Tip 8: Lean in to fear

‘Playing it down the middle is a huge yaawwnnn ... Fear means youdon’t take a strong position – you don’t give anyone anything to react to. It doesn’t mean you have to provoke, but you must have something strong to say.’ – Jonathan Fields, Manifesto Masterclass

Bikram Choudhury (love him or loathe him) is the world’s most infamous yoga instructor who built a wildly successful business based on just 26 yoga postures. So what can Bikram yoga teach us about writing a book? 

Towards the end of every Bikram pose, you’re encourages to go that little bit further. Either to push more, in the case of Half Moon pose, or to pull, in the case of Standing Bow. The aim is to get you to move past your comfort zone and lean in to the fear of falling over or out of the pose.

Ironically, whole books are written on the topic of fear alone. Fear of failure. Fear of criticism. Fear of rejection. All of these fears are relatable to nearly all aspects of daily life – not to mention writing a book.

With all these fears floating around, it’s amazing that any of us succeed in writing anything at all.

I’m my own worst hypocritical enemy when it comes to fear. As I was writing this very sentence, I worried about all the people who were going to think this is stupid, drop me as their editor or not read this at all.

The result? It took me a hell of a lot longer to write what I wanted to say because I worried about what I was going to say.

Fear keeps you from taking the risks necessary to do great work. Fear keeps you from finishing the work – and often even starting.

As vigilante writer and speaker Catherine Deveny put it in Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing a Book:

When I thought what I was writing was shit, I kept writing regardless.
I wrote so I could finish whatever it was and then hopefully get on and write the next thing – which, fingers crossed, wouldn’t be as shit.

Lean in to the fear of falling on your face, and if you fall, get up and do it again.

In my experience, when you lean in to fear, you turn the tortuous feeling of writing a book, or doing a Bikram class, into a more enjoyable sport.

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Kelly Irving

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