How I Defeat the Fear of Trying

Donald Miller

The hours before I write in the morning are often filled with dread. Will the words show up today? Do I still have what it takes?

This is, of course, an irrational fear. On most days, the words will be there. On some days, they won’t. The point is, of course, to sit down and try. To do your daily duty and to fling your words onto a page to see if something sticks.

There’s no greater feeling than losing yourself in a manuscript. On some days you don’t have it, on other days you can get it done, and then on a very few days you go into a trance and the words fling off your fingerprints and stick on the blank page like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece. Or at least that’s how it feels.

What stinks is when you go looking for that feeling every morning and you wrongly define this kind of day as a productive day and every other as a waste.

If that’s how I am going to define a productive day, I might as well quit.

Here’s what I tell myself these days to calm myself down: I won’t know until I sit down and write.

The fear I feel of sitting down is all about not knowing whether it’s going to be there today. But what good is that fear? I’m afraid of something that hasn’t happened. Why not sit down and see if it all works out?

The truth is, by not sitting down I’m daily decreasing the chances of having that magical day.

I won’t know until I sit down to write. I won’t know until I sit down to write. I won’t know until I sit down to write.

*Photo by Averain, Creative Commons

I’ve a friend who is a landscape photographer. We once hiked deep into the woods to get a picture of sunset. When we got there, we set up the camera and waited for the light to fade. As it did, the sunset was magical. But my friend didn’t take the picture. I asked why and he told me, “Because I’ve got a better shot from this same spot. There’s no reason to waste a 4×5 piece of film on this one.”

He made sense, of course. He shoots for a living and that shot would never have been used. But I asked him another question and I’ll never forget his answer. I asked how he stayed motivated to keep shooting, to travel and hike and sleep in a tent, never knowing if the shot is going to be there.

His answer: Because sometimes it is. And I’m in it for the sometimes.

I like that answer. It reminds me of my mantra: I won’t know until I sit down to write.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.