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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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Sleep Is
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Let's Panic

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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)

What an awesome thing to write--I hope you keep it up, because you are totally a hero of mine!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLara
This was a great post. Except that I never get negative comments on my blog, even when I admitted to the internet that I don't always use seatbelts on my children (this was in Mauritania). Now I'm convinced I'm doing something wrong! I'm not quirky enough! AUGH!So, um, thanks a lot. Going off to hide under the bed now...
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteredj
This post just made me feel wonderful inside. Thank you Alice.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon
Well said Alice, you're the best!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari
Awesome post. Thank you.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
I've always been a wee bit jealous of the bloggers who get the haters. I mean, it's not that I WANT anyone to hate me, but it does seem to indicate that if someone takes the time to hate me, then perhaps I've made an impact, touched a nerve.

Right now, I'm the milquetoast of the blogosphere. No one hates me!! I suck!!

Most people who know me would describe me as supremely confident, bordering perhaps on arrogant sometimes. But when it comes to my blog and my writing, I'm an insecure little girl. This is my product, my product is MYSELF, and it's just like I've turned in an assignment to my kindergarten teacher and I need her (someone?) to tell me it's wonderful.

I write for the validation that I can write. (And hopefully I make people laugh or cry or think or shake their fist at the computer screen in the process.)
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
Oh Alice, I like you. I'm so glad you're writing more often here.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
Thanks Alice - spot on as usual!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristi
I LOVE YOU FOR WRITING THIS!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYam
Thank you Alice. I loved this post, as I love everything you write. Keep it coming!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer L.
I loved this. Just what I needed to hear!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
IDEA (my quota for the decade): Alice Bradley Fan Club! I call President! Oh my, Alice . . . How I do love thee!

BTW: in typing this, almost posted "Ho I do love thee!" Yikes!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterValorie
Now THAT is some serious trip-trapping across the troll bridge. Good girl, Alice! You look killer in those boots!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
Very well put! Though, the mean comments make me reach for the nearest cocktail while slowly rocking back and forth in a corner.



January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergorillabuns
i loved reading this post....might revive my severely dormant blog
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer
Thanks, Alice.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjustine
thanks. This is something I will be thinking over. you rock.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Yay for this post! I recently discovered your site and needed to hear this today (my inner critic looms large). Thank you.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Yes. And yes.

That whole thing, that once you've got the trolls, then you've really arrived, well, uh, yay for people telling me how stupid my writing is. It means I've gotten somewhere. Funny, it never feels very good. Sigh.

I suppose, at least I'm human in that it upsets me. It would probably be more worrying if it didn't get under my skin. And really, my blog is tiny in comparison to a lot of blogs.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
Once again... I love. Will you marry me?

BTw I am saving this post for future reference and passing on. I know a few artists (writers, photogs, etc) who may need to see these words sometime.
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy
That's just lovely-- really it is. Obviously from your heart and a profound truth that will hopefully free others to express themselves in ways we can only imagine!
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
"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."

YES. Alice, I've been reading Finslippy since...oh, heavens, a couple of months after you began, I think. I've read every single post on the site.

I can (demonstrably!!) say that you have indeed changed me. Please, please never let the trolls allow you to forget how many of us out here think you are amazing and awesome and totally, undeniably worthwhile. You speak to us, and you matter.

(And I, like a lot of other people, really needed to read this post today. Thank you.)
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate Vinée
I've tended to relate with your experiences of crippling anxiety, so to see you put yourself out there is inspiring. I'm hoping that your moments of braveness will rub off on me..
January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
MARRY ME ALICE.

This is one of the best blog posts I will ever read. Thank you so much. I've had comments turned off my blog for a week now ... I will turn them back on again (soon). Your words really helped. Thank you!
January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteredenland
First of all thank you massively. Secondly, you got no negative comments at all!!Fear is such a killer. Killer of fun, love, life. It is good to put it right out there so that we can all stamp hard on it, and walk away free. Thank you for letting us all have a good stamp together! No idea how I got to this blog. I rather think you are one of the Royalty of blogs, unlike me, a lowly peasant... good to meet you. May I come again, please?! xx
January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLadybird World Mother

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