Stories that Matter

What Am I Afraid Of?

Words fail me. Lately. When I try to sum up what this thing is that I do and why I do it and why I can’t not do it and why some days the words won’t come . . .  words fail me. And the question rattles hard in my head.

Is it . . . maybe . . . that I don’t want them to?


The written word is one of the most powerful tools of expression we have. I believe that. I know others are moved by music. Haunting melodies, crashing crescendos and soft notes on keys, strings and breath blowing beauty out of nothing. Others still are moved by the stroke of a brush, life poured out into paintings hung on high walls in quiet sacred spaces. Others listen long, rapt and swept away by operatic tenors and sopranos. Some prefer to watch the bard upon the stage. And some may simply sit silent at the water’s edge, satisfied in their own skin, waiting for their moment of expression to stir.


When I think about all these things, so many different ways we have of giving life to what lies deep within, I can’t help but marvel. What a gift. And if you want to tell me you don’t have a creative bone in your body, I’ll tell you that’s not so. You just haven’t found it yet.

We were born to create. 

It is how we are meant to use our voice. 

And you can do that. You can speak loudly without ever saying a word.

And when you have done it, when you have freed that spirit within and called it out by name, there is no going back. You have given it life, and it will in turn pour that life out to others, and back into you.

I think that’s how it’s meant to work. It’s a startling, surprising thing, this gift. I don’t quite know it as well as I ought. Even though I like to think I do. Even now in this moment, these words I write surprise me. Encourage me a little too, in the midst of a strange season where more often than not the words fail me.

And the question whispers round again.

What am I afraid of? 

Have I become afraid to use my voice?

It’s a stark reality.

Because I know.

How much easier to sit in silence and let others speak for me. How much easier to nod and smile and wander through the days in some semi-comatose state where nothing really matters at all. How much easier to sit on shaking hands. To ignore the phone. To retreat.

Been there. Done that.

It’s not easier. It’s life-sucking. Stifling. Dangerous.

And I know now. I know the truth.

 If I refuse my words then I refuse my gift. My calling. This one thing I was born to do.

But I’m not sure I’m meant to do it alone. I think about all the friends I don’t see enough of or hear from enough because it’s busy, we’re all busy and tired and stressed and sometimes who can be bothered, is what I tell myself. But life, this is not a solitary journey. Though it feels that way sometimes. If you know, if you write or create without collaboration, you sit alone in a swirl of thought day in and day out until finally, they’re freed, those words, and forming something that sort of makes sense on the page.

Is that enough?

I’d say not. I’d say to myself today, this new day here where once again I’m kicking off the dread and the discouragement, that it’s not enough to sit alone staring at the screen. I need more. More talking. More reaching out. More laughter. And yet it’s up to me. To change. To leave the safety zone I have created here and step into something new. Anything. And I’m on a rabbit trail now that circles back to the original thought.

What am I afraid of? 

Failing. Possibly. Failing miserably more likely. Rejection. Being misunderstood. Dismissed.

Skin crawls as old wounds start to itch again.

But I think about it, really, and remember. Remember how I have stood against those whispering vicious voices in the past. Ignored them and kicked them back where they came from.

And if I’d never tried, never dreamed or hoped or given myself permission to do this thing . . . this thing I wanted more than anything . . . how much would I have missed? What stories would never have been told? What friendships would never have been formed?

Fear is one controlling son of a gun. But overcoming it? That’s a sweet victory.

One we are all capable of, if only we’d believe it.

The words will come for me again. In time. They are there already. I know this.

I just need to believe it.

Cling to it.

And trust myself with the gift again.




  1. Susan Anne Mason on January 29, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Going through a little bit of that same thing myself, Cathy. 3-book deals are scary. Even with a synopsis, a plan, you start writing that second book and, as you say, the words aren’t coming, or the idea falls flat. And then you think about the 3rd book you have to do, as well as come up with a new proposal so there’s not such a time lapse between projects, and yeah, it can get totally overwhelming, paralyzing!
    But I have to believe that the words will come! Eventually. Hopefully in time for my next deadline. 🙂

  2. Winnie Thomas on January 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Cathy, if you can write a post like this, the words are definitely not failing you! You express yourself so beautifully, and even though I’m not a writer, I feel some of the same things you’ve expressed–in fact, a LOT of the same things. I’m a perfectionist, and if I feel I can’t do something perfectly, I’d rather not even try to do it. I do sometimes feel like I’m “wandering through the days in some semi-comatose state.”

    You are such an amazing author and person. So talented with words and expressing your feelings. Hugs to you and prayers for those words to continue to come.

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