Monday, January 14, 2013

You Don't Have to Be Fearless to Do Scary Things

A few weeks ago over Christmas holidays I went for a hike to a waterfall with a group of about 20 other people. Some were in runners (like me), but most were in flip-flops.

The hike was fairly treacherous. There wasn't a nice gravel trail. We basically had to climb over rocks the entire time, and since it had rained the day before, the rocks were slippery. There was one part of the hike that was straight climbing up the side of a cliff. Then, once at the top, you had to walk on a ledge that was barely wide enough for your own foot. My heart was definitely pounding for the entire hike, in anticipation that I would slip and kill myself.

I figured I'd rather look stupid and be alive than the opposite, so I did a lot of crouching and bum-scooting on that hike. While I was bum-scooting my way along the path, the high school boys and tough hikers were way ahead, nimbly climbing over all the slippery rocks like monkeys.

There was one couple on the hike that I had heard lots about, mostly about how daring and adventurous they were. From what I'd heard, they loved to take risks and travel, and they had just backpacked around Indonesia for a month before visiting the Philippines for Christmas. Based on the things I'd heard about them, my perception of them was that they were tough, crazy backpackers who weren't afraid of anything.

Well, I was wrong. Once we'd arrived at the waterfall everyone stripped down to their bathing suits and jumped into the cool fresh water of the waterfall. The 20 of us were swimming or wading in the pool at the base of the waterfall. The girl of this backpacker couple was swimming near me, and all of a sudden she shrieked and held her tanned feet above the water. "Was that a leech?" she shrieked. "There better not be leeches in this water! I hate leeches." She shuddered.

I'm not really sure why, but in that moment I realized that, for one, I once again judged someone wrongly, but mostly that you don't have to be fearless to do scary things.

Sometimes I feel like I want to be at some level of bravery, where I'm not afraid of anything and I'm willing to do anything and everything in the world, no matter the risk. However, I still have tons of fears, whether they be big or just little things. It's definitely the act of overcoming those constant fears that is courageous, I think.

I definitely think this applies to writing. First, I'm too timid to try anything risky with my writing, for fear that it won't go over well with the people who read my work. Then I decide that I'll just wait until I get over this timidity and I'm fearless and have the freedom to write from anything to everything. But then I'm stuck in a rut, because I will never be fearless. I will always have doubts and hesitations about my writing. I just have to try to overcome those fears daily. I have to daily break out of my comfort zone, in life, but also in writing. I have definitely seen evidence that if you take risks and be unique, you or your writing is loved the more for it.

Maybe I'm afraid of leeches, but I can still backpack all over Indonesia...

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." -Meg Cabot


  1. Very true. If you're not scared of something, then facing it doesn't take nearly as much mental or emotional effort. And yeah, writing is scary sometimes. I don't think we ever conquer the fear of it, but we do get used to it over time.

    It's also a good idea to identify exactly what it is you're afraid of. "I'm afraid of writing" is very vague. "I'm afraid of writing emotional scenes" or "I'm afraid of other people reading my writing and hating it" get to the root of the problem.

    Huh. I'm going to post about this now; hope you don't mind...

  2. Laura - You're right; it would be good to get to the root of the problem. Go ahead and post on it, I'm interested to read more of your thoughts. :)


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