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Blog #5 – The Litany Against Fear

November 3, 2021

Blog 5: The Litany Against Fear

Hello to all you lovely people who read this! It has been a solid month, and I’ve been away on a much-needed break in Europe. God, I love it there. It is home for me in so many ways. Even after 6 years, America still has many ways that are…alien, to me. Anyway. I have 20 minutes before my Covid Booster and something has been on my mind, and seeing Dune in the cinema reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: The Litany Against Fear. It goes like this:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Why am I bringing this up? Well folks, I have a confession to make in this moment. I’m afraid.

Why am I afraid? Well, as you know, I have abandoned all pretense and safe harbor and am proceeding all ahead full with the goal of becoming a professional author. I prepared for this by saving a bunch of money ahead of time but, as of now, I do not have anything coming in. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been in that situation. It’s scary. It adds pressure. Add into this a blend of Imposter Syndrome and sprinkle the knowledge that my fate is in the hands of an audience that, well, is completely subjective, and, well, it creates an uncertainty that, if left to its own devices, can fester in the back of your mind, coloring everything you try and accomplish.

Right now, I am applying to be accepted into a Convention in New York which, if successful, would be a tremendous opportunity not only to meet some potential peers but, also, to meet editors and agents in the flesh, rather than through an impersonal email submission. I have been working on this for about two and a half weeks and, I am about ready to submit. It has been HARD. Mostly because they impose quite low (in my opinion) word limits on your synopsis and writing sample. It has been a huge challenge to conform to their specifications. So, I’m ready now, but I’m scared. I don’t know how likely it is that I’m offered a place, but I know for the first time in…a long, long time…I want this. If I don’t get it, I am going to be upset. Both of those last two things are terrifying for me to admit to myself.

To quote Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball: “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed.” For the first time, I have a goal that I want, deep within my soul, and I can talk a big game about how “the odds of getting in/making it are low, anything is a bonus, etc,” but deep down, I want this so badly, and I know it is going to hurt when the rejections pour in. This conference I’m applying to would be a great opportunity, and I feel like (with my awesome wife’s help because she actually knows English) I’ve got a good application to put forth. I want it, and it’ll hurt that much more when they tell me ‘no’. So, the cynic-DG would just say “why bother, just keep it in your head, better that way, your head knows you’re good enough, if you don’t put it out there, you never need to find out you’re not.”

This leads me back to the Litany Against Fear.

When I know I am truly afraid of something, in the past, I used the Litany to examine why I was afraid, and instead of shying away from it, to face it, and realize that it is a passing breeze rather than an anchoring chain. So, why am I afraid?

  • Putting myself out there to be judged at the mercy of a subjective audience.
  • Showing my work to be judged by peers and professionals.
  • Leaving the safety of people who have a personal stake in me. Those close who read and praise my writing, those who aren’t close, will not be as kind.
  • Knowing that a rejection will cause deep disappointment.
  • Feeling like it is an opportunity missed, like I could have been better.

So, how does the Litany help? I face the fears, and the reasonings for them, and accept them, rather than reject them. I turn the inner eye, and see their core foundations:

  • I have deep seated issues with putting myself out there that stem from my teenage years. Kids can be mean. I felt like whenever I tried to put myself out there at school I was shut down and made fun of.
  • I grew up a broad-shouldered American lad amongst pasty white little British kids, so I was always bigger and wider than people. I got put down and made fun of a lot, which meant growing up, I felt like I only ever had 1 chance to make someone like me, or impress anyone…etc. That carried over into adulthood. I work on my one chance, but often feel that if it isn’t good enough, that I have lost my opportunity.
  • I am afraid of letting those few select people around me down, because I have some long-held abandonment issues.
  • I’m afraid of caring too much, because my subconscious remembers the pain and hurt of caring and wanting things.

I let these wash over me, like a breaking wave. I let it pass through me, and see the other side of the fears:

  • I put myself out there because I want to succeed in the professions.
  • I let as many people as possible judge me because that’s the only way to learn and grow.
  • It is OK to leave the nest. Everyone does it at some point. People not close to you will naturally be harsher. It is part of humanity.
  • It is OK to be disappointed. It is OK to feel emotion. It means I’m human, and that I care.
  • This is a personal issue, I always feel I can be better, but at some point, you just have to stop questioning yourself and go with ‘this is good enough’.

I believe every fear has many faces, and that it is just a negative of a potential positive. I’ve let the negative aspects wash over me, often overwhelmingly so, and I turn to see the other side of the page. I have acknowledged it all, and now, where the pit of fear once was, there is nothing. Only I remain, the sum of all fears, wants, desires, goals and experiences. The hand that suffocates is stayed.

I remember why I’m doing this: because I’ve tried safe options. I am brutally unhappy in all of them. We only get one chance at life, and I’m done hiding from life because of fear. I will leave it all out on the table. I’m not saying I won’t be afraid, no, I’m afraid a lot, and it will only get worse the farther I venture into this journey. The more I want, and the closer I get, the more fear will attempt to tell me I’m not worth it, that I’ll fail, that I should just protect myself and keep it in my head.

Fuck that.

To put another quote forth from the infamous William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk: “Risk is part of the game if you want to sit in that chair.” He’s referring to the captain’s chair, of course, to the new Enterprise captain in the film ‘Generations,’ but it is another way of looking at things. Without risk, there can be no reward. If you don’t try, you don’t fail. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. ETC.

If anyone reading this identifies with this, and feels as though they struggle with putting themselves out there, or are paralyzed by fear, or feel as though there’s no point in trying because the past has shown it rarely, if ever, works out…I hope some of this connected with you. I hope you know that, even if it doesn’t go the way you want it to, that something is still worth trying because YOU are worth the risk. You are worth it, there is nothing anyone can say or do that doesn’t make you worth a chance, or worth trying.

Life is about the journey. We all end up at the same destination. Take a chance on yourself. In the short-term, you may regret the outcome, but long-term? The only thing you’ll regret, is that you didn’t do it sooner.

Wish my luck for my application for this conference in New York. It would be an incredible opportunity, if I was accepted. It’s scary to put myself out there, but I know I’ll regret it if I don’t.

Until next time, DG, out.

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