I recently finished work on a book proposal. This is a proposal that I’d spent most of 2012 knowing I needed to write, and…just not writing. This is a proposal that I ended up completely finishing in early January of 2013…and then I promptly sat on it.
Why? The work wasn’t ready.
Also? There was some fear that I wasn’t really being conscious about.
An interviewer recently asked me how one tells the difference between actual, true, “not being ready/it’s not the right time,” and when fear is telling you that it’s “not ready” as a delay tactic.
This is a really, really good question. To answer it, I turn to the concept of “Somatic Awareness.”
Somatic Awareness is learning to recognize what sensations in your body mean what. You can actually learn that the sensation of fear in your body has a slightly different flavor than the sensation of “not right timing.” Get present enough, and you’ll start to see how guilt and shame are different sensory experiences. Attachment/ “wanting to be right” feel different in the body than being frank or straightforward. Integrity feels different than rationalizing.
Some people would call this “trusting your gut” or “using your intuition.” Whatever you call it, it all has to do with getting present to what’s happening within you. What the sensation feels like in my own body is different than yours, so I can’t propose a road map (i.e., it would be impossible for me to say “that sensation in your upper right stomach means XYZ” for all people). What I can do is guide someone in practices that help them to tap into that somatic awareness and learn what it means, for them.
What’s your truth? And instead of trying to verbalize it, what sensations do you notice? What do those sensations in your body “tell” you? This is the type of thing that I love to work on with coaching clients, particularly because…well, I just don’t think our bodies lie. They’re pretty accurate with giving us feedback. When one of my clients gains confidence in her Somatic Awareness, I know that she’s just gained a powerful tool in totally trusting herself.
I mentioned that there was a part of me that was experiencing fear that I wasn’t really conscious of. I’ll share how I know that this was happening for me, in the hopes that sharing will help you to see any places in your own life where this happens.
First things first: I consider not acknowledging fear to be a huge waste of time. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it’s there. So pretending not to be afraid, or noticing fear and not dealing with it? That’s not efficient.
I know that fear must have been operating on some level in the eight-month span between when I finished the proposal and when I finally sent it out, because there were times where I thought about sending out the proposal and I thought, “I’ll do that later.”
I’d be working on other projects. It would occur to me that I hadn’t sent out my proposal. I’d think, “Oh, yeah, I need to do that! But I’ll do that later. Right now I need to…”
I’ve talked about how chronic forgetting can be a sign of ‘faux fear.’ I was experiencing chronic forgetting. It was slipping off of my radar that I had intended to do this thing that I had said I would do, over and over and over.
I was also procrastinating (“I’ll do that later.”)
So here’s the takeaway: Examine what you notice yourself chronically forgetting. If you tell yourself that you’re going to start meditating for five minutes every morning, and day after day it’s lunchtime when you suddenly think, “Oh, gosh! Right! I was going to do that, wasn’t I?” then you’re chronically forgetting. If something within you considers meditating right then and there, and then you think, “I’ll start, tomorrow,” then–bingo!–fear is totally at work.
So What’s Next?
Let’s say that right now, you’re seeing how you’ve done this in your own life. You’ve told yourself a million times that you’ll start.. being more patient with your partner, stop comparing yourself to other people on the internet, start a yoga practice, or…write a book proposal. Everyone’s got something. You have all the good intentions, but then you don’t do it. Fear is totally at work.
So what do you do?
I wish that I could say something less glib, but it’s this: you simply start. That’s what I needed to do. I set a deadline for submitting the proposal (today) and then I blocked out time on my calendar, and then I started.
Three Courageous Approaches
Here are three things I did that made “starting” much easier:
#1: Reframing the idea of a “deadline.” My definition of “deadline” is anything that I do my absolute best to finish by an intended date. I rarely beat myself up with future-tripping over the possibility of missing a deadline, because I have released (most) of my internal narratives that it means anything bad about me if I miss a deadline. Paradoxically, this means that I make 99.9% of all deadlines, because I don’t spend a lot of time in fear or overwhelm about them.
Set a deadline. Do your best. Understand that no children in third world countries die if you do miss your deadline. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a failure, either. You do your best, and you let go.
#2: I made it fun. I listened to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky a few times before writing. I went out for a chai before I settled in to write. I used Danielle LaPorte’s Your Big Beautiful Book Plan and kept feeling filled up and inspired by all of the amazing examples of totally ordinary people who had written their proposals and now had published books, and this excited me.
Also fun? Reveling in all that I’ve done. Actually going through the process of assessing all the places where I’ve guest posted, all the times I’ve had a speaking engagement, the collaborative interviews, and all the people I’ve worked with, made me feel puffed up n’ proud.
There’s a little girl within who grew up wondering what she was capable of, and perpetually feeling inadequate and afraid. There was a sense of tender celebration as I realized just how much I have done.
#3: I was grounded in my truth: acceptance of the proposal does not equal my success or worth as a person.
Lemmetellyasomethin’: This is the third book proposal I’ve ever submitted. Translation: I’ve been rejected…twice before. First was in 2006; a work of fiction, rejected outright. Second was sometime in 2008; I received a personal response from the editor, who liked the idea but who felt my platform was not sufficiently big enough.
This is my third proposal submission…and this is the first time that I’ve ever been open about submitting one. Why? Because the thought of making big announcements about such things before, and potentially having to admit months later that the book wasn’t picked up? That horrified me. I would have been too embarrassed to admit to anyone who asked that I’d been…rejected.
Today, I understand that whether the proposal is accepted or not has nothing to do with my worth as a person. If it’s not accepted, my day-to-day life changes very little. I still canoodle with my husband, perpetually fight the good fight of trying to get myself into a better groove about cooking meals instead of going out to dinner, and go on drives through wine country on a Saturday afternoon.
If it is accepted…my day-to-day life also changes very little. I still work with clients, write blog posts, and have Skype coffee dates with friends who live far away. (I just might *also* have a little PR tour somewhere in the midst of all of that and get to meet some of you lovelies in person!)
We take ourselves with us, wherever we go. My pleasure in an accepted book proposal would only be genuine if it were rooted in excitement about the work itself, and it would always be false if a published book would equal “something” about me: That I were smart enough or talented enough; that other people would like me or look up to me; that it would mean I’d get money or recognition.
I like being smart, talented, loved, and receiving money and recognition, but the moment I attach to it, that becomes externalized happiness. It would just have me on the perpetual hamster wheel of trying to do more, to prove more, so that I could feel like I was more.
I’ve lived that way, before. It’s an exhausting way to live.
(“So you won’t be disappointed if it isn’t accepted, Kate?” Answer: Hmmm…in this moment, I don’t feel connected to that as being true. If it’s rejected, it’ll just mean that what I currently offer isn’t a match for the publisher. That’s okay. I’m sure there is a day, a time, or a publisher somewhere for whom my work is a match. And, of course, I’m not reliant on a publisher. Hundreds of people have received The Courageous Living Program and The Coaching Blueprint, all without a traditional publisher.)
It’s not the actual doing of the thing that causes us so much fear, as it is all of our Stories about what it means if we do or don’t finish, or if we are or are not “accepted” by some external standard.
Go within. Get present to the truth of what you feel (meditation is a great path to Somatic Awareness, as is presence practice during yoga or other forms of movement). Question your Stories. You’ve got nothing to lose–except some extra time spent suffering.
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