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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« On second thought, they're probably stoned. | Main | Allow me to bask in my occasional greatness. »

A few words about fear

Now that I’m committing to writing more on my blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. Fear! BOO!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Come back!

I really believed, before this, that I wasn’t able to post as much as I wanted because I didn’t have the time. But that wasn’t it at all. Because really? I didn’t have the guts.

It’s hard to put yourself out there. Some days it’s harder than others, of course, but there’s always a risk that you’re going to get a negative reaction to what you’ve written. You can’t anticipate what will set some stranger off on a tear about how much you suck. It doesn’t get easier, either; once you get some experience under your belt, you start to anticipate the reactions to whatever it is you’re writing. You imagine the people who aren’t that into you reading it and smirking. They’re like your Inner Critic come to life—a whole Greek chorus of voices telling the world how overrated you are. And then you stop yourself from writing, or you tell yourself you need more time, more inspiration, more something. That’s letting fear win, and by winning, it gets stronger, and the feeling snowballs. Pretty soon you’re also imagining all the people who think you suck because you don’t post enough. And then you’ve locked yourself in a closet and you’re wearing tissue boxes for shoes. It’s not healthy, kids.

I’m not bringing all this up just to talk about me, although THE INNER WORKINGS OF MY MIND ARE FASCINATING. This fear comes up all the time, for anyone being creative. I’ve seen people get paralyzed with fear after they’ve encountered public criticism of their work. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well. I’ve received emails from people who want to die of shame because someone wrote to them to tell them they suck, or posted a comment to the same effect.

Sometimes the comments people get are laughable. I’ve seen commenters who criticize a writer’s typo, or a picture of them, or arrive on a site with no prior knowledge of the blog at all so they can leap to all kinds of inaccurate conclusions. Some people are nuts, and unfortunately, some people who are nuts can also work a computer.

And yet writers can be devastated by this stuff, even when they themselves realize how silly the actual comment was. It can make them feel small and stupid. Because on some level they believe they’re not good enough, and now they feel like they’ve just been outed. Like they’re not worthy of love, and worse, they were stupid to want it.

Let me just say it: we all want to be loved. It’s okay to write because you want to be loved. That is completely okay. That is, in fact, an excellent reason to write. And if you feel terrible because of a mean thing someone wrote, that’s also okay.

Here’s a statement that deserves a separate paragraph: if no one dislikes you, you’re not doing it right. If you get mean comments, or read something critical of your work, it means people have an opinion about you. And that’s essential. Good job.

You can’t write something meaningful, you can’t create art—and let’s just call this art, okay? I think we can—unless you are willing to be yourself. Yourself, with all your quirks. And you can't be yourself without some people disliking you. It’s not possible. Pick a celebrity you think is absolutely above reproach, and then Google him, and read all about the people who think he’s the worst. Stephen Colbert, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris. There are people who hate them! How crazy is that? (Maybe not crazy to you, but to me, certainly.)

But those people don’t matter. They’ll move on. When you are intensely yourself, with all your quirks--and look, we all have them, no matter how normal you think you are—and you can create something, whatever it is, that expresses that, you're speaking to someone else's quirks. And the thing is, everyone thinks they're weird and unlovable, at some level. So when you speak to that part of someone, they open up. They feel better. They bloom a little. You've just changed someone else. Think about that. Five other people might not get it, but so what? A hundred people might think you suck, but you’ve just helped one person have a better day, and how incredible is that?

The only thing we can do in the end is be brave. No one can escape being disliked, and no one can escape being loved. Go for it.

Reader Comments (163)

Very well-written. This is why I love your blog. Thank you!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Alice, you're awesome. And I'm very glad you're posting more often.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercjm
You should put a link to paypal on the post, because we all owe you one.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin @ Fierce Beagle
Amen. Great, great post.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. D
So true! I'm a freelance writer, and I feel that fear even when I'm writing about direct mail or dog breed profiles or why you should try aquafit. I think that no matter what you're writing you're sharing yourself a little, and that can be scary in even the smallest of doses.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
YES! So articulate, so right. Thank you for the reminder.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen
You just made me want to write again after a hiatus of several years. Seriously. Thank you.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlyia
Weird does not equal unlovable, and quirky is always more interesting. When the rest of the world realizes this, society will be done evolving.

Don't let fear paralyze you!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentera
Yes! You're so great. Thanks.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I love everything that you write. Unless you wrote Mein Kompf or something.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka
Sometimes times you say it so right, (almost) no one can disagree and everyone gets that "YES! What she said!" feeling of touching brains and souls for a moment. And isn't that worth every single mean and snarky comment, ever? I think so.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal
This is so timely for me! I'm not struggling to be an artist right now, but I am struggling to find a new job, and your words feel really applicable to that situation, too. It's hard to put myself out there, but sitting around being afraid to do it is worse still. Thank you for articulating this thing so well. I love to read what you write.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteragnes
You are loved by me, too!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBethysmalls
Wonderful post. My son is a musician in New York (lives in Park Slope!) He has a lot of stuff on youtube and I am always amazed at what people say in their comments. My son's response is he doesn't read the comments because as far as he is concerned half of them are written by a 13 year old with a computer!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren P
Alice, this is so lovely and full of truth and just yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy --- Just A Titch
Thank you, Alice. I really needed to hear that today. Well, and probably every day. ;)Maybe I should bookmark this post and come back to it every morning!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Since you've got a plethora of positive comments thus far, I'll just say this: BRAVO!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Exactly what I needed to hear. How did you know? It is almost as if you read my last post!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegsie
great advice and what i needed to hear this week as a refresher course for my NY resolution, which was to stop caring so much what people think of me. also on par with thoughts i had earlier this month:

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbri
I so needed you today. Thank you :)
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmilia Reed
Yay! So glad you'll be posting more. Love to hear from you, and understand the fear part. Even typing a comment is terrifying!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Wonderful post, and this helps all of us new to blogging to help find our way a little bit better. I still haven't found my line of how much of myself to put out there. Thanks for forging the way for the rest of us.I'm kind of hoping this post leads you to let us in a bit more. I have been reading for a while and think you are amazing and I would love to know you better.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFinola
I usually lurk quietly in the shadows but this post really rang true to me.

I'm starting a new blog and I feel deeply self conscious every time I hit the post button, but this makes me feel better and not alone.

So thanks and keep posting!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlauren
I'm a shadow lurker as well... but you are totally right - that's totally why I end up avoiding my blog. Love your writing! Thanks for putting yourself out there!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Alice,One of the things I really really really like about your blog is that you make me feel less alone. You help me have a better day all the damn time.Thanks for that.Heidi
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

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