Our Deepest Fear

Though we may not want to admit it, we writers are a fearful bunch. And who can blame us, really? The publishing industry can be downright scary!

What if I spend hours, months, years of my time writing something that no one will read beside my mom and Auntie Mildred? What if I don’t have the talent to be a good writer? What if I never make the right connection with a publisher, or if I blow my one-and-only chance to impress an acquisitions editor? What if I get a detail wrong that doesn’t get noticed until some reader writes a bad review of my book on Amazon? What if no one likes what I’ve written? What if I get sued by someone who thinks he recognizes himself in a character from my novel? What if a family member gets angry over something I wrote about her (or that she thinks is about her)? What if I finally get my book published and no one buys it? Or what if my first book sells well and then I can’t think of anything else to write and I become a “one-hit wonder”?

Fear of inadequacy is so common for writers that if you haven’t felt any of those things, you probably haven’t shared your writing with anyone else. Or perhaps you haven’t put enough of yourself into your writing.

But once you’ve actually managed to publish something you’ve written, and you start promoting it, a different kind of fear comes into play. This fear is more subtle, yet it can be far more powerful. It is the fear of success.

What if this piece I’ve written does get read by lots and lots of people? What if it moves readers, touches their hearts, changes their lives? What if my name becomes well known and I get popular and—dare I think it?—even successful? We’re afraid of success because we fear what that might do to our perception of humility. After all, isn’t pride the most heinous of all sins?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.[1]

Joseph must have doubted himself when the angel told him he was to become the father of the Messiah. Who am I to teach God’s Son about God? He was a simple carpenter, known only to the few people in his little hometown. He had no idea that someday every Nativity set in the world would feature figurines of him and his little family. All he knew was that God had chosen him to do something incredible.[2]

Has God called you to do something amazing? Do you feel inadequate for the task? Or are you afraid of becoming brilliant, talented, fabulous in your service for Him?

[1] Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles (HarperCollins, 1992), 190.

[2] I wrote a short story about some of the things I think might have gone through Joseph’s mind on the night the Christ child was born. It’s one of the chapters in 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift. Look for it online or at your local bookstore.