I got a call from a former coaching client the other day. She wanted to talk about how afraid she was to start writing a book she felt she should write.
As talked about the book, it seemed to me that while the idea was decent, she was spectacularly unenthusiastic about it.
I asked her why she wanted to write it.
Her answer was that it would be a huge career boost.
“That’s a terrible reason to write a book,” I said, “unless, of course, you’ve also got a great passion for the topic.”
We talked some more and it came to light that several business coaches had told her she should write a book to take her career/job to the next level. It would, they assured her, position her as an expert or an authority.
Which may be true, but writing a book is a whole heck of a lot of hard work. And it’s not the only way to be successful. Most people never write a book and are just fine.
My client, who I knew can write articles with very little problem, explained that every time she sat down to try to write it or outline it or do much of anything she was immobilized by fear.
Do you want to write a book or want the book written?
I asked what proved to be a telling question: “Do you want to write a book or do you want the book written?”
There really is a huge difference between wanting, even needing, to write a book and wanting the book, somehow, to be written. And there are all sorts of ways to get a book written, including hiring a ghostwriter, working with a collaborator, getting coaching help so you don’t have to do it alone, writing a series of articles that grow into a book – and probably six or seven ways I haven’t thought of.
We talked some more and it turned out that what was really scaring her was the thought of writing a book all by herself.
“Sounds like your fear is your friend in this case,” I commented. “Your mind/body complex is trying to tell you something important. Probably something like ‘it’s not right or the right time for you to write a book by yourself.’ It might make better sense to honor that reluctance and celebrate that you noticed it.”
I could almost see her shoulders relaxing and the worry leaving her forehead.
Fear can be our friend, really
Fear isn’t always bad. Fear keeps us out of the way of big trucks, snakes and sometimes warns us about projects and ideas we have about what we’re “supposed” to be doing.
How can you tell when a fear is warning you from the fear that’s stopping you?
It probably starts with recognizing that not all fears are bad (actually, I suspect that can be applied to any emotion – they all have positive and negative aspects). Just realizing that the fear I’m feeling may be a legitimate warning is often enough to calm me enough to look within and see what kind of message the fear is sending me.
Of course fear sometimes, maybe even often, gets in our way. And often it’s my job to help someone let go of that fear.
But sometimes, as it was in this case, my job is to help someone discover that fear can also be a friend.
Here the woman now knows really knows she doesn’t have to write a book all by herself, which is what was scaring her half to death. That was the key to neutralize the fear. Now she can think creatively about how she wants to get that book written, because it turns out she does want to get that book written.
When I coach writers I come from the point of view that everyone is an expert on their own life. At most I can help them see that expertise, that wonderfully clear intuition that we all have. Sometimes a little help getting out of our way is all we need.
Does this make sense to you? When have you found fear to be a friend? Tell us about it in comments.
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