Article: Tackling a Writer’s Fears

fearFear, like a ghostly apparition haunts all of us as writers. For some it is a memory of a parent’s or teachers deprecating comment, like “Don’t ever consider becoming a writer.” For others it’s the ghost of past failures that produced an involuntary response—shelving a project. For some it haunts the writer as the ghost of writer’s block.

Helping a psychiatrist with his book on what it means to be a Christian counselor introduced me to a ghost-revealing verse of Scripture—and a ghost-defying approach. This psychiatrist’s discovery of Hebrews 2:15 opened up a dramatically improved counseling approach and for me a new understanding of the role of fear in a writer’s life. Here’s the verse in three versions:

“and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (NKJV)

“and deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (ESV)

“Only in that way could he deliver those who through fear of death have been living all their lives as slaves to constant dread.” (Living Bible)

At the root of all pathologies, this psychiatrist insisted, is the fear of death. Applying it to writers, I recognize it in dealing with the ghosts of the past, present and future:

  • An inadequate education killing opportunities as a writer
  • Ever putting to death the voice that said, “You’ll never be a writer.”
  • Overcoming rejections by those holding the power of editor
  • Tackling the daunting task of delivering a 90,000-word novel
  • Overcoming the seemingly impossible task of cutting a 150,000 word novel to 100,000 words
  • Wrestling down the fear of ever having a bestseller

The psychiatrist found that when he introduced counselees to Heb. 2:15 and explained how every facet of their life was being controlled by the fear of death, the aha moment produced a healing process. He introduced his clients to the secret of dealing with the ghost of death in verse 14: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (NKJV). That establishes two realities, that of death because of the devil and victory because of Jesus’ death.

Life has always contained a series of opportunities for death to disturb our life. A writer submits a book proposal on a theme that only warrants an article—and when I suggest it, the ghost of death appears. A client wrote six novels, and facing the ghost of rejection, put them all on the shelf. Another wrote 15 novels and stored them on her computer. Clients pester me with a steady stream of e-mails because they are haunted by the ghost of not being published.

So how can we deal with the fear produced by the ghost of death?

  • As a 21-year-old I read the New Testament letters of Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and highlighted verses that promised victory over the ghost of failure and death of my dreams—inspired by my father sharing his dreams while hoeing corn, strawberries and raspberries. Meditation on those verses has kept me on a surprisingly even keel despite setbacks.
  • Gain a sense of calling through listening to the master of the universe, Jesus Christ, in meditation and prayer. I gained mine through a week of intensive prayer and Scripture reading as a First Aid man at a mine. That prevented me from collapsing in despair as I lay on the same bed for three and a half months—and was awakened to my life’s mission by an ad in Christian Life Magazine that taunted me with “You can write.”
  • Remember that even the great apostle Paul failed in his mission at times, including being stoned in Lystra and imprisoned in Philippi. God raised him from the dead in Lystra and broke open the prison in Philippi. He can revive dreams killed by editors and open your mind to new opportunities, like articles, newspaper columns, screenplays.

The ghostly apparition of death need not escalate your fear of death. Jesus died our death for us to not only give us life eternal, beginning now, but also the courage to face our daily fears.

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