Many individuals spend their days living inside a self-made, protective box where they feel safe and comfortable. Afraid to face uncertainty, they remain imprisoned by fear.
This is one of the reasons I love to write; to explore and to confront the unknown, to discover, and to take bold risks outside the box. To challenge the many types of fear that imprisons each one of us.
Ray Bradbury once wrote; Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall. This brings to mind an old friend’s recollection of the way he learned to swim. Despite of, or because of, his fear of the water, his father picked my friend up when he was about five years old, and tossed him into the lagoon at their summer home. My friend remembered screaming as his dad yelled; ” Use your arms, and kick your legs to stay above the water!”. My friend said it worked. He never needed a swim lesson, or was afraid of the water again. It was the first time he learned to travel outside the safety of his own box.
The writer journeys outside the box each time she sits down to create a new story. She breaks through walls, plunges into unknown territories, and travels to far away places (mentally, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually) she has never been. She delves deep inside the minds and psyches of individuals who are nothing like her, and like her ,and she bares her soul to strangers each time she places words on the page.
Bradbury’s advice to go outside oneself, to take risks, does not only apply to the aspiring author in us. His words ring true for individuals in real life, as well. Sometimes, we need to charge straight toward fear, like a boxer throwing jabs, crosses and hooks at his larger than life opponent, until he knocks that adversary out cold. Only then will the boxer claim his victory.
We, whether as writers or individuals in real life, can not claim our own victory over fear until we confront it head on, and knock it out cold.
Ray Bradbury also described the writer as the following; We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. Writers observe the world and then we share what we learn, but we are only able to do that if we are not afraid to put what we have been filled with, onto the page, to share our vulnerabilities, our conclusions and our stories with others.
Author, editor and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hull wrote in the August 2021 edition of The Writer, about our fears of failure; Being bad isn’t failure. The only way you fail is by stopping (OR, I would add, never starting, never taking the chance). No one can judge a blank page, but no-one will be entertained, inspired, or changed by it, either.
Writers take risks all the time. We put ourselves out there, allowing ourselves to remain vulnerable to the judgements of our audience, to both those readers who admire us, and to those who criticize us. We do this to release what we are filled with, to spill it out, to come face to face with our questions, our doubts, our anxieties and our fears, as well as those of our readers, in order to share our journeys and our victories with others.
In life, individuals may become stuck within the dark confinement of those self-made boxes. They are afraid to tear down the walls they so carefully built over the years, which prevents them from seeking brighter opportunities outside. They might remain in dead-end relationships because they fear being alone. They stay in jobs with no opportunity for growth because they do not think they are good enough to find anything better. They live in the same house or neighborhood they’ve long outgrown because they are afraid to start over somewhere unfamiliar.
Like the writer who faces the blank page, bravely and creatively filling it one word at a time, individuals should face their unknowns, by tearing down the walls of their box, one heavy brick at a time.
In Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul, the journey beyond yourself, Singer says; In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times. He discusses in his book, the tendency of individuals to remain imprisoned within the walls of their psyche. That is what the dark house we built is.
While Singer discusses the journey toward achieving enlightenment for the individual, this also applies to the writer, as she attempts to lead her readers as close as possible to the borders of their own protective walls, with her story.
Similarly, Jane k Cleland, author of Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot, says about the fear of failure, in her September 2018 Writers Digest article; The fear of failure feels as if your soul was in the crosshairs of a sharp–shooting sniper. That is how scary failure feels to a writer. Cleland calls it the I’m not good enough fear.
Cleland’s advice to the writer is to Shush your internal critic and summon forth your inner muse. This idea bounces off Singer’s advice in his book to individuals in real life, to journey deep within yourself to become the witness to the noisy, non-stop chattering mind inside who acts as a barrier between the true self and one’s ability to achieve awareness. Your muse can be found within, Cleland says, Its been there the whole time; all you need to do is trust the process and believe in yourself.
To further elaborate this point, freelance writer Maria Walley shares in the September 2018 WD publication, Author Brene’ Brown’s discussion about the power of vulnerability; The ability to be vulnerable is a key ingredient to achieving success, happiness, and thriving at human connection. Walley says, We must be able to genuinely bare our souls in our writing.
This takes guts and it takes going outside the safety of the box we created for ourselves. It takes confronting and opposing our egos and our fears; Our ego isn’t evil; it serves its proper role of protecting our vulnerable selves, and yet unless we challenge our ego, and expose ourselves to risk, we won’t create as writers and we won’t fully live as human beings.
Walley says; Essentially, leveraging vulnerability is how we take our communication to a level that transcends clever wording, while challenging readers to take the rare moment for reflection.
We write to learn who we are. We write so our readers learn who they are, or who they can become.
When Ray Bradbury said to Jump, and you find out how to unfold your wings as you fall, he was daring writers to take risks, to be vulnerable, to face uncertainty and write about it. Yet, Bradbury could also have been talking to individuals who are not writers, who are merely living each day of their lives, facing their own uncertainties and fears. Just as writers are told to write outside the box, to find our muse and silence the inner critic or to fill our cup with beautiful things that we can later tip out, onto the page for our readers, the individual should do the same in his life.
Find your true self and silence the mind inside that attempts to stop you from escaping the confined walls of your self-made prison. Fill your own cup with beautiful things that you can spill into each day of your life, for yourself and for your loved ones, and for everyone else to whom we are spiritually connected.
Take chances. Dare yourself. Fill your blank pages with beautiful and adventurous stories. Trust in your muse, and trust in your inner true self.
Jump, and you just might learn how to unfold your own wings. Instead of falling, you will soar far beyond the confinement of the prison walls of the self-made box in which you have been imprisoned for far too long.