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Fear Helps Us Slay Dragons

Laurie Buchanan is the author of the Sean McPherson thriller series. You can find out more about her on her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance that you’re a writer, published or not. It doesn’t matter. There’s an even higher chance that, at some point, fear has kept you from writing. Here are a few common writing-related fears:

Everyone has fears. They might include spiders, heights, confined spaces, or something else.

  1. Am I genuinely talented, or just a perpetual wannabe?
  2. If I call myself a writer, people expect me to make good on it.
  3. What will people (readers) think? Will they laugh? Will they lie to spare my feelings?
  4. What if I don’t have anything interesting to say?
  5. What if my academic background doesn’t have anything to do with writing?
  6. The publishing industry is hard to break into. There’s no way I’ll ever get published, so why bother trying?
  7. I have a family to take care of and a hectic job. What if I can’t keep up the pace? What if I can’t finish what I start?
  8. When I compare myself to my writing friends, I fall short.

Science tells us that when we experience sustained positive emotions like compassion, care, forgiveness, gratitude, and patience, our body produces dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is secreted by the adrenal glands. DHEA is a vitality hormone; it accelerates renewal and improves our health.

When we experience sustained negative emotions such as anger, bitterness, worry, or fear, our bodies produce cortisol, which contributes to sub-optimal performance, accelerates aging, and is degenerative to health. But one of these emotions—fear—can be good for us.

Fear is in the heart of the beholder. One writer’s fear may be another writer’s strength. It’s been said that the best way to eliminate an enemy is to make them your friend. It’s the same with fear; we can cultivate it as a friend.

There are many types of fear: social, emotional, and physical. Regardless of the type, fear is a great survival tool and shows us what’s important and what matters to us.

Do you experience stage fright before delivering a presentation or get tongue-tied and flustered when meeting new people? Do you become anxiety-ridden at the dentist’s office or feel panicky when stepping into a small space or onto an airplane?

Fear can be debilitating; it can cause us to freeze in our tracks (emotionally or otherwise), cutting us off at the knees.

Fear can be a leverage point (emotionally or otherwise), helping us get from Point A to Point B.

Fear is an excellent guide to opportunity. It dares us to rise to the challenge, step into courage, and confront what makes us afraid. It can be the catalyst that motivates us to action: perhaps expressing our opinion in a group setting despite the fear of being ostracized or ending a relationship that’s bankrupting our hearts.

A world without fear would be dangerous. Like any good friend, fear—and its cousin adrenaline—lets us know when to freeze, fight, or flee—run like the dickens! They call us to action. Fear provides the energy and motivation to do what needs to be done.

Each person’s situation is different:

  • One person may need to practice their presentation to know it inside out.
  • Another may need to learn to say “no”—and stick with it—regardless of the reception it receives.
  • Others may need to take precautionary steps to avoid an unpleasant message from their physician.

One of my writing friends said, “Laurie, how can you possibly relate to what I’m going through? You have an eight-book contract for the Sean McPherson series. You’ve got it made.”


Let me be the first to say that her perception is not accurate. For me, just the thought of writing and releasing a high-quality, engaging crime thriller book each year is scary! But as I shared with her, I’ve made it a practice to set down my fears and use them like stepping stones that lead to calm.

Some of the steps I take to address my writing-related fears:

  • Decide which fears concern me the most.
  • Prioritize them according to validity, and determine which ones are excuses not to write.
  • Write down how I can address your fears in concrete ways. For example, instead of thinking, “I plan to tell myself it’s okay to be rejected,” shift my perspective and think, “I’ll research reasons why submissions get rejected and then revise my work accordingly.”
  • Write a plan of action, then keep it where I can refer to it if I feel discouraged. 

Fear lets us know we’re alive. Without fear, life would be flat. There’d be no effervescence. Fear provides us with the opportunity to slay dragons. Once defeated, we get the thrill of fist-punching the air and shouting, Woohoo! as we sashay on to the next conquest.

Laurie Buchanan

Laurie Buchanan is the author of Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, and The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I’m scared to admit this, but I do let my fears get the better of me. Thank you for some positive steps to deal with the emotion. After all, all feelings are neutral, even anger. It’s neither positive nor negative, and it can spur us to take on injustice or other problems.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Anne — I’m glad that some of these steps struck a positive chord with you!

  2. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Laurie, this is excellent advice. It especially appeals to me this week, leading into a pitch-fest type conference. I’m facing 12 agents on Saturday and I’m thinking, what did I sign up for! Now I know how to slay the imposter syndrome residing between my ears. Thanks for the timely post!

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Tracey — Timing is everything. I’m sending good, calming, self-confident thoughts your way as you pitch your work this coming Saturday.

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Laurie — Trust me when I say that I’m afraid of PLENTY! But I still push forward because that’s where the wins are—the other side of our fears.

  5. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Wise words for myself as I write, my writing friends and writer-clients. The blog post is a topic that comes up at probably all writing conferences, retreats, and in workshops. You’ve provided sound advice well-said. Thank you!

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Christine — I’m glad these words ring true with you! And just as you’ve said, I’ve presented on this topic at both the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI, and Write on the Sound in Edmonds, WA. It’s important because many of us let our fears stop us dead in our tracks.

  6. John DeDakis
    John DeDakis

    Lots of practical stuff here. Thanks, Laurie. I’m reminded of what Hank Phillippi Ryan told me when I interviewed her for my 1-2-1 podcast: “Embrace the panic.” You’re helping to demonstrate the wisdom of that statement. ~JD

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      John — I know Hank and that sounds exactly like something she’d say. Wise words. I’m going to write them down and keep them where I can see them.

  7. Avatar

    Keep slaying those dragons, Laurie! Your philosophy is working beautifully!

  8. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Saralyn — Thank you! I bet there’s a bevy of dragon caucuses in your wake.

  9. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Wonderful post, Laurie! You are a woman who has definitely conquered some dragons, and I love your list of advice. When I was first published, I had so much stage fright for any public speaking that I was afraid to try anything. So I joined Toastmasters, one of the best decisions I made. I joined a small group, but the practice of baby steps laid out in the Toastmasters guide generalized to larger groups, and I’ve been able to transition now to speaking in front of groups being more fun and less stressful. Thanks for sharing your story about overcoming fear.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Margaret — I’ve heard nothing but PHENOMENAL things about Toastmasters. I’m so glad they helped you to conquer stage fright and fear of public speaking.

      As an aside, as we speak, I’m reading Hunting Hour, and Deputy Mattie Cobb has to overcome several flashback-type fears. I love her and Robo!

  10. Avatar
    Sharon Michalove

    One way I face my fears is to think about the worst that can happen. And then I take a deep breath and move ahead. Thanks for your eloquent thoughts.

  11. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Margaret — I’ve heard nothing but PHENOMENAL things about Toastmasters. I’m so glad they helped you to conquer stage fright and fear of public speaking.

    As an aside, as we speak, I’m reading Hunting Hour, and Deputy Mattie Cobb has to overcome several flashback-type fears. I love her and Robo!

  12. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Laurie, what a terrific reminder about the power of fear and using it to slay our dragons. Thanks for your spot-on analysis. Enjoy the DHEA!

  13. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Sherrill — Thank you! With the release of Impervious last week, it’s been a full-on week of DHEA. My facial muscles hurt from smiling so much!

  14. Avatar
    Julie Holmes, author

    Thank you for reminding me, in such eloquence, that it’s okay to have “imposter syndrome”; it’s fear, and thank you for showing us how we can use it. Time to get writing!

  15. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Great post, Laurie! It doesn’t take a lot to crash a person down, so it’s important to face those fears and put them in their place.

  16. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Sharon — You’re absolutely right. “Face those fears and put them in their place!”

  17. joyribar

    What an inspirational reminder for me. I know all writers face many of these fears on and off. Writing can be such a roller coaster, as is all of life, I suppose. I like your advice about creating a plan of action. You’re a conqueror and that’s the warrior spirit I want to adopt, too.

  18. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Joy — I’m so glad this post resonated with you. Thank you for letting me know.

  19. Avatar
    Pamela Meyer

    I’ve always wanted to have my protagonist say something like true courage is doing something that entails risk despite being afraid, while not being afraid of something that entails risk is just ignorance. Your attitude so clearly expressed here offers a way to take a first step towards doing the former. Thanks.

  20. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Pamela — Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad this post resonated with you.

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