Fear, Courage, and a Dream

courage: to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart [Brené Brown]

During our shared reflection time this week, Casey talked about how when we feel tempted to stay in a place of safety, tempted to not put ourselves in a space where we could get hurt, we need to lean into the vulnerability and trust in who and what we are. I felt like she was speaking directly to me because when I’m honest about what I dream of, I want to stay small, stay in my lane, and stay safe. Instead, I’m choosing this week to trust in who and what I am and to tell my whole heart…

I dream of writing a book. That is one of the most terrifying sentences I have ever written.

Why is this so terrifying you ask? so. many. reasons.

  • I’m afraid I’m not a good enough writer.
  • I’m afraid I don’t have anything worth saying. 
  • I’m afraid that believing I have something worth saying is arrogant.
  • I’m afraid people will outwardly encourage me but silently judge me.
  • I’m afraid I will fail.
  • I’m afraid that if I tell people my dream and then fail they will know that I failed.
  • I’m afraid I don’t actually know what it means to be a real writer. 
  • I’m afraid I’ll only ever be good at writing in my journal or in google docs.
  • I’m afraid that believing I could just decide to write a book and expect that it would be published is crazy.

But this week is NOT about fear, it’s about dreams

When I read this week’s prompt, the question that legitimately jumped off the page at me was this one: what is it that you imagine for the book you are writing?  Talk about rattled. I’d been comfortably running through potential projects in my head as I read the earlier questions, imagining hazy visions of a “perfect world” that might fit the prompt when this question stopped me short. The book I’m writing? Me? HOW DID THEY KNOW?

Brené Brown writes that overcoming self-doubt is all about believing we’re enough. So instead of sinking into the fear (which, as you can probably tell, would drown me if I let it), I’m going to trust that I’m enough and that the spirit is speaking. Because when I dig deep down, I know this to be true: I am a writer. I always have been a writer. I’ve been putting my thoughts and feelings onto the page (and feeling healed by it!) for over 20 years.

So I’m writing a new list, a list of why I dream of being a writer:

  • The summer I spent writing every day was the healthiest I have ever been.
  • Journaling has always been my way most genuine form of prayer. God shows up constantly as I write. 
  • Writing allows me to express myself in ways I cannot in conversation. My brain loves the chance to dig in, to think through what it is I truly mean.
  • I have stories I want to share, truths I want to help people understand.
  • Books have been my constant companions since childhood, I believe they have the power to change the world.
  • I love the way words fit together. I love how sometimes I can’t get them from my head to the page fast enough.
  • I just like it. I love the feeling of my fingers flying over the keyboard or my pen scrawling across the page.

In truth, writing is the answer to all of the questions I wrote in my journal to pray with this week and then didn’t, the questions Glennon Doyle challenges us to ask ourselves once we’ve let go of defining our selves by who we love, who we serve, and what we do. 

What do I love? What makes me come alive? What is beauty to me? Who is the soul beneath all these roles?

8 thoughts on “Fear, Courage, and a Dream

  1. Amen, Erin! You’re doing the work.

    You named the fears. How did that feel?
    Did it take away some of the power of these fears?

    Your dream is so compelling and powerful.
    Your list of why you dream of being a writer has every sign of the good spirit — the Holy Spirit — bringing you to life, and bringing others to life!
    It’s where God shows up.

    You strike me as free and powerful right now.

    How’s God showing up in the writing you’re doing in this workshop?
    What’s your sense for God’s reaction / response to this post, “Fear, Courage, and a Dream”? How’s God feeling? Where’s God’s attention?

    Personal note: I read Glennon’s “Untamed” in March and April. It helped open up a new future for me. I’m excited that Glennon’s questions have challenged and shaped you too. It shows the power of good writing, of taking a risk to share one’s story and one’s truths. It can transform the writer and the reader!

  2. Awesome! This is very exciting.
    How can you bring your writing to others?
    Have you ever published op eds in your local paper? Articles in Catholic or other journals?
    What are all the places that you can contribute your writing?
    Have you ever been given the opportunity to preach beyond your classroom…at Mass?
    Or on Catholic Women Preach?

  3. Write! That! Book! Erin! (I’m a cheerleader for hire in a different life)

    I love this list you wrote for why you dream of writing a book. It’s authentic. It’s bold. It’s what I expect reading a book on how to be a writer. You ARE a writer.

    I love the question you left us with from Glennon Doyle:Who is the soul beneath all these roles?

    The soul beneath all of your roles has a voice and a story worth telling.

  4. “I have stories I want to share, truths I want to help people understand.”

    I believe this !! Looking forward to reading these stories.

    I love hearing how writing is where the Spirit finds you.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

  5. Perhaps spend some time getting in touch with that feeling you had the summer you wrote and felt so healthy. What happened in that summer that made this dream come alive? What was the atmosphere? What did you see, say, hear, touch …? Where was God in that space and how is God drawing you into this dream of writing now?

  6. Erin, the need to write is clearly engraved in your DNA. If you think of writing as engaging a conversation with a reader, a kind of I-Thou relationship, would the fears ease and the process open up if you were to begin from the perspective of the “Thou?” In this hurting, messy world, what calls to particular stories you carry within and your passion to tell them? Who would be helped or healed by hearing them? How might you shape the narrative so the reader might more easily inhabit the story and dialogue with it? Begin anywhere. The book may actually write you.

  7. Erin,

    I connected with your fear of failing in writing, but I have a story about that. My mentor asked me this year, “what are you willing to die for?” I gave a simpering/crying/bashful answer which was also a total non sequitor: “Writing…” (Dying for writing: possible? I’m not sure.) Then he said: “If you’re willing to die for it, are you willing to fail for it?”

    Failing in writing is scary to me because it is so disappointing to think that I won’t be able to serve my inner vision. But God works through even failures in a powerful way. I have begun to visualize how even a work which fails (not coherent, limited in vision, humor doesn’t come off, ect.) could be a vehicle for grace.

    I challenge you to be willing to fail for writing.
    On another note, I’ll pray for you that as you explore this, Holy Spirit will send you books and authors to be your companions. I ask your companion-authors who have passed on to pray for you! I also pray that you receive the gifts of visualizing the images in your head more clearly, experiencing life in a sensory way, and that you encounter people who can populate your writing as living images of God.

  8. Yes. Write. Write on – let that pen move across that page, those fingers fly across that keyboard. You are a writer, Erin.

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