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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,
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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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.

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« On second thought, they're probably stoned. | Main | Allow me to bask in my occasional greatness. »
Friday
Jan292010

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)

I'm de-lurking for this one! What a great post. I would really like to give you a goofy hug, followed by an awkward high five.

Have a great weekend!

Keri
Right on! My job, not as an author, but a different profession, is also almost entirely writing. I also have to face every single day the potential rejection for that writing from a a more experienced supervisor, and then ultimately, a third party who will determine whether what I wrote has any merit. I totally appreciate this post because I think I too procrastinate, postpone and delay because of the same fear, and I never really realized that was a reason (or at least one of many)! Now, I come to your blog because your writing is so funny, witty, and actually, because I wish I was more like that too. And, because I'm a mom and I love all your stories about kids and families and the like. Never thought I'd connect with your posts on a professional level, and that's also kind of cool.And, I'm loving your more frequent blogging.Take care!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRCBM
Wonderful post.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwm
Thank you for this post-it was needed today. I'm a college English teacher, and let me tell you, no one has the power to make you feel small like an 18-21 year old who knows it all.

I recently had a student dismiss my feminist reading of a story with this pithy comment: "my problem with feminists is that all they seem to do is complain." I was struck speechless for a moment and then went into pissed off/defensive mode in front of the whole class. I don't quite remember what I said, although I remember struggling to make it a "teaching moment."

Of course, after the fact I come up with all kinds of witty comebacks to put her in her place (Those complaints mean you get to sit in this class and have a bank account and own property and get a job and...and...)

Anyway, the point is, anyone who puts themselves out in the public eye has to deal with criticism-sometimes right to their face. I'm still learning how to deal with it (with the added complication that I also have to be the mature adult and not insult them back). It was good to read this today and get a little perspective on it-even though it is still something that I have to work through.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Why, thank you!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
I love you.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
So you basically just explained why I stopped blogging four years ago.

Jesus, I needed to hear this today. Thank you so much.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie
wait a minute... there is someone that doesn't like you, Anne Lamott or David Sedaris? That's just wrong. I hope I never meet them.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkristen
please consider this positive comment worth 10 so that it will overcome and drown out the next bad comment you get. NEVER STOP WRITING! i will die a small death if you do and the last shred of enjoyment i get at my desk in my office will evaporate like that stash of chili flavored fritos my boss left in the breakroom over break when i was here alone.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkeight
In my simplistic way, I've always thought of the work process of creative people as "turning their souls inside out". Your description of that process expresses it in even greater depth...That's why you do what you do; and do it so well!

With an even greater understanding and pride in our connection,we remain in awe of your talents...

Deetz & Grumps
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeetz
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I recently started a blog. It saves my sanity and gives me a creative outlet. I'm so proud of it, but, apperently, my mother-in-law isn't. When she read my blog for the first time, she send my husband this long e-mail saying how embarrased she was of what I was writing, how negative my blog was, and how it led her to believe that I had married her son for the wrong reasons. I was hurt to say the least and completely blindsided by her interpretation of my writing. I try to be real about my new marriage, but I love my husband.

It has been difficult writing the past two days. I'm afraid of how people will perceive me.

Thanks for the reminder that when you put your entire being into your art, there is going to be criticism. I've just gotta keep writin'.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan
You are so right, and thank you for this post, and all of your posts. I love your writing. No one can be all things to all people, and no one should be.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlyce
I wish I could reach through my computer right now and give you a hug. Really. This post actually made me tear up.

This right here: 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 something that I have really only ever heard from my therapist (a lovely woman), who is constantly pointing out that it is okay to want to be liked and loved, and perhaps I have more value in this world than a pile of steaming crap. (Therapist and my self-esteem generally disagree on this point, but she is a smart lady, as are you, and so I continue to try and believe it.)

Anyway. So. Yes. You've made many of my days better, including this one happening RIGHT NOW. A lot of blogs have done that for me. And you're right - it is the people who are okay showing their quirks, and okay being REALLY THEMSELVES who attract me the most. And the friends found online? Amazing. I've spent years reading and commenting on blogs, wishing a few of the people I read and loved would write back, or would see me. That rarely happens, which is okay. So I started my own blog, put myself out there more, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Suddenly people (very, very few, but whatever) read it and SEE ME, and LIKE ME, and the world has not yet ended. Amazing, that.



January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
I needed to read this today. I'm thinking about blogging and it's the fear that's stops me! Thanks so much for putting fear in its place. You keep on keeping on!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVilma
I love love love this post. I know that fear, it's the fear that kept me from starting my blog in the first place.

'What if someone hates my work?'

Then I will move on.

It took me forever to realize that everyone doesn't have to like my corner of the internet. Doesn't have to want to read what I have to say. If I enjoy creating my space, my little world, then that's all that matters. And the first time someone tells you that your post helped them/made them smile/made them laugh, it is all worth it.

Thank you for having the courage to do what you do!

I mean it.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAccidental Olympian
You just helped me have a better day! hanks for writing.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie
Oh, I needed this today. And maybe every day... might have to print this out and put it in a frame beside my laptop. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself, even when it's scary.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErica
I'm delurking myself and hopping on the "Yay, Alice!" bandwagon. Keep writing...we are all rooting for you out here.





January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynn
I think you may have launched a new fleet of blogs today...
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaryB
Oh MAN was this a good blog! Thank you for this. It is relatable on so many levels.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
This is so timely. I have pretty much all but abadoned my blog and have wanted to make an effort to at least start posting once a day again. I was using the same excuse of time - there's not enough! For days I've been writing posts in my head, which would be a whole lot better on "paper" and yet here it is, Friday, and nothing.

I know you're right. It's fear. My main fear is that nobody is reading it so what's the point? Who cares if it just **poof** is gone. Probably just me.

Yet - I won't really ever know unless I actually give it more of a chance. My project this weekend is to breath new life into my little corner of the "blogosphere" once again. Good and bad - I think I'm ready.

Thank You!!

P.S. - I pink puffy heart adore you!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Thanks for this.

I'm a visual artist — a painter. Over the last 5 or so years I've worked myself up to this burgeoning career. This summer I have my first solo exhibition. Up to this point I was sort of on the sidelines. Now I've got attention. And with this attention comes a break out of boils. Literally. They're my own special anxiety boils. Fear makes them grow. I'm ill on the inside, physically ill. I wake up full of this peculiar anxiety caused by all this attention that I just slowly walked in to over 5 years.

And I'm terrified what someone will say about my work. Each thought manifests itself in a new boil.

All I want is to paint something for one person to like and that will sustain my life. I'm terrified of someone destroying everything in one swoop.

Thanks for this post. I don't feel alone, with my boils, anymore.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Very well said, and thank you for putting this post out there for all to read. My job involves something just shy of daily ritual humiliation, so the pressure I feel from blogging is minimal, relatively speaking.

In the four years I've been blogging, I've gotten exactly one negative comment, but it was a doozy - about an amazing chocolate bread pudding recipe I tried. (Yes, chocolate bread pudding - how could that possibly anger any sane person?) A troll signed on to 1) question my intellect by mocking my tongue-in-cheek headline, 2) blame me for immigrants' health woes and 3) basically pin the decline of Western civilization squarely on my bloggy shoulders.

I was pissed off for a split second and then ... elated. To think I had such power all this time! I've decided to use my power for good, but I'm still shopping for a fashionable cape.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy (Minimally Invasive)
Awww, Alice...I know you weren't fishing for approval and accolades, but they're all sincere, so let us do it, anyway. I love you, subscribe to your feed, think you're funny and clever and even bought the January issue of Redbook just because I wanted to read your column.

Keep writing. We appreciate it.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLara
Geeze, Alice. This is a REALLY good post. You set me free inside a little bit. Go YOU!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstef

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