to tell someone off when they were being rude, I didn't want to hurt their feelings, but realized mine were getting stepped on. Once you take the step and just leap off and let the fear go, you become so much more free and aware of what there really is in life and what you can do. I'd love to climb a mountain or abseil somewhere, that would be fun. You MUST finish your book, I think it would be brilliant!! No doubt. Have a wonderful week xx

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    1. That's a huge and impressive thing you've come through and out the other side. Sounds like that was an Everest in itself

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  26. i'm with mary jo - would love to see what you've written and very curious to hear if it's humorous. your stories are endearing and the writing is alwys funny and engaging. any chance you'll post a little snippet?

    the thing about getting older (me not you) is i think you start to reach a point around middle age where you can't see the point of not trying things. dancing, writing .. may as well enjoy the opportunity to try while you can.

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    1. Hi Ursula, yes my husband and I are now chanting : "No new sports" I don't want to be crap-average-meh at anymore new stuff

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  27. I've loved reading the comments here and hear different perspectives from various life experiences. I think we're capable of so much more if we just bite the bullet and do it anyway.

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  28. There are lots of things that frighten me and most involve something sporty or water-related. It used to bother me that I was a wimp but then,having been on stage singing in shows just this last week and for a number of years, I realise I am doing something that would terrify others.
    Best of luck with your novel and journalism. You have very loyal readers of your blog so believe that people will love what you do.

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    1. I think your dressing up in hairnet and pinny a la Minnie from Coronation Street is the nth degree of bravery.

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  29. I agree it would be awesome to see what you have written. I think you are a really good writer your posts are always so much fun to read.

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  30. Jody, I would love to read your book. I am sure it has the humour and wit I so much enjoy about your writing. I've learned over the years that you must believe in yourself, no matter what. If nobody else does and you do, then that's all you need to gather the courage to try the impossible.
    Ada

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  31. Writing a blog seemed so scary I hesitated for years! But now I am wishing I had tried sooner...this is something most people grapple with isn't it? It makes me wonder what other things might be holding oneself back unnecessarily.

    Great post! Ps Heidi from Adelaide villa suggested your blog :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by - I am so un-tech savvy I didn't really know about the bloggy world until I started mine

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  32. Jody, Whenever I get to your blog, I am sucked in. You have the best writing style and absolutely should write your book! Look at all you do! I wish I was as adventurous as you are!
    Don't be afraid. I tell my son I love this quote,"You will succeed because most people are lazy." It's the truth son't you think? If anyone can write a book it's you..I'll be the first customer!

    xxKim

    p.s. Cy's little work is a gem..Gotta frame it!

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    1. Yes just a matter sometimes of keep on keeping on

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  33. Driving. Didn't for almost a year. Am now making myself go out in the car once a week - heart in mouth.
    the worst part is the lane we live in.

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    1. I learned to drive late in life and it was only when I got to Gloucestershire my boss said I had to get a car, so I got the red demon. I must say country lanes with high hedges? were much more terrifying than driving in London

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  34. Oh wow! I cannot imagine anyone turning you down if they'd just read your blog! You are consistently one of my most favorites & I find myself laughing out loud all the time when I read your posts. Too bad I'm not an editor. We'd talk.

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    1. Thanks Laura- actually just got some work at the SF Chron, so good news...

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  35. I'm afraid to stand in outside like the photos, I think we're capable of so much more if we just bite the bullet and do it anyway.
    http://cpbay.com

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