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Two recent stories that I hope prove a point.

First story is about a co-worker’s wife who has said for years that she wants to be a screen writer. What has put her in a good place to write:

  • She has taken multiple classes in school focused on screenwriting
  • She has read books on writing
  • She and her husband talk often about writing
  • Her husband has demonstrated that even someone who is only half-hearted about writing can produce something and get it published

But her output over the years has been poor. She has started many times, but stopped writing after a week of effort.

I told my co-worker about a newly forming writer’s group (other screen writer’s attending) and in turn he told his wife, in hopes of encouraging her to pursue her dream. She about freaked.

He relays how she said something to the effect, “I can’t go and share my work with anyone. What if they red pen it to death?!?”.

Her fear is stopping her from:

  • Connecting with other writers for motivation
  • Connecting with other writers for improving her writing skill
  • Connecting with other writers as a test bed for her content
  • Connecting with other writers to see how poor their writing is and realize, “I could at least write that bad!”

On this next story, bear with me a minute because I think I can connect it to the post topic.

Every morning I get up before the crack of dawn and go for a brisk three mile walk. Every day I take the same route across a short stone bridge that overhangs a small creek, which trickles through the undergrowth about thirty feet below. The bridge has a two-foot thick stone “rail” to keep traffic from falling over the edge.

Two days ago a squirrel starts running across one end of the rail in the hopes of jumping to a tree at the mid-point. A second before the squirrel reached the mid-point it noticed me walking briskly his direction and it started to freak.

The squirrel reached the mid-point and realized the nearest tree was easily five or six feet away from the bridge; a long jump into thin, sparse branches. The critter turned back my direction deciding the jump was too far. Then it saw me again and decided coming my direction wasn’t an option either. The squirrel went back and forth between the tree and me at least three times. His fear making him oblivious to the fact he could run to the other side of the bridge and scurry off safely.

At first the similarity between my co-worker’s wife and this squirrel were apparent: frozen and indecisive due to fear.

The squirrel differed from the person in that the fear of some other consequence (in this case I was about thirty feet from him) overcame its fear of the death-defying jump. And it jumped!

Like a slow-mo, John Woo movie, I watched this creature fly through the air in hopes of reaching a destination. It actually hit the first branches, missed, then grabbed another branch during the fall. It was able to make it to the other side, albeit a bit bruised and terrified, but it made it.

Is fear of rejection or critique stopping you from connecting with others and sharing your writing?

What other fears may be stopping you from writing regularly or submitting your writing?

Maybe you can use the fear of being in the exactly same place you were a year ago — very little written or poorly written — and channel that into motivation that gets you to “jump away” from the other fears that are stopping you in growing as a writer?

Our culture has taken the word, “Squirrel!”, from the movie, Up, to mean a distraction…even a distraction from something else that is very important to the person. Maybe we can all start taking the word, “Squirrel!” to mean flying off into something terrifying, but landing safely with some bumps and bruises.

Take the leap and land someplace new and better as a writer. You may be surprised that you survive the jump. “Squirrel!”